Do readers ever wonder how food bloggers develop the recipes they publish? In my case, new recipe ideas sometimes come in a flash of inspiration and work out exactly as envisioned on the first try or after a couple rounds of experimentation. And sometimes they don’t work out at all. At other times, my method, such as it is, involves rummaging through the contents of my overloaded fridge and considering what the heck I can do with the ingredients already on hand there.
When it comes to dessert recipes, though, I frequently bounce ideas around with an expert: my mom. At 86 years old and 86 pounds — virtually all of which is sweet tooth, as far as I can tell — my mother is always full of enthusiasm and ideas for the subject of dessert. For example, here’s a conversation yours truly (YT) and mom (M) had just the other day:
YT: I’m thinking about a fall cake. Any ideas?
M: German chocolate cake!
YT: I love its frosting, but I’m feeling ho-hum about chocolate.
M: What about carrot cake?
YT: I love the cake but wouldn’t want to use the usual lemon and cream cheese icing. [pause] What about carrot cake with a German chocolate cake frosting? Why is that scrumptious toasted pecan and coconut frosting always reserved exclusively for chocolate cakes anyway? I don’t get it.
M: Even better, and save half for me!
Recipe development is simple, no?
For the cake:
2 1/4 cups unbleached flour (measured before sifting)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
A pinch ground nutmeg
2 1/2 cups finely grated raw carrots
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cups canola or other light-tasting vegetable oil
For the frosting:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
3 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) canned evaporated (not sweetened condensed!) milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups chopped, toasted pecans (or sliced almonds, if you prefer)
1 1/2 cups sweetened, flaked coconut
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Oil the interiors of three 8-inch (or two 9-inch) diameter round cake pans and line their bottoms with parchment paper, cut to fit.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the white sugar, brown sugar, and four eggs together for approximately four minutes until light and fluffy. While continuing to beat the mixture, gradually drizzle in the oil and beat for an additional minute or two. Alternately add one-half of the flour mixture and one-half of the grated carrots, stirring until just incorporated. Repeat.
- Pour the cake batter into the prepared baking pans, distributing it equally among them. Bake for approximately 30-40 minutes, depending on the pan size used, or until a straw inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in their baking pans for approximately 10 minutes. Then invert the cakes onto cake racks, remove the parchment paper, and allow them to cool to room temperature.
- Prepare the frosting while the cakes are cooling. Combine 1 cup sugar, the softened butter, and 3 egg yolks in a medium-sized saucepan (off the burner) and whisk together until very well blended and smooth. Gradually whisk in the evaporated milk. Place the saucepan on a medium-low heat burner and whisk continuously until until the mixture is hot and has thickened, approximately five minutes. Remove the saucepan from the burner and set aside until the filling reaches room temperature. Stir in the nuts, flaked coconut, and vanilla.
- Spread the frosting between the cake layers and on its top, as shown in the photo above. Serves 10 – 12.