My First Wedding Cake Project: Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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! :)

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Carrot Cake (for one 13×9 inch pan – for the 3-tiered cake for 50 people I tripled the recipe)

INGREDIENTS:

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

Frosting:

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

METHOD:

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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!

Nicole DeCarli
Marketing Coordinator
ndecarli@gingerpeople.com
(800) 551-5284 x225  fax (831) 582-2495

One Year Anniversary!

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That is right folks, the Leftover Queen and her King celebrated one year of wedded bliss yesterday. It is hard to imagine that our wedding, and Jamaican honeymoon were that long ago.

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Seems like yesterday in some ways, but after reminiscing last night about all that we have accomplished in this year, it is amazing how much has happened in such a short period of time. This is one of the things I have enjoyed about getting older – how an event can seem both long ago and really recent depending on the angle you see it.

We spent the day re-living our wedding day as much as possible by going to the beach where our wedding ceremony took place, collecting sand and shells, and taking a 4 mile walk. The weather was gorgeous and we feel so blessed because looking out the window as I write this, it is dark and raining.

That walk came in really handy a few hours later, because we had dinner at the same restaurant where we had our wedding reception and we had an amazing meal, guilt free! The restaurant is called La Cocina and it is located in the Castillo Real Hotel right on the beach in Saint Augustine, Florida. We have been to a lot of the restaurants here in Saint Augustine since moving here almost 2 years ago. But La Cocina has always been good to us. These guys are masters at food styling and presentation. Every dish that comes out looks gorgeous…but how about the taste? The taste is also top notch. Their menu is varied and sophisticated, but also not the ordinary, which makes it such a great place to go.

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Last night we enjoyed Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche as an appetizer. I fell in love with ceviche when we were in Jamaica, eating it at every opportunity. So last night, Roberto ordered it in my honor! Not only was it beautiful, but so fresh tasting. A great way to get the taste buds going!

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For an entrée I had New Orleans Salmon with was a salmon steak on top of a potato cake, topped with shrimp Étouffée and a chive cream sauce. I don’t even know where to start with this one. Everything was cooked to perfection, and all the flavors worked together like a magical symphony, right out of Ratatouille, the movie (if you don’t know what I mean, go see the movie)! It was served with grilled asparagus. Since a baby greens salad comes with all entrees, I only ate half. But I also only ate half so that I could enjoy it again today! :)

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Roberto loves sea scallops. So he had Sea Scallops wrapped in Orange Roughy and grilled topped with Beurre Blanc and served with a side of mashed potatoes, that were served piped in a beautiful tower formation. Again, the dish was delicious.

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At the end of our dinner, we were brought out a special surprise from the kitchen, a nice piece of cheesecake with the words “Happy Anniversary!” written on the plate with raspberry sauce (which was exactly what they did when they served our wedding cake – except on that day it said “Congratulations!”). It was a wonderful way to end the evening…except that the evening wasn’t over. After dinner we had to slice into our year old wedding cake!

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A rum cake with custard filling – and it was still good. The only thing that didn’t really keep to its original flavor was the icing, so we didn’t eat that part. But the rest of it was great. Our cake was made by DeFores Cake Design which is phenomenal!

So now onto our second year of bliss….”They” always say “Find your Bliss” and I feel very lucky to have already found mine! :)

Stay tuned, more Italian Adventures are on their way!

Our Wedding Day Story: Better Late Than Never…

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I am talking about this post of course. It could be taken the other way too. We are not “old” but we are not kids anymore either, so I guess you can take it however you like it! ;)

However, the point is that we are in our second month of marriage (celebrating 2 months on Thursday) and I am just now getting around to posting about the wedding. It took us a while to get our photos, due to technical difficulties and then there was so much catching up to do when we returned. So sorry it’s late, but here it is! I already gave you a look at the honeymoon, but now it is time to write the story of our wedding day and all the wonderful vendors that helped us to make the day even more special. Plus, I know you are all dying to hear about the food and the cake.

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I know everyone says this, but we had the best wedding ever. It was small and nearly everyone that we are close to was there to spend the weekend with us – Roberto’s mom, all of my parents, Roberto’s daughters, Gwen and Rachel, my best friend Jen and her family, and several other relatives and close friends. Just having all the people we love surrounding us, made it an amazing day.

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We were married early in the day, so we opted to have a Brunch for our reception. I have always loved brunch – there is something just so classic about it, not to mention very budget friendly.

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Since we had a small guest list, we were able to procure a beautiful Spanish style restaurant to host it. Saint Augustine, FL is well known for its Spanish history. Although it was held by the British as well, before the Americans, it is the Spanish who will forever be associated with the place. You can see this influence reflected in the architecture all over town, as well as the street names. It is such a beautiful place. When you are coming over the bridge from the beach into downtown, if it weren’t for the American flag, you would think you were in Spain.
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Cooking with Anna: Involtini e Melenzane

So we are going to go back in time a little with this post. I hope you all don’t mind the time warp this blog sometimes is! It is hard sometimes figuring out when to post what! The life of a food blogger is all about organization…and sometimes the lack thereof.

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Anyway, as you all know, the week before our wedding, Anna, Roberto’s mom came to stay with us. She is a food blogger and member of The Foodie Blogroll!

Her blog AnnaGarau.com features recipes from her native Sardinia. It is a great blog, full of wonderful anecdotes about Sardinia as well as beautiful pictures and she is quite the chef. It is in Italian, so if you want to check it out, and I recommend that you do, use one of those handy dandy translators like this translator from Google. You can even watch a video of traditional Sardinian dancing and singing – something Sardinians are known for. When she was here at our house, she was updating that post and we were having such a good time. I was really pleased to be able to have a “private” lesson with this great Italian cook in my own kitchen when she was here visiting us from Rome.

When I ask Roberto about his favorite foods that he remembers his mom making, the first thing out of his mouth is always Involtini or stuffed, rolled beef. However, he is always vague about exactly what her involtini are stuffed with. Out of desperation, once, I made these “involtini” stuffed with sun dried tomatoes, spinach and feta cheese.

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They were delicious, but not involtini. So I was thrilled when Anna was here that she was delighted to show me how to make her involtini. She also made these fabulous eggplant patties that were very tasty. I am certainly making both of these again…in fact in honor of writing this post we are having leftover involtini tonight (The day I post this, may not be the day I wrote this…you know how the time warp is…)
:)
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A Taste of Jamaica

Well here I am guys, trying to get back in the swing of regular, full-time food blogging. I am pretty caught up with emails from all you lovely folks out there – thank you for all your well-wishes, they are much appreciated. I have been hanging out and catching up with my peeps on the forum – we have this month’s Royal Foodie Joust underway. The voting has started, and as always, it is our biggest competition yet. You have one more day to cast the vote for your favorite.
Some lucky winner will not only get their personalized apron, but also some Tupperware prizes from Ben at What’s Cooking,
who is not only sponsoring the Joust this month, but also hosting it in my stead. So big props to Ben. *woohoo*

Now on to the food, because that is why we are all here isn’t it? For the food? Well I am going to start at the end – the honeymoon and work my way back to the wedding food and the week before the wedding. I am still waiting on pictures from the wedding, so it kind of defeats the purpose to discuss lovely food without proper documentation. So alas, we start at the end of this adventure into marriage.
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Married, Alive and Well!

Hi Everyone!

Thank you so much for all your kind words, thoughts and well-wishes for our wedding day! We have not gotten our professional pictures yet, but here is a candid taken by my cousin, Patrick.

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I am happy to report that Roberto and I are now husband and wife. I must say it turned out beautifully. There were a few minor snafus as there always are, but it was a perfect day in every other way. We spent a lot of lovely time with family and friends and of course we ate well from the day Roberto’s mom arrived from Rome all the way through the honeymoon! (as if eating well is a change in our normal routine)…

Currently I am sorting through loads of emails, making my way over to the Forum and slowly starting to make my presence online again. So bear with me, as I am still on Jamaica Time. ;)

If you have emailed me directly about anything to do with The Foodie Blogroll, I may not get back to you personally – our first order of business after we get settled is to implement the latest features and all will be notified about the next steps and what you need to do. Until then, hang tight.

But in the meantime, you can look forward to food stories about foods we enjoyed with our family leading up to the wedding, as well as the wedding day food, cake and some new favorite foods from Jamaica. So stay tuned!