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This carrot cake popped up in my Google reader a few months ago. I starred it and have been waiting patiently for the perfect opportunity to make it. Easter dinner seemed like just the occasion. This cake was as wonderful as I hoped it would be and received great reviews from everyone around the table – even our one-year old niece! It was so moist and flavorful. I will definitely be making this cake again. Be forewarned though – it is huge! Make sure you have a crowd to feed for this one.

Tropical Carrot Cake with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
(Recipe heavily adapted from Dinner and Dessert)

Ingredients:

FOR THE CAKE
1 cup macadamia nuts, toasted and roughly chopped (I used pecans)
3 cups all purpose flour
3 cups sugar
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1-1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
4 large eggs
2 tbsp vanilla
1-1/2 cups vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups shredded peeled carrots
1-1/2 cups diced fresh pineapple or drained crush canned pineapple (one 20 oz. can)
1/2 cup sweetened cream of coconut, such as Coco Lopez

FOR THE FROSTING:
3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, at room temperate
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup heaving whipping cream
1/4 cup sweetened cream of coconut, such as Coco Lopez
1/2 tsp salt

FOR THE TOPPING
1 cup coconut, toasted (optional for decoration)

Directions:

FOR THE CAKE
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place one oven rack one-third from the bottom of the oven and the second two-thirds from the bottom. Toast nuts on a baking sheet in the oven for about 7-9 minutes, stirring halfway through or in a saute pan on the stove top over medium heat, stirring frequently. When they begin to darken in color and smell aromatic they are ready. Set aside to cool.

Line the bottom of three 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper rounds, grease with butter, and dust with flour (or spray with Baker’s Joy).

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together oil and sugar on medium speed. Add eggs in one at a time, incorporating well after each addition. On a low speed, add in vanilla, cream of coconut, pineapple, carrots and cream of coconut. Slowly mix in flour mixture and beat on low speed until fully combined.

Evenly distribute the batter between the prepared cake pans. Stagger the pans on the oven racks so that no layer is directly over another (if you have a double oven, I recommend using both for baking the cakes and not using the stagger method). Bake for 30-35 minutes, checking the cakes after about 27 minutes. They are done when they turn golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes in their pans on racks for 5 minutes, then invert them onto the racks and cool completely, about 30 minutes.

FOR THE FROSTING
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the cream cheese and powdered sugar on medium-high speed for about 1-2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the whipping cream, cream of coconut, and salt; beat until combined.

FOR THE TOPPING
You can top your cake with toasted coconut for decoration. If you’d like to do this, spread the coconut in a thin layer in a baking sheet. Toast in the oven at 350 degrees, stirring frequently, for about 5-7 minutes. Check on it frequently – it will burn quickly (trust me, I know!). The coconut is ready when it is golden brown.

TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE
Place one cake layer on a serving plate or cake stand. Spread a thick layer of frosting on top, leaving about 1/2 inch around the edges.  Add the second layer and repeat. Top with the third layer and cover the top and sides of cake with an even layer of frosting.

Yield: 14-16 servings

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