Monthly Archives: September 2012

cardamom {carrot cake}

carrot cake is far from exciting, i know.  there are recipes for it everywhere, and they’re all much the same: take a mildly spiced cake, mix in some shredded carrots for moisture and sweetness, and top it all off with lashings of cream cheese icing.  it’s a classic, so there really isn’t any need to reinvent it, is there?

the recipe i tend to use for carrot cake comes from the rebar cookbook (i’ve shared another one of their recipes here).  rebar’s ‘coconut carrot cake’ is most excellent as is, though it does stray somewhat from your typical carrot cake recipe by including crushed pineapple and coconut in the cake, and white chocolate in the icing.  sometimes, however, one needs a bit of a change from routine.  well, that, and i didn’t have any  pineapple, and i didn’t want the super-sweet white chocolate icing.  so, i improvised.  i subbed in an extra dose of carrots to replace the pineapple, and mixed in some cardamom for a bit of a twist.  and.  it.  worked.  the cake is just as moist and light as the original, but with a subtle warmth and exotic spice from the cardamom, which makes it feel as if it hails more from the middle east rather than the tropics.

i decided to extend the semi-exotic flavours to the icing by mixing in some fresh orange juice and orange flower water (finally, a use for the little bottle that has been languishing in my pantry for years!).  i also cut the icing sugar by almost two-thirds, so i could taste the tang of the cream cheese and the orange without being smothered with sugary sweetness.  this made for a much lighter frosting, which i think i like even better than the original.

sometimes a little forced variation is a good thing.

what do you think about altering classic recipes?  is it best to leave tried-and-true recipes alone?  does it seem pretentious to substitute new flavours and techniques?

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cardamom carrot cake (adapted from ‘rebar, modern food cookbook’ by audrey alsterberg and wanda urbanowicz)

2 1/2 cups grated carrots (peeled first, of course)
1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins (i’m not sure if i like this addition or not, though sultanas would work well with the theme – they’re totally optional)
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut (i did include this but would consider it optional as well)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 – 1 tsp ground cardamom (or freshly grated)
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (or freshly grated)

9 oz package philadelphia cream cheese (yep, i do think this is one application where phily is waaay superior – the no-name stuff tastes chalky)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp orange flower water (to taste)
1 tbsp fresh orange juice (to taste)
1/2 – 1 cup icing sugar, sifted

pre-heat oven to 350°.  butter and flour (or line) two 8″ sandwich tins.
•combine grated carrot with any of the additions you’re using and set aside. in your mixing bowl, beat the sugars with the eggs, then stir in the vanilla and whip on high-speed until the volume has tripled. on low-speed, pour in the oil slowly to blend in.
•combine the remaining dry ingredients and gently stir into the batter. fold in the carrot mixture. divide batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops. bake 30-35 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. cool in pans on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then invert pans to release the cakes and cool completely.
•to make the icing, beat the cream cheese on high until smooth and fluffy. beat in the vanilla and butter along with the orange flower water and orange juice. blend in 1/2 cup icing sugar, adding more if needed for the consistency you desire.  adjust the orange flavourings if needed, and beat the icing until it is thoroughly combined.
•when cakes are cool, place one cake on serving plate and spread with no more than half of the icing. top with the second cake and frost with remaining icing. i find this cake keeps well, at room temperature or in the fridge, for days.

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Filed under baking

polka dot {wiksten tank}

i have a thing with polka dots.  and tanks.  and polka-dotted tanks.  i do love dots applied liberally, in dresses and coats and umbrellas, for instance, but i’m not a spotlight-seeker, so i tend to save them for less conspicuous things like linings and wallets.  and, apparently, tanks.  i think i find the cheekiness of polka dots a little less spotlight-grabbing when used in a smaller garment, and a polka-dotted tank suits my sartorially cautious-but-coy side just fine.

i have adored the wiksten patterns for ages, and finally ordered the e-versions of them this summer.  i set about making the tank straight away, printing and taping and cutting the pattern pieces – a slightly tedious task that i rather enjoy.  i also like ironing*.  i’m weird that way.
[*which is ironic, given that this tank is clearly not crease-free.]

i found the pattern quite easy to follow, but i must say that i found the instructions a little sparse in places.  i find it annoying when patterns don’t mention anything about finishing exposed edges.  of course an experienced seamstress knows better than to leave the pocket edges unfinished, but a beginner may not.  it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to have a pocket fall off after a few washings, but why suffer that agony if you don’t have to?

i love the shape of this top – it seems so modern.  the curved hem is catchy, and i like that it is slightly longer in the back than it is in the front.  the wee pocket is nice addition, even if it is virtually invisible in my polka dot version.  i do find the neckline almost scandalously low, certainly low enough that i need a layer beneath (or i need to be really careful when bending over).  i did use a cursed quilting cotton for this, albeit a lighter one, so it doesn’t provide the drape i think this pattern demands.  i hope wiksten tank number two, in the glorious V&A voile shown below, will be spot on.  it will, of course, have the added bonus of reminding me of my trips to the V&A, one of my most favourite places in all of london.

i must know, do any of you get sentimental over fabrics?  do you cherish some fabrics so much that you can’t bear to cut into them?  please tell me i’m not the only fabric-nut out there!

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Filed under sewing

catching up (in photos)

there has been a lot of undocumented stirring and stitching going on this summer.  here is a small taste of what the last couple of months have looked like…

all of that and a trip to killarney, many a hot run, working five days a week and some lovely chats with lovely people at the studio tour has made this a full and fulfilling summer.  i hope that you have had a marvy summer, too!

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Filed under baking, sewing