High Country Baking: Hop into Easter with carrot cake
High Country Baking
High elevation makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Decaying snow and cold temperatures, that’s how we often experience Easter in the mountains. To lighten our mud-season gloom, we need food that reminds us of balmy weather and green grass. Maybe that’s why carrot cake finds its way onto many Easter tables — it’s one of those rites of spring that perks up almost everyone. Of course, there are practical reasons to choose it as well. It’s as appropriate on a brunch buffet as it is at dinner, so it’ll work for your celebratory meal no matter what time of day it’s held. It’s also one of the fastest and easiest cakes to prepare, and can be made a day or two before serving — a boon for the cook on a busy holiday.
The recipe results in a more refined and lighter-than-most carrot cake (the frequently included nuts and coconut are omitted from the batter). That, and baking it in a Bundt pan, give it an elegance worthy of a special meal. After altering the recipe for success at high elevations, my testers assure me it still has everything we love about this classic dessert: a moist, dense, pebbly texture, flavorful taste and a creamy frosting that complements it perfectly.
Can you double the recipe and make it in a 12-cup Bundt pan? Of course, but I’ve found that, at elevations over 8,000 feet, the larger amount of batter and lengthier baking time required for a bigger cake frequently results in a heavier, less appealing texture. I haven’t tested this recipe for that, but alert you to it, just in case.
Carrot Bundt Cake
Make in a 6-cup, non-stick Bundt pan
Adjusted for elevations of 8,000 feet and above
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons bleached all-purpose flour, spoon and level
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch baking soda
½ teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s
½ cup canola oil
2 jumbo eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste, optional
1 packed cup finely grated carrots
¼ cup crushed pineapple, well drained
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
About ½ cup lump-free powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons whole milk or cream
¼ -½ cup chopped toasted pecans, optional
Make the cake: Heat the oven to 365 degrees with a rack in the center position. Generously grease your Bundt pan with a baking spray that contains flour and set it aside.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a bowl and whisk vigorously to combine well. In a mixing bowl, whisk the sugar, canola oil, eggs and vanilla until fully blended and smooth and then whisk in the flour mixture until completely incorporated. Lastly, add the carrots and well-drained crushed pineapple and stir so both are evenly distributed in the batter. Check your Bundt pan and regrease any spots that seem thinly covered, then scrape in the batter; it should fill the pan a little more than halfway to its top. Tap the pan on a counter to release any air bubbles.
Bake, putting the Bundt pan directly on the center oven rack (hot air must circulate in the pan’s center tube) until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean and the cake starts pulling away from the sides of the pan, about 30-35 minutes. Cool the cake on a rack for about 15-20 minutes, and then invert it onto a cardboard cake round or a plate to cool completely. At this point it can be wrapped airtight and refrigerated for a day before frosting.
Make the frosting: Cut the cream cheese into small pieces and add them to a bowl or 2-cup measure with ¼ cup of the powdered sugar and the vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth; add more sugar, a tablespoon at a time, blending it in after each addition. Beat in 2 tablespoons milk/cream. Don’t overbeat or the mixture may thin and get watery. Taste, add more sugar or flavorings to your liking. If very thick, add a little more milk/cream. If it’s still too thick to drizzle, warm in a microwave oven at a low temperature (No. 4 out of 10, for example) for about 30 seconds or until pourable. Drizzle over the top of the cake and let it run down the sides. Sprinkle chopped pecans over the top, if using. Refrigerate the cake until the frosting sets (it won’t get hard like a glaze, but it’ll firm up a bit). Store it in the fridge but serve it at room temperature within two days of baking.
This cake recipe is a variation of one published by Food Network. Vera Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-elevation cookbooks (available at The Bookworm in Edwards, Next Page Bookstore in Frisco, and Breck Books in Breckenridge). Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our elevation. Contact her at email@example.com.
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