Eat your heart out Marie Antoinette!

Chocolate Cake anyone?

Let's eat cake!
Let’s eat cake!

Lately, I have had a dilemma. Do I take a chance the road leading north to Tinicum CSA farm will be open? Or closed? If open, great! If closed, it will not be discovered until total drive time will be rather long and require so much backtracking I will wonder why I attempted the route. Not wanting to deal with a turnaround, I have opted to take an alternate route. The shorter alternate route means traveling to New Jersey and on a highway which parallels the road on which I normally travel, but offer very few river views. The longer alternate route will take me on a highway, through a state park, and along the river with several miles of beautiful river views. There is no dilemma, really, The beauty of this route, the longest route, is something I have enjoyed and embraced. It provides the opportunity to relax and reduce my stress level after a long work week. With the beauty of a GPS system guiding me, one lane bridges are crossed, old stone farm house are passed, curves in the road to move through, shade to enjoy, creeks to cross, and the reward of a general store as the farm nears.

As I traveled through a Pennsylvania state park during one of these trips I pondered what to make for the members of the AAUW who would come over to discuss an upcoming presentation. Rarely do I crave chocolate cake, but there had been multiple chocolate cake references in my life that week. There was the mystery books reference, the classroom discussion of the $75 cake, and the appearance of the Ruth Reichl Giant Chocolate Cake recipe in the New York Times. This chocolate

its just a store brand
its just a store brand

cake will feed twenty five people, but not needing to feed such a large crowd and knowing the dangers of left over chocolate cake, I opted to cut the recipe amounts in half. A good decision as this cake gets rave reviews because it is very good chocolate cake.

Not having many cocoa choices at the grocery store (and having a low checkbook balance), run-of-the-mill cocoa was purchased, but I did opt for the Ghiradelli unsweetened chocolate for the icing. (Brands are not suggested in the recipe.) Additionally, there was no whipped cream cheese available so regular cream cheese was used for the icing.

Given these limitations the cake was easy to prepare (why do people make box cakes?), did not require much time to make, and the

Always add salt to your baked goods!
Always add salt to your baked goods!

frosting came together with ease. I won’t bore you with the details of assembling a cake. My only change would be to note on the recipe to wait until the cake is fully cooled before making the frosting in order to have an easily spreadable frosting.

I had made the frosting while the cake was in the oven, then placed the frosting in the refrigerator due to the cream cheese. So the

what happens with frosting that has not come to room temperature
what happens with frosting that has not come to room temperature

frosting had to come to room temperature before it could be easily spread.

This is no humdrum overly-sweet cake from a box or a store, no this cake has flavor and wonderful texture. Therein lies the danger. Remaining pieces of cake will not long remain in my home. It will make it to my tummy. Luckily, while at the hardware store, discussion turned to this cake and so a majority of the remaining cake to the guys at the hardware store and I froze three pieces for me.

I suggest you find a reason to make this cake as soon as you can.

Last: I do not get any compensation for any product or store which is mentioned in any blog posting, including this one. The names I mention are done only to identify, not promote, a company or product. I engage in no promotional consideration from any of the companies mentioned in my blog.

The basic process of making this cake:

you will need to cream the butter and sugars
you will need to cream the butter and sugars
First, you will combine cocoa and hot water
First, you will combine cocoa and hot water
You will need to alternate the flour and cocoa mixtures
You will need to alternate the flour and cocoa mixtures
it will start to come together
it will start to come together

When CPR is needed

Best little CPR cake in town
Best little CPR cake in town

I have a love-hate relationship with carrot cake. I love my mother’s and hate all others.

Actually, I feel disloyal for even thinking that anyone but Mom can bake a good carrot cake. But since— however unlikely—it is possible, I occasionally try carrot cakes at restaurants and from the grocer. So far, Mom’s is unmatched.

My latest temptation resulted in a small ultimate carrot cake in my grocery cart. The doubts lingering in the back of my mind were justified: My local grocer’s offering is not as tasty as the carrot cake I’ve enjoyed at my mother’s table.

My love affair with this popular dessert began years ago. Its hint of cinnamon, chewy coconut, crunchy walnuts, sweet pineapple, and moist golden raisins are all tastes and textures that I love. Plus, it can be fun to fool myself into thinking carrot cake has some nutritional value. It doesn’t, of course, but the rationalization can be reassuring when eating that first or–heaven forbid–second slice.

For me, carrot cake is a dessert for all seasons. The fact that carrots are a traditional side dish at Easter dinner makes me think about carrot cake in the spring. My thoughts turn to carrot cake when summer days are long, weather is warm, and I have lots of free time. Large quantities of nuts in harvest-season produce departments put me in mind of carrot cake. And overindulgence is mandatory during the winter holidays.

My grocer’s carrot cake was topped with cream cheese icing garnished with chopped walnuts. It did not disappoint, but it was not even close to my ideal of ultimate. Oh, it had the requisite spices, raisins, and walnuts.

The four must-have ingredients
The four must-have ingredients

But the pineapple and coconut, which yield a flavorful and moist cake, were missing. I threw in the towel (albeit a kitchen towel) in disgust.

Disappointed yet again, I decided that the next time I craved carrot cake, I’d bake one myself. The urge occurred sooner than expected. There must have been a need to wipe out the bad memory of the so-called ultimate cake. With Mom’s recipe in hand, I added the necessary ingredients to my grocery list.

Mom’s recipe is easy to follow: Just mix the wet ingredients—which, oddly, include sugar—with the dry ingredients and add the coconut, pineapple, raisins, and nuts. I add golden raisins to the batter, even though my mother’s recipe does not call for raisins. Then I rename it CPR cake in homage to the carrots, pineapple, and raisins as well as a quirky sense of humor. Find the CPR cake recipe here.

For this latest cake, I added walnuts, saving the pecans for a caramel pecan filling for a layer cake. Like me, you’ll probably end up with more chopped nuts and/or shredded carrots than your recipe calls for. You may wish to save these extras to decorate cupcakes or a layer cake.

Mom’s recipe produced enough batter to make a single 4″ layer cake in addition to the two dozen cupcakes I’d planned! This unexpected use cupcake papers emptydiscovery meant I could make a small layer cake for dinner guests and use the remaining batter for cupcakes, which could be stored in the freezer. A cupcake would be a nice addition to my brown bag lunches, which typically don’t include a dessert component.

For the icing, I used organic cream cheese and added vanilla. Either or both of these ingredients made this the best cream cheese icing I had ever had. Generally, I find cream cheese icing to be OK. Not bad, not good. This batch was different. I could have eaten every bit of it.

I must admit that Mom—never a fan of too much icing—may have adjusted the amounts downward. Or my enthusiastic sampling could be the reason the batch barely coated each of the 24 cupcakes and the little layer cake.

Some of the best things in life are the simple things. But not carrot cake. More is better.

Every time.