Thursday, 27 September 2012

Church Cook Books and Carrot Cake

In American churches, it is common to compile recipes from the congregation and make a cook book to raise funds.  Some churches are more well known for their recipes than others.  If you hear  that one of these particular churches has just printed their collection, you can bet that they will sell out fast. These books are little gems.  While not all of the recipes are up to snuff (like using a box cake mix!! yes, really!), you can find some keepers.  I have two of these books in my ever growing cookery book collection.  When I need some of the comforts of North Carolina, I always reach for these.

Many of the recipes bring me back to my childhood when I'm feeling a bit homesick.  On one of these occasions, I had a hankering for a good old-fashioned carrot cake.  I grabbed my both of my books and searched.  Just before the massive collection of pound cakes (I promise to write about these another time), I found one carrot cake recipe.  The recipe looked easy and that was exactly what I had in mind. 

With the cold air and shorter days a comin', I thought this would be a perfect cake to bake for my son's school's fund raising event tomorrow.  To help them make a bit more money, I have made these into cupcakes. To be honest, I really wanted to make this so that my house will smell like autumn and spices. 

When I ran my cake business, these cupcakes were one of my top sellers at craft fairs.  I had people swear that they hated carrot cake and when I gave them a sample, they were converted.  This cake is made with oil, which makes it super moist.  Try not to notice all of the sugar and oil and you'll think it is healthy. I mean, it has carrots, right? I have tweaked it slightly and added a bit of orange oil to the batter and a touch more spice with the addition of ground cloves.  I normally top these with cream cheese buttercream, but in my usual form, I forgot the cream cheese yesterday when I did my shopping. Oh well, they are still delicious with vanilla buttercream.  You can even add a touch of orange oil to the buttercream if you leave it out of the cake.  Add pecans or walnuts in the cake or on top of the icing. Swap the sultanas or raisin with dried cranberries or dried cherries.  Make it your own!

Carrot Cake  (this makes me giggle: the original was labelled "Carrot Cake- World's Best")
Recipe adapted from Edith Thomas, Heavenly Delights, Morningstar Lutheran, Matthews, NC, USA 2004

The ingredients are measured in American cups. One day I will take the time and convert them for you. Measuring cups are so easy to get now, so I doubt it will cause you too much grief.

Makes roughly 32 large cupcakes (not fairy cake size) or 2 8-in or 9-in round layers

2 cups plain flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp bicarb of soda
1 tsp salt

2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups carrots, grated finely
1 1/2 cups (350 ml) vegetable oil (any flavourless oil will work)
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp orange oil (optional)
1 cup sultanas (or dried fruit of your choice)

Preheat a fan oven to 160 C (350 F).  Line muffin tins or if making layers, grease two round tins and line with a parchment circle. 

Whisk the flour, cinnamon, cloves, bicarb, and salt in a medium sized bowl. Stir in chopped nuts if using.

In a larger bowl, whisk the sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla, and orange oil (if using).  Stir in carrots.

While stirring, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet. Stir until there is no trace of flour. Stir in the sultanas.

If making cupcakes:

Using a large ice cream scoop, fill each muffin case about 2/3 full. Bake for 20-22 minutes. Let cool in muffin tin for 5 minutes before taking out to cool on a wire rack. 

If making cake layers:

Fill each tin evenly.  Bake for 45-50 minutes until springy and cake begins pulling away from the sides. Let cool in tins for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack and removing the parchment. 

Let cupcakes and cake cool completely before icing.

Cream Cheese Buttercream

People often ask me how I make a cream cheese buttercream that isn't runny. Butter is the key.  The butter is higher in saturated fat and sets better than cream cheese. The butter is the cream cheese's big fat friend. So, this isn't very good for you, but used as a treat for every now and then can't hurt.  Please, please, please use a good quality vanilla extract here. Or even better, use vanilla beans straight from the pod. If you use a poor quality vanilla, you will taste a metallic, alcohol flavour that will ruin it. And again, turn your head at the huge quantity of icing sugar.

250 g unsalted butter, just below room temperature
250 g cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 kg icing sugar
a few tablespoons of milk if necessary.

In an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until light and creamy.  Add the cream cheese and beat until combined.  Add half of the icing sugar and stir with a rubber spatula until it has moistened most of the sugar.  Stir in the remaining icing sugar. Doing this in stages helps keep icing sugar plumes down! Return the bowl to the mixer and beat until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla.  If the icing is too thick, add milk 1 tablespoon at a time, beating in between to check consistency.

Ice them babies and enjoy!



  1. Your piping is immaculate! I hope these will feature on a WI cake table soon *wink wink*

    My dear friend in Canada gave me her church recipe book and it is packed full of wonderful treats. I think it's such a lovely tradition and it has some great tips in the back for keeping a good house. I'll show you one day in case you are interested. I had to buy cup measurers though as nobody in North America likes scales!

  2. Thanks for the piping compliment. I'm still thinking of what to bring next week. These weren't on my short list, as I get bored making the same thing too often, but I might reconsider. I'm thinking something pumpkiny (yes, that's a word). Whatever it is, there will be a blog post.

    And you are correct, us North Americans do not use scales very often. I had to buy some when I moved here as I was tired of always converting recipes. I still prefer the measuring cups. So much quicker!