Colossal Carrot Cake

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For the birthday of a friend who loves carrot cake and the Great British Baking Show, I made Ian’s Colossal Carrot Cake from season 3 (series 7 in the UK).  It’s fairly different from American carrot cake and reminds me a lot of fruit cake.  I’ve converted the measurements and ingredients into American English, so give it a try if you like carrot and fruit cake!

 

Colossal Carrot Cake
Adapted from Ian Cumming, via the Great British Baking Show

Yield: Two-layer 9″ cake

For the cake:

  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 3/4 cups light brown muscovado sugar OR dark brown sugar OR white sugar +dollop molasses
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon orange oil OR orange extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground star anise (optional)
  • 320g/11¼oz grated carrots (it’s a LOT of carrots)
  • 1 cup golden OR dark raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped
  • 1 orange, zest and juice only

 

For the icing:

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2-4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 capful orange oil OR 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 12 oz cream cheese, softened

  1. Preheat the oven to 355ºF.  Grease a 9″ springform cake pan.

  2. Melt butter in a saucepan then whisk in sugar, eggs, and orange oil OR extract until smooth and well combined.

  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or in a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, ground spices, and salt.

  4. On medium speed with the stand mixer or a hand mixer, beat butter mixture into dry ingredients until combined.  The batter will be thick.

  5. Beat in carrots, raisins, pecans, orange zest, and juice.

  6. Pour batter into pan and bake for 60-75 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle (check after 45 minutes and cover the top of the cake with baking parchment if the cake is browning too much).

  7. Leave to cool in pan for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

  8. For the icing, slowly beat butter and powdered sugar together using an electric mixer.

  9. When combined, add the vanilla paste OR extract and orange oil OR extract.

  10. Continue to mix for another few minutes until light and fluffy.

  11. With the mixer on the slowest speed, add the cream cheese bit by bit until just incorporated.

  12. Cut the cooled cake in half horizontally and spread a third of the icing on the bottom layer, then replace the top. Neatly cover the top and sides of the cake with remaining icing.

 

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Earl Grey Chiffon Cake

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This chiffon cake tastes like Earl Grey tea in fluffy cloud form.  Since the cake itself isn’t very sweet, the dusting of powdered sugar on top is perfect.  See here if you want to make a gluten-free version.

Baking Notes:

  • 1 Bigelow teabag contains 1 teaspoon of finely ground tea, so you can skip the grinding step
  • Use fresh eggs, because the egg whites will fluff up more when beaten.
  • Separate the eggs when cold, then allow the whites to come to room temperature before beating them.

Original recipe

 

Earl Grey Chiffon Cake
Adapted from Just One Cookbook

Yield: 10″ tube pan

  • 4 teaspoons Earl Grey loose tea leaves OR 4 teabags
  • 2 Tablespoons Earl Grey loose tea leaves OR 6 teabags
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 170 grams granulated sugar, divided
  • 6 Tablespoons flavorless oil (such as vegetable or canola)
  • 1 1/3 cup cake flour (all-purpose also works)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

 

  1. Preheat oven to 340°F and set aside a 10″ tube pan.  Do NOT grease it.
  2. Using a food processor or mortar and pestle, grind 4 teaspoons tea leaves into a fine powder.  If you don’t have either, put tea leaves in a bag and crush them.
  3. In a fine sieve in a mug or a bowl, steep 2 tablespoons tea leaves in 3/4 cup hot water to make a strong tea.  Cool, remove tea leaves, and set aside.  You will only use 1/2 cup of the tea.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together yolks and about a third of the sugar.
  5. Whisk in oil, 1/2 cup tea, and 4 teaspoons finely ground tea leaves until thoroughly combined.
  6. Whisk in baking powder and flour, making sure there are no lumps.
  7. In a separate large mixing bowl, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy.  Add the remaining sugar in 3 additions and beat until stiff and glossy.
  8. Add a large scoop of the whipped egg whites to the cake batter and mix gently but thoroughly to lighten the batter.
  9. Add the remaining egg whites in 3 additions.  Gently fold into the batter using a large wire whisk, making sure to scrape down the bottom of the bowl frequently.
  10. Pour batter into pan and gently smooth top with a rubber spatula.
  11. Bake at 340°F for 45 minutes without opening the oven door.  The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, or when the surface springs back immediately after pressing on it with a finger.
  12. As soon as you remove cake from oven, cool cake completely upside down.  This step is important, because otherwise the cake will sink.
  13. When completely cool, run a thin knife around the side of the cake and around the tube in the middle to loosen it from the pan.
  14. Rapping pan, turn cake out onto a serving plate and dust with powdered sugar.

Spaghetti Bolognese

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This recipe comes from my mentor, who is part Italian.  It’s really tasty, and you can easily double it for dinner parties.

 

Spaghetti Bolognese

Yield: 4 servings

  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 onion
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb ground pork OR beef OR chicken (whatever you have, really)
  • 1 cup half and half OR milk
  • 5 (28-oz) cans crushed tomatoes in tomato purée
  • 1/2 cup white wine OR 1/2 cup water+1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 lb spaghetti noodles

 

  1. Grate carrots.
  2. Finely chop celery until the pieces are about size of the carrot bits.
  3. Finely chop onion.
  4. Cook carrots, celery, and onion in a large pot with a little oil or butter, until vegetables are soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add ground meat, breaking up clumps with a wooden spoon.
  6. Cook, stirring constantly and breaking up clumps, until meat is no longer pink.  It takes 3-5 minutes.
  7. Add half and half OR milk.  Continue to stir and break up any clumps of meat.
  8. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook until liquid reduces to about ½ inch left in the bottom of the pot, about 10 minutes.  Stir from time to time.
  9. Add white wine (or water+lemon juice) and salt and pepper, to taste.
  10. Bring mixture to a simmer again and cook until liquid reduces to about ½ inch left in the bottom of the pot, about 5 minutes.  Stir from time to time.
  11. Add tomatoes and bring mixture to a boil.
  12. Cover and simmer until sauce is thick.  Stir from time to time.  If you dip a wooden spoon in it and pull it up, the sauce and meat bits should cling to the spoon and drip off it slowly.
  13. While sauce is simmering, heat a pot of water until it boils.  Cook spaghetti noodles to desired doneness, about 11 minutes.
  14. Serve noodles topped with sauce.

Burgers

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What better way to celebrate the summer than by grilling with friends?  This recipe for homemade patties comes from one of them, a guy who loves to host large gatherings.  The burger was so good that I wished I had a second stomach so I could keep eating.

 

Burgers

Yield: 8 burgers

  • 3 pounds ground beef
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 7 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 8 hamburger buns
  • Burger toppings: cheddar cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, barbecue sauce, etc.

 

  1. In a large bowl, combine beef, egg, onion, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper.
  2. Using your hands, form the mixture into 8 patties.
  3. Grill burgers until golden brown and slightly charred on the first side, about 4 minutes.
  4. Flip over burgers and cook until golden brown and slightly charred on the second side, about 4 minutes for medium, or until cooked to desired doneness.  If desired, top with a slice of cheese in the last minute of grilling and close the grill cover.
  5. Assemble burger with your favorite toppings.

Crash-O-Cookies

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Crash-O-cookies are soft and chewy in the centers, but crispy at the edges when fresh out of the oven.  I brought these to a birthday party and they vanished pretty quickly.

 

Crash-O-Cookies
From Dorie Greenspan’s Dorie’s Cookies

Yield: 50 cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups plump, moist raisins
  • Hot tap water, rum, red wine, brandy, cognac, or black tea to soak raisins
  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3-3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2/3-3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 9 oz best-quality milk/bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped OR 3/4 cup milk/semisweet chocolate chips

 

  1. Position racks to divide oven into thirds and preheat to 350ºF.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Put raisins in a bowl and cover with hot tap water OR your choice of alcohol OR tea.  Let them soak while you make dough.
  3. Whisk together the oats, flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and freshly grated nutmeg and keep at hand.
  4. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat butter, sugars, and salt at medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition.
  6. Beat in the vanilla, cinnamon, and baking soda.  Scrape down sides of bowl.
  7. Stir in oats and flour partially, so flour won’t fly everywhere when you turn on the mixer.
  8. Beat on low speed until dry ingredients are almost blended in.
  9. Drain raisins and pat dry with a paper towel.
  10. Add raisins and chocolate chips.  Mix on low speed just until blended.  (At this point, the dough can be wrapped well and chilled for up to 3 days.)
  11. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart.  Gently press down dough until cookies about 1/2 inch thick.
  12. Bake for 13-15 minutes, rotating sheets top to bottom and front to back after 7 minutes.  The cookies will be golden brown on top, only slightly firm around the edges, and still pokeable (maybe even a bit wet looking) in the centers.  (If the dough were refrigerated and became very hard, you might have to add another minute or so to the baking time.)
  13. Cool cookies on baking sheets on wire racks for 3-5 minutes so they can firm up.
  14. Remove cookies from baking sheets and finish cooling on racks.
  15. Repeat with remaining dough, cooling baking sheets between batches.
  16. Covered, the cookies will keep at room temperature for at least 4 days.  They can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months.

 

Carrot Spice Muffins

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These carrot muffins are delicious both fresh and after they’ve sat longer.  Just out of the oven, they have a lovely thin crisp crust; wait a little and the spice flavors will deepen.  Because they are not very sweet, they make a great breakfast or snack.

 

Carrot Spice Muffins
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

Yield: 12 muffins

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3-1/2 cup sugar, depending on how sweet you want them
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar OR 1/3 cup white sugar+dollop molasses
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup finely shredded carrots
  • 1/3 cup moist raisins
  • 1/3 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted, cooled, and chopped if you have the patience (I didn’t and the muffins tasted great anyway)
  • 1/3 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F.  Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, and salt.  Stir in the brown sugar OR white sugar; making certain there are no lumps (this is more an issue if you’re using brown sugar).
  3. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the oil, eggs, milk, vanilla extract, and molasses (if using) together until well combined.
  4. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend.  A few lumps are preferable to overmixing the batter.
  5. Stir in carrots, raisins, nuts, and coconut.
  6. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
  7. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean.
  8. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.
  9. The muffins are best the first day, but you can store them, covered, at room temperature for a few days.  Split and toast them, or zap them for 10-15 seconds in the microwave to heat them.

Tropical Crumble

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Since it’s mango season, you should try this tropical crumble.  Containing caramelized bananas and mangoes, with a nice kick from ginger, it’s a great summer dessert.

 

 

Tropical Crumble
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

Yield: 6 servings

For the filling:

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar OR white sugar
  • 2 ripe but firm mangoes, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 ripe but firm bananas, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick on the diagonal
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (1 teaspoon if you omit the fresh ginger)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger (optional)
  • grated zest of 1/4 lime (optional)

For the streusel:

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar OR 1/2 cup white sugar+dollop molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

 

To make the filling:

  1. Melt butter in a wide nonstick skillet over medium-high to high heat.
  2. Sprinkle sugar over butter, and when it bubbles, add mango cubes.
  3. Cook mango for about 2 minutes, without stirring, then turn cubes over and add banana slices.
  4. Cook for another 3 minutes, turning bananas over after 1-2 minutes, until mangoes and bananas are browned.  Keep heat on medium-high to high and don’t move fruit around too much – you want the fruit to hold its shape and texture.
  5. Transfer fruit and whatever juices remain in the pan to a heatproof bowl.
  6. Gently stir in ground ginger, chopped ginger (if using), and lime zest (if using).  Set aside while you make the streusel.

To make the streusel:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a bowl with a rubber spatula, and beat or work butter until it is smooth.
  2. Beat or stir in brown sugar OR white sugar+molasses and salt, until mixture is smooth.
  3. Stir in flour, followed by pecans.
  4. Spread mixture on a piece of wax paper, fold over paper, and freeze for 20 minutes while you preheat the oven.

To assemble and bake:

  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 400ºF.  Butter or use cooking spray on a 9-inch pie pan (regular or deep dish) and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil.  (I recommend the deep dish pie pan if you have one, because the fruit juices will bubble and overflow a lot while baking.)
  2. Spoon fruit and its liquid into pie pan.
  3. Remove streusel mix from freezer and, using your fingers, break it up into topping-size chunks.  Don’t make the pieces teensy and don’t try to make them even – higgledy-piggledy is the way to go.
  4. Scatter the pieces over the fruit.
  5. Slide the baking sheet into the oven and lower the temperature to 350ºF.
  6. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the topping is richly golden and the fruits are bubbling steadily.
  7. Transfer baking sheet to a rack and allow crumble to cool to your preferred serving temperature – just warm or at room temperature.
  8. Serve by spooning into dessert bowls.  If desired, top with whipped cream, runny creme fraiche, sour cream, or vanilla ice cream.
  9. The crumble is best the day it’s made, but you can store it, covered, in the refrigerator and serve it slightly chilled.