Saturday, March 31, 2007

White Chocolate Cupcakes

At Christmas, I got a gift card to Barnes & Noble, and the minute I saw it, I knew what it was destined for: my copy of The Essential Baker by Carole Bloom. No matter that I'd be biding my time for three months til the book was published. Occasionally, even I can manage the deferred-gratification thing.

After I bought the book, I walked around with it, perusing it, flipping through the pages, cringing that the recipes are formulated on extra-large eggs (sigh), then trying to decide what to try first. Ultimately, I couldn't get away from the White Chocolate Cupcakes with White Chocolate Frosting. The book has a photo of these beauties, and although I'm not a gigantic fan of white chocolate, they looked too appealing not to try.

The recipe makes a dozen cupcakes, a pretty rational amount, although in hindsight, I might have made a few more. More on that in a bit. The recipe involves making a batter, then whipping and folding in egg whites. No problems with how the batter came together, although I think I should probably have made a few more cupcakes. I definitely overfilled the tins in the cupcake pan I used.

The problem here? I looked in on the cupcakes halfway through their baking time, and they looked great. When I pulled them out of the oven, every one of them had sunk in the middle. The plus? The recipe made plenty of really delicious white chocolate-cream cheese frosting to cover the mishap. (Side note: As I discovered with Karen's birthday cake this year, white chocolate and cream cheese are amazing together in frosting.)

I had to consult with Joseph Amendola and Nicole Rees (Understanding Baking) to see what might have gone wrong. In their chapter on cakes, they suggest that cakes sink due to stale or wrong kind of leavening; or too much fat in the batter. I'm ruling out the fat issue (only 5 tablespoons of butter, plus an egg yolk). And if it is the leavening, I'm surprised. The batter contains a bit of buttermilk, and consequently is leavened chemically with baking soda (and the whipped egg whites). I checked the box of baking soda, and it hasn't passed its expiration date. So a bit of a mystery here. It's a good thing that the cupcakes are so good. I'll definitely make them again, and I hope that next time, they turn out with a nice domed top instead of a sinkhole.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

More Cupcakes

Pressed for time Wednesday evening, I ended up turning to my old pal The Doctor when I was making something for PLTI this week. The recipe I used for all the Princess Tea Party cupcakes was from a formula with proportions for a pound cake. That worked pretty well for some dense little cupcakes, and the batter was thick enough to support additions like chocolate chips. With a leftover box of lemon mix, I made some lemon-coconut cupcakes, with a lemon icing.

One weird thing about cake-mix based recipes is how much they contract once they're out of the oven. In the pan at the conclusion of baking time, they look plump and voluptuous. Five minutes later, they've retreated. I guess that intensifies the denseness, or something.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

347 Cupcakes

How do I begin this post?

Of the many things I believe about baking, I most believe in baking from scratch. It's pretty straightforward, it's therapeutic, and it's fun. At times, however, I find myself in situations where I must use extreme measures. This was one of those times.

My daughter's Girl Scout troop was preparing for a big fund-raiser, a Princess Tea Party. They had planned an event for little girls and parents; tea foods (finger sandwiches, fruit and veggies, juice, dessert) would be served. Games would be played. Photos with a prince would be taken. A fairy godmother would make an appearance. The final headcount for the event was at around 240 at three separate seatings on Saturday afternoon. Dessert would be cupcakes with pink icing. Knowing how much I enjoy baking, Claire's troop leader asked if I could make the cupcakes. Not one to shrink from a challenge, I told her I'd do it.

There are lessons I've learned. One was back when Claire was in first grade and I made from-scratch cupcakes for her to take to school on her birthday to share with her classmates. I carried them in that afternoon, then watched as most of the kids licked off the frosting and tossed the cakes. No, not happy. But I learned that it was probably not worth my while to try to sophisticate the palates of young children.

As it happened, I had gotten The Cake Mix Doctor as a gift from a colleague. I wasn't sure if the gift of Anne Byrn's cookbook was a joke or a lark, but I'd offered my thanks, then tucked the book away. I have to admit that I got a kick out of flipping through the pages of the book. I guess I was entertained by the idea that someone would go to the trouble of creating recipes to mask the flavors of standardized cake mixes. At any rate, remembering the first-grade classroom trashcan full of homemade cakes, I pulled out the MD when I was making something for Claire to take to school for her birthday in second grade. I satisfied myself by tweaking a mix so that it didn't taste so much like a mix and ended up with something that, frankly, most of the kids seemed to enjoy eating. Go figure.

In time, I added the full collection of Anne Byrn's books to my collection and use them from time to time, especially in emergency situations, like, say, if I suddenly need to make 250 or so cupcakes for an event.

For the Princess Tea Party, I lucked out with a $1-a-box sale on Duncan Hines cake mix, the Cake Doctor's preferred brand for tweaking; I picked up a variety of flavors. Second, I lucked out because I'd stocked up on butter during a recent sale. (One MD tweak that I tweak further is using melted butter in lieu of cooking oil. I think butter adds better flavor.)

I had a headcount of around 250. Walk-ins were expected, so I revised my count up. The event could manage a grand total of 300 guests, so I set 300 as my basic goal. I also figured that between Girl Scouts, parent volunteers, a few princes, and a fairy godmother, more cupcakes might be eaten. So after I had a batch that got me over 300 cupcakes, I made one more. The grand total was 347.

As it turned out, my liberal assessment of the situation was spot on. Some leftovers came home, but it was only about 25 cupcakes.

Flavors? I wanted to switch things up a bit, so I tossed some chocolate chips in a banana cake mix. I put some peanut-butter swirled chips in a chocolate cake batter. Strawberry batter got a cup of white-chocolate chips for strawberries and cream. (Great idea, unfortunate execution. I'm not sure what happened with the chips, but I'm guessing I got a bag that had been sitting on the store shelf too long; the chips tasted awful.) There was a yellow cake, a vanilla cake, red velvet, devil's food, butterscotch spice, and a couple more. I ended up with ten batches of cupcakes. The pink icing was from scratch, a favorite recipe from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. (Ten boxes of mix, about 10 lb. of butter for the cakes and the frosting, almost four dozen eggs, nearly a gallon of milk, and a good solid day of baking.)

Although I can't necessarily take a huge amount of credit for tweaking cake mixes, I was strangely gratified to hear that a number of parents asked the Girl Scout troop leader what bakery she'd ordered the cupcakes from. I hope they were responding to the pretty pink icing I piped onto the tops of the cupcakes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Perfect Couple

In times of tension and stress, nothing comforts me more than the combination of chocolate and peanut butter. When I was rooting through the cupboard and found a partially used bag of chocolate and peanut butter chips, I decided they'd be good in a batch of brownies. I love the excess of frosted brownies, so I adapted a favorite recipe from Tish Boyle's Diner Desserts. While the brownies were baking, I was inspired to send them over the top. I remembered a great recipe from Lora Brody's Chocolate American Style, a peanut butter chocolate chip shortbread that is iced first with a layer of peanut butter, then with chocolate. For my brownies, I first covered them with chunky peanut butter, then with a creamy chocolate frosting. It's entirely possible that richness will be a factor here; I'll have to remember to cut them into rationally sized portions.

These brownies are for Lost Lunch Thursday.

Here's the recipe, as adapted from the above-mentioned sources.

2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
12 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 11-oz. bag milk & peanut-butter chips
1-1/2 to 2 cups peanut butter (chunky or smooth, your preference)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 oz. milk chocolate
3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Heat oven to 350F. Line a 9x13 pan with aluminum foil (preferably Reynolds nonstick foil; otherwise, lightly grease the foil).

2. For the brownies, melt together the butter, the chocolates, and the brown sugar in a large saucepan. (If you use a large pan, you can mix the all batter right in it.) Heat til the mixture is melted and smooth. (If you've used a smaller pan, transfer the mixture to a large bowl.)

3. Stir in the granulated sugar. Then stir in eggs, one at a time, until mixed in. Add the vanilla. Then add the flour and salt, mixing until the flour is just incorporated. Gently stir in the milk & peanut-butter chips. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top.

4. Bake the brownies for 40-45 minutes. Do not overbake. When done, remove brownies from the oven and let cool in the pan for about 45 minutes.

5. Melt the peanut butter either in the microwave or in a saucepan over low heat until just pourable. Gently pour the peanut butter over the cooled brownies and spread it in a layer to coat the brownies. Let cool for about 30 minutes.

6. To make the frosting, melt together the butter and the chocolates over low heat or in a microwave. When melted and smooth, transfer mixture to a mixer bowl, and blend in half of the confectioners' sugar. Then add the salt, half the cream, and the vanilla extract. Add the remaining sugar, and blend until smooth. Then mix in the remaining cream. Beat the frosting until smooth. Drop the frosting in dollops over the peanut-butter coated brownies. Using an offset metal frosting spatula, connect the dollops of frosting by gently spreading the frosting over the layer of peanut butter.

7. When ready to serve, remove brownies from pan using foil sling. Transfer to a cutting board, and cut into squares.

Banana Spice Cake

For this week's PLTI class, I made a banana spice Bundt cake. (I have started to wonder if they're going to tire of Bundt cakes. I'll have to try something different next week.) With some bananas on the verge of needing a life-support system, I was definitely ready to make a banana something or other. I've made this cake before. It's from Sally Sampson's wonderful BakeSale Cookbook, which is no longer in print. For the topping, I used the remainder of the chocolate glaze I'd made for The Cake (see earlier blog entry). It sure looks as if I should have warmed the glaze a bit more before I used it to coat the cake.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Snow Day

Last Friday (and into Saturday), we had a whopper of a snowstorm, a late-season Nor'easter that dumped 10 in. of snow on us. (Repeat after me: March is not snow season. March is melting season. Whom can we write to about this tiresome circumstance?)

The only bottom-line reliably good thing about snow days is baking, of course. I'd had a hankering for peanut blossoms, and the storm gave me an opportunity to make a batch. Instead of using the regular (vile) milk-chocolate Kisses, I used raspberry-flavored dark-chocolate Kisses. Although the raspberry Kisses have a slightly medicinal aftertaste when consumed solo, they worked great as the center of a peanut blossom. This was comfort baking at its finest.

St. Patrick's Day

For St. Patrick's Day this year, I wanted to veer away from the traditional round of soda bread and try something different. Then I saw an interesting soda bread recipe in last Wednesday's New York Times. So much for veering away from soda bread. The Times's recipe is excellent, producing a moist, flavorful, buttery loaf. Apparently it's not much like traditional soda bread, but that's OK by me.

I had planned to make a Guinness chocolate cake from Tish Boyle's Cake Book. Then the new issue of the King Arthur Flour Baker's Sheet arrived; it contains a recipe for Guinness spice cake. Although I figured I'd bake them both, the weekend kind of got away from me, so Tish's cake didn't make it. The Guinness spice cake from King Art's is very much like a dried-fruit filled gingerbread. The dried fruit (dark and golden raisins, and some dried cranberries) is soaked in Guinness stout for 15 minutes; then it's combined with the rest of the batter. Although the cake is quite tasty, my gripe with the recipe is that the fruit largely sunk to the bottom while baking. I've been wondering what to do to get around that problem. All I can think of is that I could have drained the Guinness and added it separately, then dredged the fruit in a bit of flour (potentially a headache because the fruit would be soaking wet from its Guinness bath). Bottom line is that the cake passed the edibility test, and that's what matters most.

Friday, March 16, 2007


Last year, Karen and I participated in a program called the Parent Leadership Training Institute, or PLTI as we know and love it. PLTI isn't a program to teach people how to be better parents; instead, it's a 20-week program about teaching parents to be better advocates for children. Our class was made up of an amazing cross section of people: parents, grandparents, teachers, community leaders, all of us taught and guided by three great facilitators (the almost Andrews Sisters: Patti, Laverne, and Bruce).

For our class last year, I baked from time to time. I probably should have baked more. When this year's class ramped up, Karen and I were both ready to give something back. Karen has helped out with setup. I baked coffee cakes for the class's first session, a daylong retreat. Then I made something for their first regular class. And the second. And so on. Baking for this year's class has been a pleasure. (The good orange cake I made last week was for PLTI.)

Last night, Karen and I were guests at last night's PLTI session (week nine) about the media. (Last year, we took over the media class. Despite that transgression, we were invited back to offer our insights.)

For last night's treat, I brought a Milky Way Cake. It's a recipe from Baking from the Heart, a collection of dessert recipes from top chefs and pastry chefs; a portion of the proceeds from sales of the book benefited Share Our Strength, a charity devoted to anti-hunger programs. Milky Way Cake is a recipe passed along by Jane and Michael Stern of Roadfood fame. When I first got the cookbook, the recipe caught my eye I think out of sheer goofiness more than anything. Every time I make this cake, I wonder what possessed someone to melt four Milky Way candy bars with a stick of butter and use them as an ingredient. In all fairness, the cake is essentially a caramel cake (the melted ingredients are a big glop of buttery chocolate caramel). Because this cake batter's volume is small enough and lightly leavened (only 1/4 teaspoon baking soda), I was able to use my 10-cup cathedral Bundt pan and not have to worry about batter overflow.

In the end, the cake turned out great, and it looked really impressive, too. I only wish I'd remembered to sprinkle it with a bit of powdered sugar. On the plus side, I had a photo backdrop: a beautiful piece of blue and gold cloth, part of Patti's cloth collection. I enjoyed the chance to see the PLTI class enjoy the cake, then guess what it contained. Many tasters detected notes of maple, but I think everyone was surprised to discover the secret ingredient.

Here's a recipe for Milky Way Cake. It's very similar to the one from the book.

Milky Way Cake
Makes 1 9-in. Bundt cake

4 (2.1 ounce) bars Milky Way
1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans (preferably toasted)

Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and flour one 9-in. Bundt pan. Melt candy bars and 1/2 cup of the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Let cool. Cream remaining 1/2 cup butter or margarine with the sugar. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one. Add buttermilk alternately with flour and soda to egg mixture. Add vanilla and melted candy mixture and mix until smooth. Fold in chopped pecans and pour into the prepared pan. Bake at 350 for 50-60 min. Cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto wire rack to cool.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Cake

When my running buddies and I get together at races, I often bring baked goods to share with my friends. Sometimes, I'm lucky enough to get baked goods in return. When I traveled to North Carolina for the Outer Banks Marathon last November, I almost got to sample a treat that has become so legendary in our running community that it is known simply as The Cake. Unfortunately, an untimely storm and a flooded highway got between me and my chance to try The Cake on that trip. Fortunately, I was able to partake of The Cake just a couple of weeks later when a bunch of us met up at the Philadelphia Marathon.

The Cake is a specialty of my friend Alison. This chocolate pound cake features chunks of chopped apple and gets a flavor boost from cinnamon and nutmeg. (Alison insists that freshly grated nutmeg is the only way to go for The Cake.) After my first taste of The Cake, I was hooked. I never think of apples and chocolate as a flavor combination, but they work well in this treat. The cinnamon and nutmeg are great partners with the chocolate, too.

In Alison's recipe, The Cake is baked in a plain tube pan. A layer of chocolate chips melted atop the nearly finished cake serves as an icing. Because I can't leave well enough alone, I tweaked the recipe the first time I made it. I baked The Cake in a Bundt pan, then drizzled it with a chocolate glaze. For The Cake Version 2.0, I substituted pears for apples. Pears, the chocolate, and the spices are a great team.

With Alison's permission, I'm posting the recipe here. If you'd like to use a 12-cup Bundt pan instead of the tube pan, that's fine. Baking time is the same. If you use the Bundt option, The Cake is great unadorned, although a simple chocolate glaze is nice. I've been using a glaze I adapted from a recipe in Elinor Klivans's Fearless Baking. Combine 1/2 cup heavy cream, 4 tablespoons of butter, and 2 tablespoons of light corn syrup in a small saucepan. Bring just to a boil. Remove from heat, and add 1-1/3 cups chocolate chips. Stir gently. After the chips have melted and the mixture is smooth, let the glaze rest til it's slightly thickened before drizzling over the cooled cake. For my taste, this recipe makes twice as much glaze as I need for this cake. I refrigerate the leftover.

Chocolate Apple Spice Cake

2 sticks butter
2 c. sugar
3 eggs
½ c water
2 ½ c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp nutmeg (fresh is better)
2 Tbsp cocoa
1 tsp cinnamon
1 c chocolate chips, plus extra for "icing"
2 apples (peeled and chopped)
1 Tbsp vanilla

Cream butter with sugar
Beat in eggs and water
Add flour, baking soda, nutmeg, cocoa and cinnamon
Stir in vanilla, chocolate chips and apples
Turn into a greased and floured tube pan
Bake at 325F for 1 ¼ hours
Cake is done when toothpick comes out clean

"Icing:" During the last 3-5 min of baking, pour extra chocolate chips on top of cake, allow to melt. Smooth out once cake comes out of the oven.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Duh Moment

On Thursday night, in an ongoing effort to bake with citrus (insert eyeroll here), I made some lime squares. I used the Lemon Square recipe from Emily Luchetti's Stars Desserts because it's a fine lemon square recipe. It's not stingy with citrus, using 1 cup and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice; that tartness is counterbalanced with 3 cups of sugar and 6 eggs. This voluptuous filling lies atop a pretty basic shortbread crust, which is baked for 20 minutes before the filling is poured on. I've made this recipe countless times: definitely tried and true.

By all appearances, the bars baked up fine. Consequently, I was pretty surprised when I discovered that the filling had seeped beneath the crust. I've occasionally seen some small seepage issues with these squares, but I've always been able to attribute that to my own uneven crust preparation. This batch was a seepage disaster, with the crust suspended in a pool of baked lime goo.

As I was driving to work Friday morning, I thought about the tray of sloppy lime squares in the backseat, wondering if should have docked the crust, or maybe put pie weights on top (not that the crust had ever needed that treatment before) to prevent the crust from shrinking. Then I flashed back and realized something: Because I'd been helping Claire with homework, I'd taken the crust out of the oven and let it cool down for 10 minutes before I'd poured the filling on top. Duh. In all the times I'd previously made this recipe, I'd never let the crust cool down before I poured the filling on top. I suspect that the 10 minutes of cooling allowed the crust to contract enough to permit the lime filling to ooze under. Live and learn.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

A Tale of Two Orange Bundt Cakes

As I detailed in yesterday's post, "The Botched Effort," I had a rough time with Cook's Country's Orange Bundt Cake. Because I still had oranges to use up (I suspect they're multiplying like tribbles), I decided to make one more orange cake, but this time chose a recipe from Abby Dodge's The Weekend Baker. I like this cookbook and probably haven't used it nearly enough since I bought it a couple of years ago. (Note: Abby's dinner-roll recipe -- extremely fondly known at our house as The Bread of Death -- is awesome.)

Abby's recipe for Rich Orange Butter Cake is very similar to CC's Orange Bundt Cake, but there are some differences. I think the two crucial ones are that Abby uses 1/2 cup more flour in her cake, and she uses a lot more leavening (2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda vs. CC's 1 teaspoon powder and 1/2 teaspoon soda). If you factor sugar as a liquid ingredient, Abby's recipe uses less liquid overall than CC's.

The CC cake (bottom photo) has a gummy texture, although to be fair, that is probably a result of my use of glaze as a cake-reconstruction substance. I'll have to make that cake again just for comparison's sake. Abby's recipe (top photo) made a beautiful pound cake, with a tight crumb and nice appearance. And it came out of the pan with no undue coaxing. Thanks to The Weekend Baker, I had a respectable orange Bundt to share with some friends this evening.

Props are due to my sous chef, Claire, who assisted with the juicing of the oranges for the second cake.

The Botched Effort

A couple of weeks ago, I went a little insane and bought a bunch of citrus fruit from the dented and dinged rack in the back of the grocery store. What can I say? It had been cold, and I apparently was fearing the onset of scurvy. I ended up browsing cookbooks and was drawn to lemony and orangy cakes. Despite having made two orange chiffon cakes (both pretty good) and a lemon poppyseed citrus pound cake (disappointing), I still have citrus fruit to use up. Yesterday, I remembered the Orange Bundt Cake from the February/March 2007 issue of Cook’s Country and decided to give it a go. At the very least, it would allow me to make use of two or three oranges and a lemon.

The ingredients went together just fine. In this cake, the technique veers from the traditional creaming of butter and sugar; instead, the slightly softened butter is mixed in to the dry ingredients. Then all the wet ingredients are added at one time, and the batter is mixed for a couple of minutes.

My first twinge of concern was with the final amount of batter. Although the recipe called for a 12-cup Bundt pan, the amount of batter looked better suited to a smaller Bundt. (Less batter baked in a bigger-volume pan equals a short, unimpressive pound cake.) Since I trust CC, I went with the 12-cup pan (after all, it was already buttered and floured, too). I set the timer for 45 minutes, the lower end of the recommended baking time, and popped the pan in the oven.

The next twinge of concern occurred when I checked the cake 10 minutes before timer was set to go off. The cake was done baking in 35 minutes. I attributed that to the smaller volume of batter in the bigger pan. The CC recipe then recommends an in-pan cooling time of 20 minutes. Normally, I go with 10 minutes before removing a cake from a pan, but again, I trust CC and went with their recipe.

After 20 minutes of cooling, the cake was set. I put a cooling rack over the top of the pan and quickly flipped the pan over. For a second, I waited for that gentle, reassuring whoosh as the cake slips from the interior of the pan and slides to the cooling rack. Huh. No whoosh. Not reassuring. I tapped the pan gently. No whoosh. Not good.

I flipped the pan over again and confirmed that the cake hadn’t budged a millimeter. So I got out my thinnest, narrowest plastic spatula and gently loosened the cake as best I could, cringing the two times that I created sizable cracks in the cake. Then I put the cooling rack back over the pan and tried again to get the cake out.

This time, the cake dropped. It also left strips and pieces fused to the Bundt pan. Since this cake gets a double-glazing (one brushing of glaze while it’s hot, then a thicker glaze as an icing), I used some of the glaze I’d already prepared to reassemble the mangled cake. (We can rebuilt it. We have the technology.) Then I glazed the outside of the cake, let it cool, and then coated it with the thicker glaze.

Over my years of baking, I’ve learned that if something goes wrong with a baked good, it probably can be saved. The two extremes -- burned baked goods and severely undercooked baked goods -- have no hope, but in almost every other case, there’s usually at least something edible. I imagine that the Orange Bundt Cake is going to be tasty, if enormously unattractive. And at least I didn’t have to scramble to make a batch of pastry cream to turn the cake into the base for a trifle.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Tropical Carrot Cake

Hi! Having failed at two attempts to keep a written record of my baking adventures, I've decided to try the electronic route to see if I can somehow keep track of my favorite cookbooks and recipes, and also keep a record of those less-than-successful cakes that get a second life as trifle components.

I'm not a professional baker, although I have a professional chef's degree from Connecticut Culinary Institute. At heart, I'm a passionate, eager, possibly (probably) obsessive amateur. I really enjoy trying new recipes and working on the process of baking. I love baking for my family, and they've been pretty amenable to trying most new things. For going on 13 years, I've commemorated birthdays at my office with some sort of baked good. I bring a dessert for "Lost Lunch Thursday," when we "Lost" fans at work get together to dissect the previous night's episode. I also like to bring along an assortment of treats when I'm meeting up with friends at a road race. Among the highlights of the baking year is the holiday-season Cookie Day, in which my running buddy Ryan and I bake Christmas cookies for 10 to 12 hours. It's a major throwdown and a huge amount of fun.

My first baking blog entry: Tropical Carrot Cake from the April/May 2007 issue of Cook's Country magazine. I confess that with each new food magazine that arrives in the mailbox, I immediately scan for the dessert recipes. The text accompanying the CC Tropical Carrot Cake made this one sound enormously appealing, so I put it on the agenda for this weekend. In preparation, the cake lived up to the description in the article, especially the pineappley, coconutty aroma that filled the house when the cake layers were in the oven. The final result: a very tall, flavorful carrot cake. This recipe uses a technique I first saw in a carrot cake recipe by Greg Case in Fine Cooking a few years ago. I love that recipe, which starts with an emulsion of oil, eggs, and sugar prepared in a food processor. The CC recipe also uses an emulsion, only this one includes coconut, which is processed with granulated white sugar. The pineapple flavor comes from a pudding prepared before the cake batter is made; a portion of the pudding goes in the cake, and part goes in the frosting.

Thoughts about this cake: I'm glad I used my deep 9-in. round cake pans instead of the usual Ecko nonstick layer pans; there's a lot of batter for a two-layer cake. I think I'll try this one again, but with a mango pudding. I guess that will tint the cake and especially the frosting an orangey color, but because the cake is coated with toasted coconut, I wonder how noticeable the color will be.

I took a couple of pictures that I will post later. I can't find the right plug to hook up the digital camera to the computer. Ugh.

Edit to add: Photos uploaded on 04 March. I apologize for my food-photography skills. Ha.