There is a wonderful cake that I often make for birthdays and other special events. This week I made it for my daughter’s birthday. She requested it. It is from a cookbook I have had for over 30 years! This book has seen better days. It is torn and tattered and three or four pages carry smudges and a dusting of flour along with pencil written notations of an earnest new cook. People laugh when they see it and someone even remarked that I “need to get a new one” so let me quote a childrens’ book I hope you all have read, The Velveteen Rabbit:
"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked,"or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand." (The Velveteen Rabbit OR How Toys become Real by Margery Williams, 1922)
This is one of my “real” cookbooks. It is The Los Angeles Times California Cookbook, edited by Betsy Balsley in 1981. On page 328, a very loved page, there is a recipe for 14-Carat Cake, which is the best carrot cake I have ever tasted.
I have not changed the recipe much as I copied it here. I did correct a slight error in the directions. Carrot cake has to be one of the easiest cakes to make and it seems to do well in our high altitude here in Colorado as well as sea level back in So Cal.
Perhaps my favorite part of this cake is the cream cheese frosting. I don’t usually like frosting but this is not like most frosting; it tastes great and is not too sweet or greasy. I do use less sugar than called for in the recipe and it works well. I sometimes think that the cake is more like a vehicle for the frosting J
14 –Carat Cake
From L.A. Times Cookbook
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups sugar
1 ½ cups oil ( You can substitute ½ cup oil with ½ cup applesauce)
2 cups grated carrot ( I usually throw in another ½ cup)
1 (8 oz) can crushed pineapple, drained ( If you don’t want to use pineapple, you may substitute applesauce)
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans ( I use 2/3 cup)
Preheat oven to 350. (In large wire sieve or sifter) sift together flour baking powder, soda, salt and cinnamon. In another bowl, beat eggs then add sugar and let stand till sugar dissolves, around 10 minutes. Fold flour mixture into egg mix and blend then mix into that oil, carrots, drained pineapple and nuts.
Grease and flour either 3 9-inch cake pans or a 13X9 inch rectangular baking pan. (You may use parchment paper in pan for extra safety in removing from pan)
Place in 350 oven 35 – 40 minutes for 9-inch layer pans or about 50 to 55 for rectangular pan. Check by touching to see if it springs back and if the sides are set but not overdone. Cool in pans for 10 minutes then gently run knife around the edge and let cooling continue in pan on wire rack for 15 - 20 minutes more if you are removing cake to frost or layer.
Cream cheese frosting
I make this ahead of time and refrigerate to set it up a bit. Buy C&H or other good quality powdered sugar only, some bargain or store brands have not been acceptable.
1 tsp vanilla
¾ -1 lb powdered sugar, sifted ( I don’t use a whole lb. usually about ¾ or more just add till consistency and taste are right)
In a large bowl combine butter, Cream cheese and vanilla and beat until completely incorporated and smooth. I like to use my stand mixer but any mixer will do. This can also be done by hand but be very vigorous and take the time to get the nice, light loftiness that makes this frosting great. Add sifted powdered sugar a cup or so at a time and beat vigorously until smooth. You don’t have to sift the sugar if it is powdery and not clumping. It is usually fine here in dry Colorado. I don’t use a whole lb. usually about ¾ of a pound, just add till consistency and taste are right,