Sunday, August 16, 2015

Carrot Cake XI: Now with pineapples!

Carrots keep ending up in the Book of Cookrye kitchen. Sometimes it feels like some divine force decided it is our purpose in life to try every carrot cake recipe we can find. I can think of no other reason these would have wound up in our hands.

As previously mentioned, our school is hosting a lot of summer camps. They usually leave out any surplus lunches so that starving engineering students may help themselves. We would like to point out that you're daft if you expect a swarm of nine-year-olds to be contented with baby carrots. And these are the sad, runty-looking skinny baby carrots, too. Our point is, we're not surprised there were leftovers, and (having peeped into the classroom) we are not surprised the kids did not exactly look happy to spend a day at junior engineers' camp. It may not have been the lunches, though. As soon as people come into the engineering building and that distinct smell of unwashed grad student hits them, you can see their moods deflate. Perhaps even children are subject to misery by osmosis, especially when you corral them into a windowless classroom with way too many fluorescent lights. Sometimes I want to go in there and tell them to change their career plans or this is their future.

On that cheerful note, we present...

Carrot-Pineapple Cake
6 tbsp butter
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
Cinnamon to taste (be generous)
½ tsp vanilla
1 c flour
1 (8-oz) can crushed pineapple
Shredded carrots to make 1½ cups (about 6 oz)

Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour* a round cake pan.
Drain the pineapple then measure it. Add enough finely shredded carrots to make 1½ firmly packed cups.
Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs thoroughly. Add the baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and vanilla; mix well. Thoroughly mix in the flour. When all is mixed, stir in the carrots and pineapple.
Spread into the pan and bake 30-45 minutes, or until it springs back when lightly pressed in the center.

*This will want to stick to the pan regardless of how well you spray it. If you just throw a handful of flour into the pan and shake it around until coated, you'll be glad you did.
The easiest way to do this is to press the top of the can into it until the excess juice has been squeezed out (don't squeeze it completely dry, but you don't want it to be swimming in juice either).

We've perpetrated ten carrot cake recipes so far. Of those, we've found exactly two that were good. One of them was really easy, the other one involved grinding up a lot of almonds. We've done a lot of hunting online for new recipes, but most of them seem to be variations on this one, and pan after pan of cake-like paste gets old quickly. This isn't a new recipe so much as a suggestion we got: someone told us that carrot cake is a lot better if you replace part of the carrots with pineapple.
Those who let the pineapple juice go down the drain are missing out.

Maybe it's masochism, but the more failures we get from making carrot cakes exactly according to recipe directions, the more we want to see if yet another recipe will be any better. So many people keep making carrot cakes, yet so many are so bad. We have a 20% success rate with carrot cakes. We've wondered with ever more confusion why do so so many lousy carrot cake recipes keep floating around?
Speaking of paste, did you know how cohesive crushed pineapple gets once you've gotten all the juice out?

We at A Book of Cookrye have inadvertently made a lot more carrot cake recipes than anyone in their right minds would do, and our trained eyes told us that this one might actually be good. If not, the carrots were really bland and pathetic; therefore, we didn't waste any particularly good produce.
Looks like a geological core sample, doesn't it?

Speaking of flavorings, did you know that while Americans use cinnamon nearly exclusively in desserts, Indians almost never do? At least, that's what one of my friends from India told me. Cinnamon in India is used in spicy foods, not sweets. You just never know what is unusual about your country until someone brings an outside perspective. This makes me want to find a not-dessert recipe using cinnamon just to see how it works.
Does anyone else see a wide-eyed, gasping face?

The only thing that left us uncertain was putting cinnamon and pineapple together. But you know, if that's the worst a recipe can throw at us, it's not even trying. I mean really. If you're going to try to frighten me with a scary recipe, you'll have to come up with something worse than heavily sugared kidneys. And honestly, I actually liked those. So, the point is, cinnamon and pineapple is odd, but I've seen stranger things and eaten the leftovers.
Oo, it's pretty and swirly...

Incidentally, we're for once not using real vanilla. We used to scoff at the imitation stuff, but reading some of the more level-headed arguments on the subject led us to decide that spending extra on this is pointless. We at A Book of Cookrye will save our funds for when the genuine article either tastes better or actually provides some form of sustenance. Using imitation vanilla instead of the genuine article never gave anyone a vitamin deficiency they didn't already have coming. (However, it is a lot stronger than we're used to; adjust the amount you add accordingly if you switch over.) Besides, even if you think real vanilla is a lot better, wouldn't you rather save the good stuff for the recipes you're dead certain will be good?
Most carrot cakes are just spice cakes with extra vegetables.
Our opinion at A Book of Cookrye: the artificial stuff tastes a lot more like people's idea of vanilla. Think cherry-flavored things vs. actual cherries- only nowhere near as different. Oddly enough, imitation vanilla seems to be sweeter than actual vanilla. Then again, we didn't subject ourselves to a blind test, so we could be talking hokum. The two might be identical to those who are completely unawares.

Don't ask me why, but I found this to be a lot more amusing than it should have been. The carrots and pineapples have begun advancing over all previously unconquered territory...
Resistance is futile.

 Actually, it doesn't look too bad once it was spread around. Or have we at A Book of Cookrye made so many carrot cakes we're numb to the sight? Also, you could barely taste the pineapple in the batter.

This baked into something surprisingly delicate. You know how you can test cakes by seeing if they spring back when you try to make a dent in them? We had to press very lightly to test this one.

As for the results: We never thought we would have a use for the phrase "subtle use of pineapple." This tastes like spice cake. Sure, you can tell there's pineapple in it, but neither it nor the carrots are particularly strong. One of my friends thought it was just a cinnamon cake. It's a really good spice cake... with subtle use of pineapple.
In conclusion, I'm astonished to report that this carrot cake recipe is actually good. Seriously, try it. 


  1. So I have no idea if this comment will ever even reach you (I don't know if you get notifications on comments or what), but I've been rereading your archives recently and thinking about carrot cake. I'm honestly considering making a carrot cake for my birthday. Really. I too used to be a carrot-cake hater, but a sandwich shop in my hometown sells the most AMAZING homemade carrot cakes that they actually made me like cake with chopped-up roots in it. And I was pondering their recipe, wondering what it does right when so many other cakes fail. You haven't made one in ages, but I'm still the kind of person who shares their idle thoughts!

    Most carrot cake recipes use oil for some reason I can't fathom. They tend to be pretty uncomfortably dense. The shop's cake, however, is very light and fluffy, so much so I think they must use butter or vegetable shortening instead. The FailCakes have all been horribly greasy and I can't think the oil does them any favors. I also have a sneaking suspicion that the cut of the carrots matters. The carrots they use are grated strands. I think cutting the carrots too fine (or grinding them, perhaps) might make them leak out too much moisture, making the cake soggy. In fact, I think cutting down the moisture might be the biggest thing to making them work right.

    And covering them with cream cheese icing doesn't hurt either!

    1. You know, for whatever reason carrots stopped randomly spawning in my refrigerator. I remain leery of buying them since it might mean that they start spontaneously appearing again. But that's why it has been a while.
      But yeah, most carrot cakes are dense grease-paste. I took a recipe like that, used butter instead of oil, and then cut the amount in half. The cake was light, fluffy, not greasy, and, well, cake-like.
      And cream cheese icing never made a cake worse. Heck, you could put cream cheese icing on cardboard and it would be practically edible.