Excuses for Cake
It started out like this:
Friend: "I had the best carrot cake the last time I was here [Parlour]"
Me: "Mmmm, I love carrot cake. Let's try!"
[...opened the menu to find no carrot cake was available...bummer]
Friend: "Well, it was really good, too bad."
What a buzz kill. I was eager to eat cake and compare Parlour's version to my own. Since carrot cake was not an option for the evening, I came up with a brilliant idea. Bake one myself.
Coincidentally, the following Friday was my half birthday, so I got clever. Make half a cake. My friends agreed; it was was a fabulous idea.
So it was set, the following Friday, I was to woo my friends with cake...
Ultimately, the cake was a hit. The homemade Chinese 5-spice was perfectly balanced, not
overpowering, the hiding sultanas within the moist cake burst with flavour, and the candied orange
peel offered a soft citrus note on the front of the palate.
Then came the cornichons. I was eager to tell my friends about all the pickles and kimchi I was
making. I further explained, I bump up my pickle/preserving production by 10% [jars] year-over-year. Jokingly, my friend asked, "What are you going to do in 45 years?" I replied, "I'll have my own store
front or production building and sell them."
All this was discussed over cake, so when we finished, I asked if there was room for pickles and
fermented treats. No one declined. First came the cornichons, then the beets, cauliflower,
watermelon, and finally, kimchi [both the 3-day and 2-year varieties]. You read correctly, 2-year
kimchi. Only a select few are lucky enough to try this one. After a couple years, the kimchi has
completely transformed itself into the most amazingly, well-balanced, spicy blend of flavor that leaves your mouth wanting and asking for more.
I'll write more on the pickling/preserving later, for now, let's get to the cake:
Makes two circular 9" cake pans
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
3/4 cup sultanas [aka, golden raisins]
1 1/2 cup carrots, grated (205g)
1 cup parsnips, grated (135g)
2 cups all-p flour (260g)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. Chinese 5-spice (see recipe below)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (300g)
1 cup safflower oil (240ml)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. chopped candied orange peel
1/4 cup room-temperature butter
8 oz. cream cheese, room-temperature
2 cups confectioner sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds removed
Cake: Preheat oven to 350F and place a rack in the center of oven. Butter/oil two 9x2 inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
1) In a bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and ground 5-spice.
2) In bowl of electric mixer, beat eggs for 1 minute, then gradually add the sugar and beat until batter
is thick, about 3 minutes. Add the oil in a steady stream and beat in vanilla extract. Add the flour
mixture and beat until incorporated. With a spatula, fold in the toasted nuts, sultanas, grated carrots, and grated parsnips. Evenly divide the batter between the two prepared pans and bake for 30
minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
3) Remove from oven and let cool on a rack. After 10 minutes, remove cake from pans and allow to
cool completely before frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting: In bowl of electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese on low speed until
lumps are removed. Gradually add sifted powdered sugar and beat until fully incorporated and
smooth. Finally, beat in vanilla extract.
Assembly: You can do this one of two ways. Simply use both 9" cakes as is and layer each other with frosting (end result=2 cake layers), or show off your skills and slice each cake in half so you end up
with four 9" cakes. Regardless, put a smear of cream cheese on plate to keep cake stable and place
one cake layer onto serving plate. Spread with frosting, but be sure to divide out accordingly so each layer receives the same amount of frosting. Top with candied orange peel and additional toasted nuts (optional). Cover and refrigerate leftovers, if you have any.
2 whole star anise
2 tsp. Szechuan peppercorns (substitute black if not available)
2 tsp. clove
1 tsp. fennel
1 tsp. coriander
1 cinnamon stick
In a grinder, blend all spices together. Some of the spices my get stuck, so work in batches. You're
welcome to use a mortar and pestle as well.