Sunday, June 15, 2014

Carrot Cake the Fourth is lemony and actually really good

My mother's guinea pig has to go on a diet, leading to some unwanted surplus produce in the refrigerator...
All this for one rodent.
Today's recipe comes from the 1914 Portland Council of Jewish Women's Neighborhood Cook Book by way of Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project, a site I found in high school and spent a predictable yet embarrassing lot of time reading. We're combining two of my favorite things: exhuming recipes from forgotten books and shoving things through a meat grinder!
I reread this recipe three times because I couldn't believe there wasn't supposed to be any flour in it. I've never made a recipe with ground nuts in it instead. Speaking of, I could not find any nuts sold by the pound or by the half-pound, so I rescaled the recipe for the 6-oz packages the store actually had. Fortunately, I didn't have to subdivide eggs.

Carrot Cake
3/4 c. sugar
1 (6-oz) package blanched almonds (slivered, sliced, or whatever is fine) or 6 oz almond meal
⅜ lb (AKA 6 oz.) carrots
1 large lemon
3 eggs, separated

Heat oven to 350°. Grate the rind off the lemon and juice it. Grind the almonds and carrots (if using a food processor, grind the almonds to a powder, empty it, and then put in the carrots with the yolks). Mix the yolks, carrots, and almonds, lemon rind, and lemon juice. Beat the egg whites stiff, and gently stir in a couple of spoonfuls, one at a time, to soften the batter. Fold in the rest of the whites and bake in a greased square or round pan until firm and it springs back in the center when gently pressed, around 30-40 minutes.

I actually doubled this recipe and brought it to the family reunion. After all, it's perfectly sensible to take a recipe you've never made which involves doing things you've never done (I've never done the ground nuts for flour swap and have no idea how it works), double it, and then serve it to relatives who will never live it down if it comes out badly. I love my family dearly, but they have a habit of holding onto embarrassing stories like other people hold onto wedding china. If you do anything stupid and a blood relation is a witness, my family will not let it drop until you are dead. And even then, someone at the funeral will not get more than two sentences into the eulogy before says "When he was three, he used to...."
I briefly had it set too tight. On the bright side, apparently I can make my own nut butters!

That's a lot of ground-up almonds.
I thought it really funny when one of my cousins asked how I made the cake and I answered "Oh, I used my meat grinder."
That's an ironically unnatural-looking orange.
After our last experience with twice-cooked carrots, I decided these were cooked enough to grate right out of the refrigerator. Maybe cheese graters were duller in 1914, but boiling seemed really unnecessary.
Behold, all the ingredients besides the egg whites!
And the resulting paste which tasted really good.
This year's reunion, they went with a Hawaiian theme, which meant everyone had to wear one of those plastic leis. I've noticed something interesting about any event where leis are involved: the organizers get really pissed if you don't want to wear one. Like, hissing "stop being such a little shit" for not wanting to put one on. These days, after various day camps, mandatory ice breakers, and a youth group weekend thing that involved leis, I feel a deep-seated urge to flee whenever I see those crinkled-plastic things.
Now inflated with egg whites!
Although once I'd been lei'd whether I wanted it or not, the rest of the day was really fun. My relatives may be loud and kind of nuts, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't fit right in.We had a massive piƱata for the kids; it was so big we could have put some of the toddlers in it. My sister-in-law shouted out to encourage them "Santa Claus is in there!" before realizing that would mean Santa was being whacked with a piƱata stick. 
Ready to cook! You can see the extra batter splops in the center from my sister-in-law (who doesn't have the same views on cake batter) decided I hadn't put enough into the pan.
Anyway, I was really hoping this cake would turn out. A smart person might have made a smaller one ahead of time to check especially given that I intended to serve this to others, but if I had the mind to plan ahead, I'd have done a lot better for myself by now.
I think my mom's oven might be a little uneven.
At the very least, the cake rose and was really nice and fluffy. So I went ahead and made some cream cheese icing to put on top. For someone who never ices cakes and instead usually just dumps glaze on top and calls it done, I think I did a really good job spreading it on.

As you can see, me, my mother, and my brother's wife all nipped out a little piece to make sure it was good. I think my mom put it best: "It's a really good lemon cake, but you might as well not tell people you put the carrots in."
And indeed, it was a really good lemon cake. I thought I might just leave out the carrots next time, but Mom pointed out that the cake might be dry without them. It was really nice, and very tender. It almost crumbled when lifted out of the pan.
And now, I'd like to share a special Book of Cookrye secret for when you need to have your cake sliced very neatly and arranged very nicely on a tray: let your mom do it for you!

This was by far the best carrot cake I've made. Everyone who tried it at the reunion liked it. So even if you don't feel like coming up with ground almonds and all that, I highly suggest lemon and almond extracts instead of the flavors in the carrot cake recipe of your choice (why not try this one?).
As an added bonus, we happened to have ice cream in the freezer the night I made it. Since I didn't want to wash another bowl and also happened to have just iced the cake...
I regret nothing.

I also made a second recipe for the reunion, but I'm not going to share it yet because someone else will be making it for the...
It's coming June 30!

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