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Birthdays are really important to me and my family. In our opinion, when it is your birthday, you get all of your favorite things, including food of course. That means a special birthday dinner and whatever kind of cake you choose.
So when my friend Nichole’s’ birthday was coming up I knew I had to make her favorite cake. Carrot cake. I will admit that I was a little nervous. I had never made carrot cake before so it was a little intimidating, but with a little help from my good friend Martha Stewart, I was able to make an amazing carrot cake. I did tweak the recipe slightly but it did derive from her recipe.
You will need:
•2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
•1 teaspoon baking powder
•1 teaspoon baking soda
•1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
•3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
•3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
•3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
•1 cup packed light-brown sugar
•1/2 cup granulated sugar
•3 large eggs
•2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
•1/2 cup water
•1 pound carrots (8 to 10 medium carrots), peeled and shredded on a box grater or in a food processor (about 2 3/4 cups)
•1 cups pecans (1/2 cup finely chopped for batter, 1/2 cup coarsely chopped for decorating sides of cake)
1. Preheat oven 350. Spray 3 pans with cooking spray and flour or use Baking Joy spray. I actually used one pan and just filled it with batter as I went. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.
2. Beat butter and sugars with mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, making sure that each egg is incorporated before mixing in the next. Beat for 3 minutes. Add vanilla, water and carrots and make sure it is well combined, mixing for about 2 minutes. Make sure the speed is on low and mix in flour mixture and half of pecans.
3. Divide batter into 3 parts and bake one at a time or all at once, depending on how big your oven is and what you prefer. Bake for 30 minutes, remove and let cool for 15 minutes. Once cooled, run a knife around the edges and remove carefully. Make sure cake has completely cooled before you begin icing.
4. Place one cake on a plate. Top with icing, followed by the second piece, more icing and the last piece. Ice entire cake and then press pecan pieces on the outside of the cake.
5. I used some food dye to make carrots on my cake. I put a small amount of the icing in two separate bowls and added green to one and yellow + red to another to make orange. I then used two Ziploc bags and cut a corner off each bag to carefully create the carrots on the cake.For icing:
•1 pound (16 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
•2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
•1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
•2 pounds confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1. Using a mixer, combine cream cheese and vanilla until light and creamy. Gradually add butter until well combined.
2. Reduce speed to slow and add sugar slowly.
The cake turned out being perfectly moist and smooth. Topped with the sweet, creamy icing and crunchy pecans, it was the perfect birthday cake. I was so glad that it not only turned out, but turned out well! So well that when others tried it they asked if they could place an order. My first carrot cake attempt was a success
If your summer is going anything like mine, you have a lot of tomatoes hanging around. And while I enjoy tomato sandwiches on most afternoons, I have been trying to use tomatoes in practically everything I eat!
Another one of my summer addictions? Pizza! I’m not sure if it is because it is so simple to eat or because I can make it however I like, but pizza has been a staple in my diet and I’m not complaining. So instead of buying another jar of pizza sauce I decided to dive right in and make my own!
You will need:
•5-6 medium tomatoes
•1 garlic clove
•1 TBS olive oil
•A handful of fresh basil
•1/2 cup onion
1.) Begin by marking each tomato with two slits to make an “X” and then steam tomatoes. This may be the hardest part and I promise it isn’t hard. The steam will begin to peel the skin off where you made then X. Once the skin begins to peel, remove from water and allow to cool.
2.) Next, chop the onion. You don’t need to make perfect pieces because you will throw it in the food processor later.
3.) Heat your oil and sauté the onion on medium heat. While your onion is cooking, cut each tomato and remove seeds and excess juice. I also allowed the tomatoes to sit in a bowl so the juice would drip out and would not make my sauce watery.
4.) Then add the garlic and cook for a few seconds so you do not burn it. Add tomatoes and basil and simmer for 10-15 minutes. This allows the flavors to start intensifying.
5.) I then put the sauce in the food processor for about 30 seconds. I didn’t want it to get too thin because I wanted a thick pizza sauce. I then allowed the sauce to cook for a good half hour until it was nice and thick.
6.) Remove from heat and use on your pizza! This recipe made enough for 2 personal size pizzas so I used one portion and then froze the other half.
The sauce turned out really well and I was happy with both the flavor and the consistency. Now if only I could bottle the sauce for pizza year round!