Sunday, April 24, 2016

dn's Chocolate Carrot Cake

Back in October of 2010, I shared myCarrot Cake recipe - which was a kicked up version of Janet and Greta Podleski's "Must Bake Carrot Cake" from their "Crazy Plates" cookbook.

Recently, I decided to up the ante on this one just a bit more! I decreased the flour ever so slightly and added some cocoa powder. There was only so much flour I was willing to risk removing, so to offset the additional wee bit more dry ingredients, I decided to add a bit of the pineapple juice to keep it nice and moist. This time, I also toasted the almonds that went into the cake batter - not just the ones for garnish!. The basic icing recipe is the same except this is the chocolate version of it!

As with the previous version, I made it in two 8 inch square pans rather than one large 9”X13” pan. Generally, I tend to find that the center always takes too long to bake thoroughly using the bigger pan. By doing it in two pans, it also spreads the cake more evenly and you get a more even consistency in texture.

The result was a decadently flavourful and moist cake that really made my taste testers happy! They loved it!

It's not completely guilt free but it is lighter than many of the other carrot cake recipes out there that are loaded with sugar, oil and cream cheese frosting but I swear this one is worth the effort and is totally splurge worthy!

dn's Chocolate Carrot Cake
1/2 cup raisins
2/3 cup chopped almonds, toasted
3/4 cup buttermilk*
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup drained, crushed pineapple (A 540ml/19oz can is the perfect size here. Drain the pineapple over a strainer and reserve juice - some for cake and rest for other uses)
2 Tablespoons pineapple juice
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups freshly peeled and grated carrots
1 1/2 cups dark or semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray two 8 inch square baking pans with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

Place the raisins in a shallow bowl and cover with hot (but not boiling) water. Stir to separate any raisins that may be stuck together then allow to soak in the water for about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain water off and place raisins on paper towel. Cover with another paper towel and pat to remove access moisture. Soaking the raisins before using allows them to plump up for a better, fresher flavour and texture. (Note: I generally keep at least 1/2 cup that I've pre-soaked and towel dried in an air tight container in the fridge. They will stay good for up to a month that way so are ready for baking, salads or a snack.)

While the raisins are soaking, chop the almonds for the cake and also for the icing (see below for icing recipe) - that's 2/3 cup for each so 1 1/3 cup in total. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the chopped almonds in a single layer and toast in preheated oven for about 5 to 7 minutes - stirring at least once or twice to prevent burning. When the almonds are a nice golden brown and have a fragrant, nutty aroma. remove pan to a cooling rack and allow to cool before adding to either the cake batter or top of icing.

* If you don't have buttermilk, place 2 1/4 teaspoons lemon juice in a measuring cup and add enough milk to make 3/4 cup. Stir and then let stand for about 5 minutes before adding to the recipe. Continue measuring and preparing other ingredients while it sits.

In a medium bowl, combine flours, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine the almonds, raisins and chocolate chips with about 1 Tablespoon of the flour mixture and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar, pineapple, pineapple juice, eggs, buttermilk, applesauce, oil and vanilla. Stir in grated carrots.
Add flour mixture to carrot mixture and stir until well blended. Stir in almonds, raisins and chips.

Divide batter evenly into prepared pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. (I generally test in two or three spots near the center to ensure the cake is fully done as it is all too easy to mistake melted chocolate chips on the toothpick as raw batter!) Set pans on a wire racks and cool cakes completely before icing.
While cakes are cooling, prepare the icing.

2 1/2 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup white sugar
3 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup block margarine, softened
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
2/3 cup chopped, toasted almonds for garnish

In a small pan combine the flour and milk till smooth. Stirring constantly, cook over medium low heat until a very thick paste is formed.  Remove pan from heat and transfer paste to a small glass dish. Cover with plastic wrap or a plate and allow to cool completely – at least 20 minutes.
In a medium sized bowl, combine the margarine, sugar, cocoa powder and salt with an electric mixer until well mixed. Add in the vanilla, almond extract and orange extract then mix thoroughly. Add in the cooled paste and then beat on medium high speed until very light and fluffy. (This takes about 10-15 minutes on about level 5 or 6 of my Kitchen Aid 9 Speed Electric Hand Mixer.)
Divide icing over the two cooled cakes and spread evenly. Garnish with the toasted almonds.
Each cake will serve 8 or 9 - so 16 or 18 servings in all. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers for up to a week.