Happy birthday Grandpa!

20 Feb

My grandpa turns 81 this week. Today we celebrated as a family, and, surprise, surprise…guess who made the cake? I was racking my brain yesterday trying to decide what kind of cake to go with. I love to experiment with different combinations of cake and icing flavours. But, I wasn’t feeling particularly creative yesterday, plus, my grandpa is not the most adventurous of eaters. So, I decided to go with a family favourite – carrot cake. Our preferred carrot cake recipe comes from my Great Aunt Marguerite, whom I sadly never got away as she passed away from cancer long before I was born. However, she lives on through this carrot cake – a family favourite for as long as I can remember.

Although it is a time-honoured recipe, I take a few liberties with it. The original recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of oil…that’s a lot! I reduced the oil to half a cup and added 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce. I also cut back on the sugar – from 2 cups to 1 1/2. It’s such a moist cake that you don’t miss the extra oil at all (and my family agreed). I also use reduced-fat cream cheese in the frosting.

To decorate the cake as I did (I was tired last night and wanted something quicker than making more icing and piping designs), melt about 1/4 cup chocolate chips with a tbsp or 2 of butter. Drizzle around the border of the cake (and on the sides if you wish) and swirl with the tip of a knife. I piped the 81 by putting some of the chocolate mixture in a ziploc bag and cutting off the corner. The red garnish is smarties (leftover from Valentine’s Day).

A food processor is VERY helpful for grating the carrots….it makes quick work of what would otherwise be a very long and tedious process on a box grater (3 cups is a lot). In fact, growing up, carrot cake is the only thing I remember our giant food processor being used for (besides maybe the occasional coleslaw). It was always stored way high up in the kitchen, so only got dragged out when it was absolutely necessary!

I have a lot of happy memories connected with this cake. My mom made it for many birthdays growing up. Also, my sister and brother-in-law had cupcakes instead of a wedding cake at their wedding, and it was this recipe that made the carrot ones! And my one of my mom’s good friends loves this cake, and so most years, I make her one to give as a gift. I have even made it into mini carrots…mushed up the cake, mixed with cream cheese icing, shaped into carrots, let chill, then coat in orange candy coating and put green on the top for the leaves….will have to find a picture of that to show! So this is an oldie, but a goodie!

Although I LOVE this cake, I didn’t have any today 😦 (well, except for the few crumbs I snagged when I was cutting and the batter I ate yesterday). While I am never one to turn down dessert, I felt like I needed to show some discipline. I am going over to a friend’s tonight and I know there will be lots of nibbling there. And even with my cutbacks, this cake is still an indulgence. I am feeling like I could stand to drop a few pounds….you know the feeling when you’ve put on just a bit of weight…not enough that many other people would notice…but you do? Your can still fit in your clothes, but they are just a little too snug…and even though you try to deny it, you know you are not at your “happy weight”? Even though I avoid scales like the plague, I know that I’m not where I want to be right now…so I’m trying to cut back where I can. It’s not always fun….but such is life, if you want to fit into your jeans. I’ll keep you posted…I’m sure you’ll hear more about the process.

Anyways, I don’t want to end this post on a downer. Here’s the recipe…I hope it brings you as many memories as it has to me and my family. Do you have any recipes that have special memories for you? I’d love to hear about them.

Aunt Marguerite’s Carrot Cake (with Hilary’s modifications)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease 2 round cake pans with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, combine the following:

2 cups cake and pastry flour

2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup applesauce (reduced from 1 1/2 cups oil)

1 tsp salt

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups white sugar (reduced from 2 cups)

3 cups grated carrots (save yourself some trouble – use a food processor!)

Mix well, then pour into prepared pans. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, then at 300 for 15 minutes. Let cool completely.

For the frosting (sorry for lack or precise measurements, but this is how I do it!), cream together 1/2 cup softened butter and one brick softened light cream cheese until smooth. Add a splash of vanilla and enough icing sugar until spreadable consistency (I’d guess between 2 and 3 cups, but use your judgment). Beat until smooth. Store in the refrigerator if not using immediately.

Frost cooled cake with icing. Cut into slices and enjoy!

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3 Responses to “Happy birthday Grandpa!”

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