Happy twenty-eight Bobby!
A birthday cake made with love and other good spices. 

I tweaked a recipe from Metropolitan Bakery, my favorite neighborhood institution in West Philadelphia. A more sophisticated birthday cake, with olive oil, cranberries and orange zest. The same rich, moist, dense satisfaction of a top quality carrot cake!

Note: I’ve updated my post formats so that you can select and print the recipe only, without wasting ink and paper on images. Step-by-step photos will continue to be displayed below the recipe.

1

Equipment you’ll need:

  • 1 large bowl
  • 1 small bowl
  • A sifter (not entirely necessary)
  • A fork for beating, or an electric beater if you have one
  • A sharp knife, blender of food processor for chopping nuts
  • A baking sheet for toasting nuts
  • Two 9 in. round cake pans (though I used one pie pan and one cake pan – the difference is the shape and depth)
  • A fine grater or zester
  • A grater or food processor for carrots
  • Tablespoons
  • Measuring cups (solids and liquids)
Bottom left: a sifter! Top right: grinding cloves.
Bottom left: a sifter! Top right: grinding cloves.

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I love when packaging spells out the measurements. Always a helpful tip, and synonymous with butter.
I love when packaging spells out the measurements. Always a helpful tip, and synonymous with butter.
I never worry too much about using floured utensils for wet ingredients, since they tend to follow dry. Just don't dip a wet tablespoon into the flour pot!
I never worry too much about using floured utensils for wet ingredients, since they tend to follow dry. Just don’t dip a wet tablespoon into the flour pot!
And of course, you must eat the shavings immediately.
And of course, you must eat the shavings immediately.

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Two birthday boys and a newborn! Much to celebrate in the world.
Two birthday boys and a newborn! Much to celebrate in the world.
Breakfast.
Breakfast.

 

Cranberry Carrot Cake with Orange Zest Frosting

Yield: Two 9 in. pie or cake pans, Enough to cover a double-layer cake, with frosting in the middle!

Some tips from Mamma:

If you want to buy nuts and dried fruit in bulk, this is a great place

If you do a lot of baking save the paper wrappers from the butter sticks in the fridge for greasing pans

Vanilla comes in real and chemical versions - check the ingredients - don't buy vanilla that has an ingredient you can't pronounce

If you are allergic to nuts, you can still make this recipe - just leave em' out!

When working with flour, don't beat too hard or you'll overwork the gluten, which makes a cake chewy. Just beat enough to mix!

Ingredients

    Cake
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, or powdered clove
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups organic one sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 3/4 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries (find ones only sweetened with apple juice, and not preserved with weird names)
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  • Frosting
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 ounces cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 tablespoons orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

    Cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Grease the baking pans with butter.
  2. Add flour, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, baking powder, and baking soda to a bowl. Pour through a sifter (see picture below) onto a separate plate or back into the bowl. You can also just mix the ingredients with a fork. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the oil and granulated sugar. (This can be accomplished just fine with a fork! Otherwise, use an electric mixer on the lowest speed.) Add in one egg at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the flour mixture and continue to beat until just combined. Add the carrots, nuts, cranberries, vanilla, and water. Mix well.
  4. Pour the batter into the pans. Bake on the center oven rack for 30 minutes. Turn the oven down to 325 and continue baking for 10 more minutes, or until a toothpick comes out of the center clean. Careful not to burn the cake! The deeper the pan, the longer it takes to cook. If a toothpick still doesn't come out clean at 45 minutes, turn down to 300 and continue baking until it does. (Ovens heat differently. Altitude also affects baking. Check out this online resource for High-altitude baking.)
  5. When the cake is done, remove and cool to room temperature in the cake pan on a wire rack. I don't have one, so I placed a grill rack over a bowl, and the cake on top, allowing air to pass underneath and help cool faster. Same effect. Meanwhile, make the frosting...
  6. Frosting:
  7. In a bowl, beat the butter (with fork or electric mixer on low) until creamy. Add the cream cheese and beat until smooth. Add in the cream, confectioner's sugar, orange juice, orange zest, and vanilla. Beat until you achieve a creamy consistency.
  8. Remove the cakes from the pans. First, run a knife or thin spatula along the outer edge of the cake to loosen from the pan. Placing the palm of your hand on the top of the cake, invert the cake onto a plate.
  9. Choose which cake is going on the bottom picked the thicker piece). Using a very sharp or serrated knife, skim the top rounded part of the cake off, leaving a smooth flat surface for placing the second layer on top.
  10. Once the cakes are completely cooled, you can begin frosting! If you frost too soon, it will melt right off.
  11. Frost the first layer's flat surface. Place the other cake on top and coat the top and sides in frosting. Dust with more orange zest!

Notes

Allergens: dairy, eggs, tree nuts

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