carrot cake with maple cream cheese frosting

carrot cake with maple cream cheese frostingRarely do I venture into the daunting land of cake. Pie is so much more manageable, like a comfortable, over-sized, cable-knit grandpa sweater. It’s comfy. It’s warm. It’s dependable. It has a certain level of understated charm. Cake feels like a velour track suit: much harder to pull off and not look like you’re trying too hard. But on certain special occasions, like the birthday of a dear friend whose daring, inventive, and playful culinary exploits are something to marvel at and admire, only a cake will do.

Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

Makes one two-layer cake.

2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups canola oil
4 large eggs
3 cups grated peeled carrots

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Butter two 9-inch-diameter cake pans instead of cupcake molds. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper. Butter and flour paper; tap out excess flour.

Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in medium bowl to blend. Whisk sugar and oil in large bowl until well blended. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time. Add flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in carrots.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans, and bake the layers for about 40 minutes each, or until a tester inserted into center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes. Turn out onto racks. Peel off paper; cool cakes completely.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
about 1 cup shredded coconut or sprinkles (optional)

In a stand mixer beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy. Chill the frosting for 10 to 20 minutes, until it has set up enough to spread smoothly.

To assemble, frost the top of one cake (if it has a raised and rounded top, you can gently shave it down using a sharp knife). Place the other cake on top. Gently frost the sides and top, spreading the frosting generously and swirling decoratively. Add shredded coconut or sprinkles for a snazzier finish. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes to set up frosting.

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summertime lime custard pie

lime custard pie with saltine cracker crust

Summer is a great time to forget… Forget about all of the “important” things you’ve got on your to do list. Forget about how gloomy and cold it was a few months ago. Forget about all of your worries and woes. And, most importantly, forget about how gross condensed milk is. Continue reading

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potato and blue cheese tart

potato and blue cheese tart
I baked this pie on Pi(e) Day, March 14th. Unfortunately being a grad student, as it turns out, means that sometimes you lose track of time and space and pretty soon three months go by before you get around to finally getting that Pi Day post up on the ol’ weblog.

Continue reading

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the one and only éclair

eclairsAfter the recent mini meringue burgers aka macarons, it seems we have a theme going here with this week’s mini vanilla creme corn dogs. I never thought I would compare delicate French pastries to American fast food favorites, but the resemblance really is uncanny. And while this humble attempt at imitating the timeless French classic surely doesn’t do justice to the real deal, I was yet again surprised at how relatively simple it was to recreate my favorite French pâte. That said, it was much easier working as a duo — special thanks to my bold baking warrior buddy Tim V! — and I highly recommend trying this recipe with a friend. I also highly recommend springing for a pastry bag. We rigged a DIY situation with a plastic baggie, which seemed like a great idea till it erupted vanilla creme filling everywhere. Continue reading

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the mighty macaron

Thanks to chef de cuisine  Timothy Vollmer for being so adventurous with baking and for allowing me into your cozy kitchen as your sous chef for this expedition and to ogle your impressive selection of cookbooks.
photo 4 editedFirst, just to get something straight – there is in fact a difference between a macaron and a macaroon, and it’s not just a matter of whether you are feeling snooty and want to use the French pronunciation of the word. Macaroons are yummy little coconut cluster thingys and macarons are these delightful tiny meringue burgers (more eloquent explanation here). Glad that’s sorted out. Continue reading

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cranberry sage pie

cranberry sage pieI’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions. Probably because I can never manage to keep a resolution that I make in January, despite my good intentions. Resolutions made throughout the rest of the year seem to fare better. But the closer I get to the 1st of the year, the more doomed my resolve seems to be. In 2012 I declared on this very blog that I would publish a post a week throughout the year. I did pretty well the first half, then I decided to move to Kenya and there went that. If I made any resolutions last year, they are long forgotten by now. So I think this year my resolution — declared on this, the 31st of January — is to make resolutions whenever I darn well please, break them whenever I feel so inclined, and forget about this silly fascination with setting them each January 1st. So I suppose it’s fitting for the recipe that accompanies my rebellious resolution to be for a cranberry pie baked in a rectangular dish. Who says it has to be Thanksgiving to eat cranberries? And who says that pies always have to be round? If it’s got a double crust and something tasty and gooey in the middle, it’s a pie as far as I’m concerned. Continue reading

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chocolate chip pumpkin loaf

chocolate chip pumpkin loafTwo weeks ago I was a very unsuspecting Californian caught up in a Polar Vortex in Ohio. This week I am a very concerned Californian caught up in the effects of the driest year on record since records first became a thing in San Francisco during the Gold Rush. These are confusing, alarming times. And during confusing, alarming times I find baking to be more necessary than ever. It can serve as a reminder that whether we like it or not, and whether we feel human beings are responsible for the damage or not (and I think we are), we need our environment. We need it to be healthy and thriving because when it is not, we are not. The more we can remind ourselves of this simple truth, then the sooner, I hope, we can get our act together and start protecting and conserving and respecting that environment in a way that will actually make our children and all of the children to come proud. Continue reading

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