I had a long-distance running buddy back in the day – after the birth of my first child. This was before things got really crazy and a second little one came along. We trained together on the weekends and occasionally ran races together, too. While on the subject of weight gain, she piped “just eat some carrots and go to the gym.” For some reason, the comment was cute and funny enough to stick with me all these years. I must admit, I don’t go to the gym (though I own a beloved treadmill). But, I do love carrots: roasted, sautéed and especially on my birthday. Preferably inside of a sweet and scrumptious cake -covered with decadent, devilish Neufchâtel cheese icing – sprinkled with chopped nuts – shining brightly with candles. Not that I am picky or have any birthday cake expectations.
Speaking of candles, there 31 of those bad boys this year. That’s a bit of elbow grease for the cake maker – and a lot of light for one cake.
I first made myself this carrot cake years ago. The original recipe, for a 13×9-inch sheet cake, came to my door in 2007 via a Cooking Light magazine. I have tweaked the ingredients a bit over the years – and transformed the one-layer cake into a small tower. Still, a taste of this carrot cake takes me back to the first birthday I baked (and devoured) it – and every birthday since.
This is an almost no-fail recipe. I say almost, because it did fail me (once). It was January 19, 2012. I was “very pregnant” with my soon-to-be son, “Littlest Guy.” My sweet and precocious daughter, “Snu Magoo,” was two-years-old. The hubby, “Abba,” was working all day and overnight at the hospital – he wouldn’t make it home for my birthday. So, I loaded up “Snu Magoo” into the car, waddled with her into the grocery store and bought all of the ingredients for the cake. Then, we got to baking. At this point, a case of what I call “baby brain” struck. “Baby brain” is my excuse for making mistakes anytime I am pregnant or shortly after.
Maybe it was fatigue, maybe it was a distraction. I incorrectly measured the carrot, adding four cups instead of two. The baked cake emerged from the oven gooey and soupy. It was, literally, a hot mess. I may have even shed some tears (while eating the Neufchâtel cheese icing, which was completely edible). Back to the store we went to remedy the situation. I bought myself the best carrot cake sold at Whole Paycheck and called it a day. Honestly? It wasn’t have as good as a homemade carrot cake. Now I measure the carrots with a surgeon’s precision.
This year,”Snu Magoo” gave me the best birthday gift a mom can receive – a homemade card. “Abba” helped with the art project – just a wee bit.
The munchkins gobbled this cake down. They are a sucker for any form of cream cheese icing, like their Ima. The savour of Neufchâtel cheese icing, spiked with copious amounts of vanilla, can only be described as a cross between creamy ice-cream and rich, velvety cream cheese frosting. The cake itself is incredibly moist and laced with soft raisins, crunchy pecans and the essence of fruity pineapple.
I hope that your family enjoys this special cake as much as ours does.
Light Carrot Cake with Neufchâtel Cheese Frosting
Recipe adapted from Cooking Light
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (about 6 3/4 ounces)
- 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup desiccated coconut (not sweetened)
- 1/3 cup pecans, roasted and chopped
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups grated carrot, any excess water drained
- 1 1/2 cups canned crushed pineapple, drained well
- Canola oil cooking spray with flour
- 2 tablespoons salted butter, softened
- 1 (8-ounce) block Neufchâtel cheese, softened
- 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Additional grated carrot
- 1/3 cup pecans, roasted and chopped
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray two standard, circular, 9-inch cake pans with the cooking spray.
- Lightly spoon the flour into measuring cups and level with a knife.
- Sift the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into a large bowl.
- Add sugar, desiccated coconut, chopped pecans and raisins; stir well with a whisk.
- Combine oil and eggs; stir well. Stir the egg mixture, grated carrot, and drained pineapple into flour mixture.
- Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans.
- Bake at 350°F for 20-30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out completely clean and the cakes are golden. My cakes baked for 25 minutes.
- Cool pans completely on a wire racks, about 30 min.
- Remove cakes from pans and cool directly on wire racks, about 15 minutes more.
- To prepare the frosting, combine the butter and Neufchâtel cheese in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer at medium-speed until smooth.
- Beginning at low-speed and increasing to medium-speed, beat in powdered sugar and vanilla just until smooth.
- Spread the frosting over both cakes. Stack the cakes and spread frosting down the sides.
- Decorate the top of the cake with pecans and carrot. Serve and enjoy!
©Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward, shannaward.com (2013-2014), unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author, Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward, and/or owner is strictly and completely prohibited.