As many of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook know, last week I had my latest and greatest food challenge to date! I made a 50 person wedding cake for some good friends of ours (after just moving to our new place 4 days earlier!). I was inspired to make the cake because A) it was for friends and B) it was for a very casual reception. Had I been asked to do this by strangers, or for a typical reception, I likely would not have been so bold, as I am not really known for baking, and also because I don’t have any cake decorating skills (or tools) to speak of. I would have NEVER done this a year ago, because prior to then, I never baked. So I just want to shout out to all my Daring Baker buddies to thank them for all the support over the last year and a half and helping me to become more confident in baking! I will never forget the good times we had!
The reception was at a large open air pavilion on the beach, here in Saint Augustine. A few weeks before the reception Roberto and I were out to dinner with the Bride and Groom, Lela and Bubba, and I asked them where they were registered for gifts. They said that they weren’t and all they really wanted as gifts was food for the reception. They were planning a simple BBQ affair with all the trimmings. I asked about a cake – and they didn’t have one. So I asked if they would like me to make the cake as our gift to them. I offered because I really felt that they should have a cake, and be able to do the cake cutting ceremony together – one of the highlights of every wedding reception. They happily accepted and we decided on a carrot cake, as it is both of their favorite.
I had some doubt after the fact, but I decided I was going to focus on making a tasty cake, even if it didn’t end up looking too pretty. That took the pressure off. I had never made a big cake and I had never made a carrot cake before. But I was doing this for good friends, so I stayed focused on that and it was just going to be one of those labor of love deals.
The first thing I did was ask around on Twitter to see of any of my baking guru buddies had any great ideas for ways to do this, and for great carrot cake recipes. They had to be tried and true. I got a lot of suggestions for baking cupcakes. But after thinking about it, I figured that would probably take me a lot longer. I wanted to work with the cake pans I already had (and I only have one cupcake tray) and avoid having to buy anything. So I decided to do a large 13×9 rectangle, a 9” square and a 9” round and then stack them. I decided on a recipe that my friend Toontz from Okara Mountain sent me from one of her recipe books (can’t remember which…). I chose it because it was simple and straightforward and came highly recommended. I did make an addition of raisins and crystallized ginger to the recipe. I also decreased the amount of oil and added water to thin the batter. If I had applesauce on hand, I would have used that instead.
The cake ended up being delicious and a huge success! It was nice and moist, with lots of goodies baked in. I added a bit of ice wine to the cream cheese frosting, which added a nice dimension of flavor – and making it a bit more sophisticated and wedding-y tasting – it also made the color of the icing almost iridescent. I decorated the cake with red Gerber daisies, which were part of their invitation design and some Ginger Sweeties from The Ginger People (I also added some ground up to the cake batter). Those were a HUGE hit. The Bride sure loved those ginger hearts! I noticed on The Ginger People website, they are now $4 a jar! So if you like ginger, you should pick some up!
I got a lot of compliments, and the Bride and Groom were very pleased. I was really happy with the way everything turned out, right down to the decorations – which was the part I was most worried about. But I took the clues from their invitations, and did decorations based on the colors and design. When in doubt use flowers! They are beautiful, don’t require any skill on your part, and are always classy! I also made them two small cupcakes to enjoy on their one year anniversary. CONGRATULATIONS, Lela and Bubs!
Carrot Cake (for one 13×9 inch pan – for the 3-tiered cake for 50 people I tripled the recipe)
2 cups pure cane sugar
2 cups organic AP flour (I used King Arthur)
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup nuts (I used mixed), chopped
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup baking coconut
½ cup of dark raisins
¼ cup crystallized ginger, ground (I used Ginger Sweeties from The Ginger People)
3 organic eggs, beaten
1 (7-ounce) can crushed pineapple and juice
¼ cup of grapeseed oil (or veg oil)
1/4-1 cup of water (as needed to thin the batter)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
8 oz. Cream cheese (I used a lowfat -and it was FINE)
4 cups organic powdered sugar
¼ cup organic butter
dash of salt
2 TBS ice wine – marsala would work good too
Mix sugar, flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, nuts, carrots, coconut, raisins and ginger in a large bowl. Stir in eggs, pineapple AND juice, oil, vanilla and water. Pour mixture into a lightly greased 13×9 inch pan. Bake at 350 F for 35-45 minutes. Mix together frosting ingredients and spread over cooled cake. Frosting can be made ahead. Additionally, if anyone is interested in The Ginger People products, here is some contact info. Nicole is awesome and would be more than glad to help you with your ginger needs!
(800) 551-5284 x225 fax (831) 582-2495