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Simple Changes Can Make an Old Recipe Your New Favorite

Paula Shoyer is the author of The Kosher Baker: 160 dairy-free desserts from traditional to trendy. She is a freelance writer, teaches cooking and baking classes around the country and recently appeared on Food Network’s Sweet Genius. She specializes in baking for people on special diets such as gluten-free, sugar-free and dairy-free. She can be found at www.paulaspastry.com and blogs at www.kosherbaker.blogspot.com and tweets @paulashoyer.

Carrot cake for me used to be like that sweater in your closet that you never wear. Every once in a while, you try it on and then take it off again. Eventually, you give it away. For decades, I sampled every carrot cake that came my way, but after one bite, I put my fork down and ultimately abandoned carrot cake altogether. When I wrote The Kosher Baker, I decided to include a carrot cake, though I had never baked one before. When I researched carrot cake recipes, I quickly learned why I never liked them: people put too much bling into them such as raisins, nuts, pineapple, and coconut to name just a few unnecessary and, in my view, pernicious ingredients.

I decided to create my own simple carrot cake that was dairy and nut free. I even added whole-wheat flour to make it healthier. For The Kosher Baker, I turned my simple carrot cake recipe into a huge layer cake with a dairy-free Cinnamon Honey Cream Cheese Icing. The icing is sinful and the iced cake is lovely for special occasions.

One winter, I taught a healthy-dinner-in-an-hour class and was searching for the right dessert. I chose the carrot cake, but omitted the icing and baked the cake in a bundt pan. During the class we ate it straight out of the oven. When my students left, my four kids ran downstairs and pounced on the carrot cake. My four chocolate lovers asked why I had never made it before. When I told them the origin, they said that this way was tastier because they could taste the carrots better. They also loved eating it warm, which makes it a comforting winter dessert. As Jessica Rabbit said in the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, to make Roger feel better “Roger, let’s go home, I’ll bake you a carrot cake.”

General healthy baking tip: If you see a cake that looks great but has an icing, glaze or other filling, just bake the cake and skip the excess for a healthier dessert.

Carrot Bundt Cake
When you grate the carrots, use the small holes of a box grater or a Microplane zester. Do not pack the measuring cup tightly because it makes the cake too dense.

4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/2 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 cups peeled and grated carrot (from about 5 large carrots)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a bundt pan.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and sugars with an electric mixer on medium speed for 3 minutes, or by hand with a whisk, until thick. Add the oil, orange juice, and vanilla and mix on low speed or gently by hand to combine.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk the flour, whole-wheat flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add half of the dry ingredients to the bowl with the eggs/sugar and mix on low speed or gently by hand to combine. Add the rest of the flour mixture and mix until just combined.

Using the side of a box grater with the small holes, grate the carrot into small threads, about 3/4 inch long. When measuring, lightly pack the measuring cup. Add to the batter and mix in well. Place into prepared pan. Bake for one hour, or until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. Serve warm. Store in the fridge for up to 5 days and reheat to serve.

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January 12th, 2012

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