Friday, April 16, 2010


For Easter, I decided to stage a CAKE vs. PIE battle.  Except that there would be no losers in this epic fight because, really, what could possibly go wrong?

The cake: a triple layer carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.  The cake (a recipe from The Buttercup Bakeshop Book) was full of carrots, apples, pecans, spices.  To give the pie a fighting chance, I lightened up the recipe a bit by substituting applesauce for some of the butter (since it called for, oh, a whole cup AND A HALF--three sticks--of butter) and using flaxseed/water instead of two of the eggs.  However, slathering it with a rich cream cheese frosting didn't hurt anything.

The pie: a lemon crostata, courtesy of Gourmet (now defunct!), via my Epicurious iPhone app.  I used this pie as an excuse to try cooking with my iPhone, which actually worked out pretty well.  The pie was a good contender: the crust was made of toasted almonds and lemon zest, filled with a silken lemon curd.  The crust was more like a shortbread, and the lemon really sang.  And I'm a sucker for lemon. (Even though I'm biased toward cake, I had to make it a fair competition!)

The two opponents faced off over the Easter table.  The pie looked humble with its overly-darkened crust, while the cake stood tall and proud with its festive frosting carrots and coconut sprinkled sides.  Cake won for presentation.
It also won for ease of preparation, because even though the carrot cake was a fancy layer cake with colored frosting, the crust for the crostata was way too fancy and fussy.  And I had to blind bake the crust, make the curd separately, then bake the whole thing again.  The crust got too dark due to the double-bake.  But--it was still lemony and almondy and really freakin' tasty.

The battle began when everyone had to choose their dessert.  Lance's mom unequivocally voted in favor of pie: she is a pie person and cannot resist lemon/almond flavored pastries.  Lance went for pie, but ate some of my cake, and I got cake. Because I'm a cake girl.  Several people got both and insisted that they could not decide.  One was not dissuaded from cake, even though there was coconut and he hates coconut. But he liked the cake.

In the end, I asked everyone to pick, and most claimed they could not decide.  The two were so different, they cried, that how could they possibly choose?  And really--why should there be a battle when two such lovely desserts could exist happily side-by-side?

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
(makes 3 9-inch layers or two loaves)
adapted from The Buttercup Bakeshop Book

This is possibly the best carrot cake recipe I've ever had.  You could feasibly make it slightly healthier by substituting up to half the flour with whole wheat pastry flour.  It is a delicate cake, so be careful with the layers. 

  • 2.5 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger (or more, if you love ginger like me)
  • 1/2 tsp all spice
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 4 tbsp warm water (or just use three eggs total)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1.5 cups grated carrots (3-4 medium)
  • 1 apple, grated
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 3 tbsp heavy cream, half and half, or even whole milk
  • 2 blocks cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
For cake: preheat oven to 350.  Grease pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.  Butter/spray parchment (optional, but very helpful in the removal of cakes from pans).  Set aside

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and soda, salt, and spices.  In the bowl of your mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in the apple sauce, then the eggs/egg substitute.  Add the vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with the apple juice, beginning and ending with the dry.  Stir in the apple, carrots, pecan, and cream until everything is well incorporated.  Do not overmix.

Divide the batter and bake for 30-35 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.  Let cakes cool in pans for ten minutes then remove (CAREFULLY) from pans and let cool completely.

Meanwhile, make frosting: beat cream cheese and butter until creamy and fluffy.  Add vanilla.  Beat in powdered sugar a little at a time until frosting is desired consistency/sweetness.  If colored decorations are desired, set aside a bit for dyeing.

After cakes are completely cool, frost.  Place one layer on a plate, layer frosting, then add the next layer, more frosting, then the final layer.  Frost with a light crumb coat, let sit in the freezer for a few minutes, the frost with the top coat.  Decorate with colored frosting, chopped toasted pecans, or dyed/toasted/plain coconut.

(same carrot cake, just decorated with Peeps!! Also, it's a tiny cake!)

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