Years ago, when I was still in college, someone gave me a copy of the Silver Palate cookbook. I remember many of the recipes being over the top, both for my palate and budget at the time, and come to think of it, my cooking skill as well, but I still loved this book. The carrot cake recipe I photocopied and sent to my parents, with the note, “Make this cake, it’s great!”. Carrot cake had always been my favorite, and this recipe? Who ever heard of putting coconut AND pineapple in a carrot cake? 25 years ago, no one I knew, but the combination was fantastic. The original recipe called for 3 cups of sugar (too much even for me) and for cooking the carrots first (not necessary in my opinion). Sometimes I added raisins or left out the nuts, but always included the coconut and pineapple.
Over the years my father has made this cake for my birthday countless times, even driving hours to deliver it when I lived in Palo Alto or San Francisco. Today we made it together (that frosting job is mine, thank you) and the cake even survived a “D’oh!” moment when 3 minutes after it went in the oven dad realized he had forgotten to add the coconut. After the requisite howls of exasperation, the cakes came out of the oven, batter back into the mixing bowl, coconut added, batter back in the pans, and pans back in the oven. No harm no foul. Cake lived, beautifully, I might add.
Carrot Cake Recipe
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 Tbsp baking soda
- 1 Tbsp cinnamon
- 1 1/2 cups olive oil or grapeseed oil
- 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups shelled walnuts, chopped (more whole or chopped for topping)
- 1 1/2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
- 2 cups of finely grated carrots
- 1 cup of drained crushed pineapple
- 8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
- 2 1/2 cups of confectioners' sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9 inch cake pans. Cut out rounds of wax paper and place at bottoms of cake pans. Butter the top of the wax paper rounds.
2 Sift dry ingredients into a bowl. Add oil, eggs, and vanilla. Beat well. Fold in chopped walnuts, coconut, carrots and pineapple.
3 Pour batter into pans. Set on the middle rack of oven and bake for 45-50 minutes (shift positions of cakes front-to-back if necessary about halfway through), until edges have pulled away from sides and a toothpick or sharp knife tip inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool on a cake rack.
4 To prepare frosting, cream together the cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl. Slowly sift in the confectioners sugar and beat until mixture is free of lumps. Stir in vanilla and lemon juice.
5 Once cakes have cooled, frost. Sprinkle top with chopped walnuts or arrange walnut halves in a crown around the top.
Yield: Serves 12-16.