The idea started small: buy dessert to bring to Staten Island on Sunday when we visited Todd’s parents. Soon after, I thought, why spend money on a sugar-loaded treat when I could make something myself? But when I considered each person’s tastes, it became clear that I couldn’t just bake a simple bundt cake or box brownies. I decided on a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. I’d never made one before, so I searched online for a recipe; I settled on this one, mostly because it looked good in the picture.
Though I’d chosen a recipe, I didn’t feel ready to bake yet. I wanted to try something new—two somethings, in fact. The first, the mini heart-shaped layering pans I’d bought in advance of Valentine’s Day. The second, the new KitchenAid stand mixer my parents gave me and Todd for Christmas. But something still felt incomplete, so I decided to add dried papaya, dried apple, and dried pineapple to my cake, basically rendering it a morning glory cake instead of carrot. Thus, my Saturday baking project was born.
~2.25 cups flour
~2 tbsp. baking soda
~1/4 tsp. salt
~4 tbsp. cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling
~3 large eggs
~3/4 cup buttermilk
~3/4 cup vegetable oil
~1/2 cup tart apple juice (I like fuji apple by Red Jacket Orchards)
~1 cup sugar
~1/2 cup brown sugar
~2 tsp. vanilla extract
~2 cups shredded carrots
~1 cup walnuts, chopped, plus more for decoration
~1 cup raisins, plus more for decoration
~1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, plus more for decoration
~1/2 cup each dried pineapple, dried apple, dried papaya, all diced (I used fruit from Costco’s Kirkland fruit and nut mix)
~2 tubs cream cheese frosting (about 30 oz.) for a naked cake like mine, probably more if you want to frost the sides as well. I used Pilsbury cream cheese frosting, and I do not recommend it—too sweet, no cream cheese taste. Your best bet, and what I wish I’d done, is to find a recipe online and just make it yourself.)
*Note: This recipe is for one 8 x 12 cake or several mini cakes depending on pan size.
~Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease pans and set aside.
~In a medium bow, sift flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
~To a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer, if using), add eggs, buttermilk, oil, apple juice, sugars, and vanilla. Mix well.
~Pour the dry mixture into the large bowl and thoroughly combine.
~Fold in carrots, walnuts, raisins, coconut flakes, and dried fruits.
~Bake until browned and a toothpick comes out clean. My mini cakes took about 20 minutes; the original recipes says to bake an 8 x 12 cake for 1 hour.
~Let cake rest until completely cool. Then frost and stack each layer. Decorate the top with remaining walnuts, raisins, and coconut flakes—or any other topping you choose.