After 16 years at the University of Minnesota Law School in the career office (it had four names in 16 years), I have taken advantage of an opportunity and changed careers. Beginning in June 2009, I will sit at the helm of three enterprises: Pass The Baton llc, which manages generation shift by capturing and transferring mission critical information; nanoscapes llc, a launching pad for tiny and giant watercolors and needlepoint designs; and a modest cooking school called "Susan-Cooks!" which will have its official opening in late June 2009. Question about the cooking school? (firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-917-0219)
While there were many things that I loved about my work (work with students, alumni, administrators and employers, learning about individual students and their dreams and goals), I especially cherish my colleagues for supporting my Baking Explorations.
After declaring my 50th birthday year the Year of 50 Cakes, when I baked on Sunday and delivered a cake for critique on Mondays, I continued the project to about 120 (that list will be published shortly). I imposed on my friends to vet eight versions the Lemon Ginger Pound Cakes for a Minnesota State Fair Entry (which didn't survive freezing that was required by my Off Campus Interview Travel Schedule) and they sat in judgment of my first five pecan pies, favoring the 2-cups-of-pecans-and-bourbon version and, in a complete surprise to all, they voted Mark Bittman's Custard Pecan Pie from the first (yellow) edition of How to Cook Everything, a strong second place.
So long as they didn't mind my spirit of experimentation, anyone who spoke up got his or her choice of birthday cake. In April 2009, we celebrated Director Alan Haynes, whose favorite is carrot cake. And, because many people asked, I made an an extra bowl of cream cheese frosting.
This recipe is particularly easy if you have a food processor with a fine grating blade to make quick work of the carrots. Because this is a sheet cake, the "frosting" skill is ultra-simple -- "dump and slather." Note that you need two cups of pecans, one for the cake and one for the top of the frosting.
Carrot Cake III (adapted from an allrecipes.com posting by Tammy Elliott.
1-1/4 cups canola or other neutral oil
2 c white sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 c all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 c grated carrots -- the fine grind in a food processor or on a hand grater
1 c chopped pecans, toasted
1/2 c butter
8 oz cream cheese, softened
4 c confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c chopped pecans, toasted (optional addition to the frosting or sprinkled on the top of the cake)
1. Preheat the over to 350. Grease and flour a 9x13 pan.
2. Toast the two cups of pecans on a flat pan in the oven while it heats to 350. (10 minutes or until they are fragrant.)
3. Using a stand mixer if you have one, combine the eggs, oil, sugar, and vanilla. Beat for 3 minutes.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk (or stir) the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together. Slowly add the flour to the sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined. If you dump it in all at once, the flour will be on your ceiling.
5. Add the carrots, and beat at slow speed until just combined. Stir in the pecans by hand.
6. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then flip it onto a wire rack to cool completely. For easy frosting and transport, pop the cooled cake back into the pan.
7. To make the frosting, combine all of the ingredients except the pecans. Beat until smooth. Use the "dump and slather" method to frost the cooled cake. Top with extra pecans if they you haven't eaten them.