Awesomeness of carrot cake

I never really warmed to the carrot-eating Brer Rabbit. But I do remember Pankaj Kapoor munching a carrot and solving cases in the serial Karamchand. "Lily, don't be silly" was one of the most-memorable catch-phrases for a long time. Perhaps the memory is so vivid because choice was limited, Doordarshan was the only television channel in India in the 1980s. Or perhaps because I was a kid and enthralled by TV. Or maybe because the programmes were more interesting back then. It beats me how despite the choice we have today -- 1400 channels, three remote controls, Internet tv etc. -- there are days when there's absolutelybloodynothing to watch.

Anyway, this post isn't about TV, it's about carrots. And what happens when you mix them with apples, throw in some walnuts and add a couple of eggs. You get a delicious carrot cake. And to think that a cake I so love to bake and eat was an alien concept till about 2002. While I'd grown up eating gajar ka halwa^, a cake made from carrots was just strange. Till I had my first bite of a carrot cake at Cafe Turtle (Full Circle book store, Khan Market, New Delhi). I'd stared at my friend's plate very suspiciously. Unlike a halwa that is so obviously carroty, I couldn't see any trace of carrots in the cake and it smelled of...of cinnamon and a toasty day, sitting in the sun with a cup of coffee and a good book. If this cake was a person, I'd love her totally.
^ gajar = carrot; halwa = sweet, click on word to read about it, quite interesting

There are different recipes for carrot cakes, some use coconut, some use apple sauce and most usually have cake layers (two or more) sandwiched together with cream-cheese frosting. For a drier version with frosting, try this recipe on Joy of Baking.com. My recipe is modified from the drier version and bakes a moister cake. I also prefer it without the frosting. Do try it, I promise you won't be disappointed. 

click for bigger picture
Walnuts/pecans, 1 cup, toasted and coarsely chopped
Raw carrots 2 cups, grated
Granny Smith apples, 1 cup, grated
All-purpose flour/ maida, 4 cups
Baking powder 1 TSP
 Baking soda 1 ½TSP
Salt ½ TSP 
Ground cinnamon 1 ½ TSP
Eggs 4 large
Granulated white sugar 1 ½ cups
Vegetable/canola oil* 1 cup
 Vanilla extract 2 TSP
* please refer to notes
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C* and place rack in centre (if oven has only top and bottom, always place on the bottom rack). Grease a 23 x 8 cm deep dish* round cake tin and line the bottom with baking paper* 
  2. Place walnuts on a tray/plate and toast them in the oven for 5 minutes-or-so; till they are lighter in colour. Cool* and chop coarsely.  
  3. Grate the peeled carrots and keep aside. Core, peel and grate the apples and keep aside.  
  4. In a large bowl, mix (whisking works best) the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.  
  5. In another bowl, beat the eggs for a minute-or-so, until frothy. Add the sugar in three batches and beat until the batter is thick and light colored; should take about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the oil in a steady stream and then beat in the vanilla extract.
  7. Add the flour mixture and beat just until incorporated. Do not overbeat.
  8. Use a spatula to in the grated carrots, apples and chopped nuts. 
  9. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  10. Remove from oven and after about 10 minutes, invert onto a wire rack, remove the tin and paper and cool completely.
  11. This cake can be refrigerated.
oil: always use a tasteless oil, olive oil does not work.
temp: 350 F
tins: can also use two 23 X 5 cm dishes. When pouring batter, evenly distribute in the two tins.
lining: can use grease-proof paper, do not grease.
nuts: always cool walnuts, chopping warm/hot nuts makes them oily.

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