My Dad’s Favorite Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake

For quite a while, I spent a lot of time on Amtrak commuting between Philly and DC. I spent those luxurious hours listening to podcasts and reading cooking magazines. When I came upon a recipe for the “best carrot cake,” I dogeared the page and resolved to bake the cake for father’s day. My dad loves this one particular carrot cake from a diner in Philadelphia, with shaved chocolate around the outside, cream cheese icing, and cute orange carrots made of frosting decorating the top. I think we’ve had this cake my whole life, brought by family members to every gathering. On the few occasions when the diner only had cakes with walnuts around the outside, sadness ensued. And so I, not the best baker but one who shows love with food, successfully made a carrot cake better than the one from the diner. We’ll never be tormented with walnuts on the outside of a cake again.

Carrot Cake

Walnuts inside of the cake, however, are completely acceptable, even desired. So to make this cake, begin by toasting 1 cup of chopped walnuts in the oven until they smell toasty, then set them aside. While the walnuts toast, add 1/2 cup of raisins and 3 tablespoons of rum to a small pot, heat it until warm, then turn off the heat and let the pot sit for about 20 minutes until the raisins plump and absorb the rum.

Carrot Cake

Peel 1 pound of carrots, and grate them using the large holes of a box grater. Add the carrots to a bowl, and stir in 1 cup of buttermilk.

Carrot Cake

In a large bowl, whisk together 2.5 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, 2 teaspoons of ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg, 1.5 teaspoons of kosher salt, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon of baking soda.

Carrot Cake

To the bowl of a stand mixer, add 4 eggs, 1 cup of sugar, 3/4 cup of brown sugar, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Carrot Cake

Use a mixer to beat the wet ingredients for about 4 minutes, until the mixture is pale and thick. Reduce the mixer speed, and slowly pour in 3/4 cup of vegetable oil.

Carrot Cake

Stir in 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then stir in 1/2 of the carrots, and repeat until the dry ingredients and carrots are all mixed in. Then, stir in the raisins and walnuts.

Carrot Cake

Heat your oven to 350º F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans, and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper. Grease the tops of the parchment paper, and then divide the batter between the pans.

Carrot Cake

Bake the cakes for 35-45 minutes, until a toothpick can be inserted into the center of a cake and come out cleanly. Let the cakes rest, then remove them from the pans and let them cool on a rack.

Carrot Cake

While the cakes bake and cool, prepare the cake decorations. Bring 1 brick of cream cheese and 1.5 sticks of butter to room temperature. If you want to make candied carrots for the top of the cake (not very delicious, but very pretty), slice 2 carrots thinly into coins using a mandoline. Add the carrots to a small pot along with 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1/4 cup of water. Heat the pot, and stir to dissolve the sugar and separate the carrots. Then increase the heat to high and cook until the liquid thickens into a syrup. Stir in a bunch of pinches of sugar until the carrots are coated.

Carrot Cake

Dump the carrots onto a tray with even more sugar, and toss them to coat. Separate the carrot coins, and allow them to dry off and harden in the sugar. Add sugar liberally as needed.

Carrot Cake

Also make the cream cheese frosting! MY FAVORITE PART. Using a mixer, beat 1 brick of room temperature cream cheese with 1.5 sticks (3/4 cup) of room temperature butter. Once smooth, beat in 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Turn the mixer to low, and gradually add 4 cups of powdered sugar. Once incorporated, return the mixer to high, and beat the frosting for 2 minutes until it is fluffy.

When the cakes are completely cool, place one of the cakes upside down on a cake plate. Top with 3/4 cup of frosting, followed by the other upside down cake, and 1.25 cups of the frosting. Put some pieces of parchment paper around the bottom cake to keep your cake plate clean during decorating.

Carrot Cake

Use an offset spatula to spread the frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Put the cake in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Carrot Cake

Then, add the rest of the frosting to the top of the cake, and spread it over the top and around the sides of the cake.

Carrot Cake

Use a vegetable peeler to turn a bar of dark chocolate into a whole lot of chocolate shavings.

Carrot Cake

Gently press the chocolate shavings into the sides of the cake.

Carrot Cake

Arrange the candied carrot coins on the top of the cake. Remove the parchment paper, and behold the carrot cake beauty!

Carrot Cake

Slice into that carrot cake and admire the layers flecked with orange carrots, plump raisins, and toasted walnuts. It’s moist, not too sweet, and the cream cheese frosting binds it all together in a tangy-sweet hug. But the best part, of course, is the chocolate shavings! My dad loved his cake, and I loved making it for him. Everyone liked eating it a whole lot too! Between servings, store the cake covered in the refrigerator. No doubt, this cake will be a father’s day tradition. The diner version will have to suffice the rest of the year!

This recipe is from Bon Appetit magazine.

Shopping list:

  • Raisins- ½ cup
  • Rum- 3 tablespoons
  • Walnuts- 1 cup chopped
  • Carrots- 1 pound + 2
  • Buttermilk- 1 cup
  • Flour- 2.5 cups
  • Cinnamon- 2 teaspoons
  • Ground ginger- 2 teaspoons
  • Nutmeg- 1/2 teaspoon
  • Baking powder- 2 teaspoons
  • Kosher salt- 1.5 teaspoons +
  • Baking soda- 3/4 teaspoon
  • Eggs- 4
  • Sugar- 1 cup +++ for carrot coins
  • Brown sugar- 3/4 cup
  • Vanilla extract- 3 teaspoons total
  • Vegetable oil- 3/4 cup
  • Cream cheese- 12 ounces (1 brick)
  • Butter- 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks)
  • Powdered sugar- 4 cups
Print Friendly

Charred Cross-Cut Short Ribs

Charred Cross-Cut Short Ribs

I have wanted to cook cross-cut short ribs for a very long time. They always seemed so cute! And being able to enjoy short ribs without hours spent tending a dutch oven seemed too good to pass up, plus they’re a really great canvas for Asian-inspired flavors. David and I recently ate grilled short ribs at a Korean BBQ place in NYC, and they were off-puttingly crunchy (not in the cooked and crispy kind of way). They actually would have benefitted from a few hours in a dutch oven! This recipe gets around the too-crunchy problem with an acidic pineapple juice marinade that breaks down the meat before it ever meets heat. The finished result is short ribs with a pleasant bite- you won’t be able to resist eating them with your hands. And then licking your fingers.

Charred Cross-Cut Short Ribs

To make them, get 1 pound of bone-in cross-cut short ribs. This amount serves 2 as main course, but cut each bone apart, and they would make a really great appetizer.

Charred Cross-Cut Short Ribs

To mix up your marinade, stir together 1/2 cup of pineapple juice, 1/4 cup of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons of sesame oil, 2 tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds, 2 teaspoons of black pepper, 5 garlic cloves (grate into a paste using a microplane), and 1 small grated onion.

Charred Cross-Cut Short Ribs

Add the marinade to your short ribs, cover them, and refrigerate them for 45 minutes. A loaf pan was perfect for holding my short ribs and marinade, but a plastic bag would work just as well.

Charred Cross-Cut Short Ribs

Once marinated, cook your short ribs, either on a grill or on a sheet pan under your oven’s broiler. Cook the short ribs for about 5 minutes per side until they are charred in spots (or longer, if you prefer).

Charred Cross-Cut Short Ribs

I served my short ribs with crisped fingerling potatoes– a really nice combination. You can find the recipe for those potatoes here.

Charred Cross-Cut Short Ribs

To serve, place your short ribs somewhat over your potatoes, drizzle them with spicy gochuchang sauce (or lightly with sriracha, if that’s more accessible to you), and garnish them with more toasted sesame seeds and some sliced scallion. Eat away!

This recipe is from Saveur.

Shopping list:

  • Cross-cut short ribs- 1 pound
  • Pineapple juice- 1/2 cup
  • Soy sauce- 1/4 cup
  • Rice vinegar- 2 tablespoons
  • Sesame oil- 2 tablespoons
  • Sesame seeds- 2 tablespoons+
  •  Black pepper- 2 teaspoons
  • Garlic cloves- 5 garlic cloves
  • Small onion- 1
  • Gochuchang
  • Scallion
Print Friendly

Home-Cured Lox!

Home-Cured Lox!

Repeat after me: In Ina We Trust. Years ago, I saw Ina Garten cure her own salmon on her TV show, and the idea has been politely biding its time in the back of my head ever since. I realized that hosting a mothers day brunch would be the perfect opportunity to finally try out the technique (and now my true motivation for inviting family over has been revealed). I’m not about to spend $60 and 3.5 days to risk serving raw fish to my entire family based on any bozo’s recipe, but Ina’s? I was in. And it was worth it! Somehow, my aunt hadn’t heard that I cured the fish myself, and I woke up to this wonderful email the next morning: “Subject– Lox; Message body– That was the best I’ve ever had. If it’s not a secret can you tell me where you got it?” Talk about a compliment!

Home-Cured Lox!

To make the lox, get 3 pounds of highest quality salmon you can find.

Home-Cured Lox!

In a bowl, mix together 1/2 cup kosher salt, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons of crushed peppercorns, and 1 tablespoon of crushed fennel seeds.

Home-Cured Lox!

Cut the salmon so you have two equal-sized portions. Place one half, skin-side down, in a deep dish. Cover the salmon with a ton of fresh dill.

Home-Cured Lox!

Pour the salt-sugar mixture evenly over the dill.

Home-Cured Lox!

Top the salt-sugar mixture with the other half of the salmon, skin-side up.

Home-Cured Lox!

Cover the salmon with plastic wrap, and weight it down with something like a heavy cast-iron skillet.

Home-Cured Lox!

Put the salmon in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days, and flip the salmon over every 12 hours. You’ll see it release a lot of juices over time.

Home-Cured Lox!

When you’re ready to serve your salmon, scrape the dill and salt-sugar mixture off. Use a long, sharp knife to very thinly slice the salmon cross-wise, on a diagonal. Arrange your salmon slices nicely in little piles, and serve it with bagels, cream cheese, tomatoes, onion, cucumber, and extra dill. The fish is so delicious and flavorful, and according to my aunt who knows these things, better than regular lox. A minimal amount of work for a major payoff…refrigerator “cooking” agrees with me!

Shopping list:

  • Fresh salmon- 3 pounds
  • Dill- lots
  • Kosher salt- 1/2 cup
  • Sugar- 1/2 cup
  • Peppercorns- 2 tablespoons
  • Fennel seeds- 1 tablespoon
Print Friendly