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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Favorite Kosher Carrot Cake

Have your cake and eat it too!
A lot of you are learning to bake. I've seen and joined groups called "Quarantine Cooking" and am absolutely loving your progress. I think it's a lot of fun to bake and that it's easy to do, and being a person that's classically trained, I suppose that I take quite a bit for granted. So many are intimidated by baking, so I thought it'd be fun to give you my easiest recipe that's also one of my most-delicious.

My favorite thing about cakes at home is that you have absolutely no pressure to make it look perfect. Is it nice to do it for the 'gram? Of course! But don't be brainwashed into thinking that there's only one kind of beautiful cake. You can dive headfirst into that rustic-looking style and use flowers and herbs straight out of your garden to decorate the top of your cake. You'll take the pressure off yourself, and you'll dirty fewer dishes.

Favorite Kosher Carrot Cake
yields 1 full sheet pan, or a 4-layer cake

Cake

  • 240 g all-purpose flour
  • 100 g tapioca flour
  • 275 g granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Chinese long peppercorns ground quite fine (or grate some off with a Microplane)
  • 198 g vegetable oil
  • 113 g/1 stick vegan butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp Mexican vanilla
  • 1 1/2 medium carrots, grated finely, roughly 300 g
  • ** You may add a few handfuls of chopped nuts to this cake. I like pecans, but walnuts are great in this cake too!
Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 227 g vegan cream cheese
    • I like Daiya's brand the best for this application
  • 113 g/1 stick vegan butter
  • Roughly 2 cups Powdered Sugar
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a half-sheet pan by lining it with either parchment or a Silpat mat. Mix all dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl with a whisk. Melt the butter together with the vegetable oil and mix it together with the dry ingredients using a wooden spoon. This method is called reverse creaming, but please don't ask me why. 

This is one of those recipes that you can add different spices to suit your tastes, so please have fun!

Mix together the eggs and vanilla, and add to the flour-fat mixture a third at a time. Make sure this is wholly incorporated before adding in the grated carrots. The finer the grate on the carrots the better, so don't be afraid to use the smaller bits. The carrots in this recipe are what provide moisture, and the fine grate lets you get lots of it released into the cake. When all of this is combined, you can pour the batter into the pan, and spread evenly. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cake is done. Remove from the oven and let cool.

While it's baking, let's talk a little about what kosher and pareve are, since I tend to write about it a lot. I'd like to clear up quite a few misconceptions and with the rising amount of antisemitism online I think it's appropriate to be loud and proud about my culture. Why do I feel that way? I feel this way because ignorance leads to fear, and fear leads to hatred. It seems like everyone in America is at least playfully antisemitic nowadays, and I don't entirely think it's their fault. I think there's a lot of media bias and a lot of cultural bias against Jews, not to mention that a lot of folks seem to think that the Jew is some exotic creature instead of just the gal next door. This idea of the 'other' leads down many paths, but most of them are to genocide.

In the holocaust alone, approximately 11 million people were killed for this culture. This is not including the others killed by the Nazis. I read somewhere that if we were to take a moment of silence for every soul lost in the holocaust, we'd be silent for something like 10 years. Living loud and proud about the culture you inherited is going to not just empower you, but give others that share your culture the courage to live loud and proud themselves. Being your wonderful radical self is a defiant act in a society that tells you what to be. Being kosher or having pareve items may sound foreign; so let's just clear up what they are and why I cook that way.

To keep kosher is, in short, to keep to the strict dietary standards set by Jewish Law. Most have heard of "don't mix milk and meat," and that's one. Another is to not eat cloven-hooved animals, such as pigs. I don't always keep kosher, as I do consume pork products on occasion. I do, however, keep dairy and meat separate because both my husband and myself are lactose intolerant. Actually, he's severely lactose intolerant, whereas I just get really gassy if I have ice cream. 

When possible, and at home, I do try to keep kosher and tell myself that if G-d wanted me to keep kosher my entire life He'd have made a whole Jew instead of half-and-half. Yes, yes, I know there are going to be a lot of more orthodox Jews on here telling me that there's "no such thing as half a Jew." Genetically, there is where religiously there is not. The other half of me is a full-blooded native Filipino, and they are pork-heavy people. To balance the love of all of my cultures, I tend to not buy pork to cook in my home, and instead only eat it when I'm out. If I did have dairy in my home, I'd have to have separate plates, cookware, tools, and silverware for when I wanted to have dairy-based meals or meat-based meals. 

Pareve (or parve) is a food that is neither meat or dairy. These things are pasta, rice, eggs, vegetables, etc. When you have a pareve cookie or pareve cake, that means that this cookie or cake has no dairy nor meat in it. Do I still have eggs in it?  Yes, so it is therefore not vegan. One might look at pareve or kosher baking as the stepping stone towards vegan baking. All of the baking I do at home is pareve. I can remain pareve thanks to the many wonderful vegan products out there that replicate milk, butter, and cheese in a baking scenario. It is because of these products, I can quite literally have my cake and eat it too. 

Now, should you be eating pareve desserts? If you're even mildly lactose intolerant, I'd seriously suggest it. I don't know how much healthier it is for you than the dairy-laden alternative, but I can tell you that at least some calories are cut with non-dairy items, and there are certainly less saturated fats. I personally know I've felt much better now that I cut dairy almost entirely out of my diet. If you're baking at home more, that means you're likely eating more goodies at home. So why not eat some nice goodies by cutting back here and there, and inserting gorgeous vegetables...like carrots?

When your cake is cool, you may work on the frosting. Simply whip your butter using the paddle attachment on your standing mixer until it's quite soft, and then add the cream cheese, whipping slowly until wholly incorporated. Whip on medium-high to get some loft before adding the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time. Mix slowly to start, and then mix on higher and higher speeds. The trick is to get it to be your desired consistency without it being too terribly sweet. I like it a little thinner, as it's better to spread on this cake. 

I wish more folks would bake cakes in a sheet cake form. It's so much easier to layer!
My trick for getting layers on a sheet cake is thus: 

First, turn your cake out of the pan and then trim all the crunchy edges off. Measure with a ruler the length and width of your cake. My width ended up being 28 cm, so I knew to cut that in half to 14 cm. The length of the cake was 40 cm, so of course, I would cut it in half at 20. Next, frost your cake evenly with your smooth and delicious icing. Cut your cake into your 4 equal pieces, and layer each piece atop one another. Et voila! Now you have a four-layer carrot cake, with not too much frosting on it. 

See? There it is, just stacked atop one another! EASY!
You can garnish with carrot chips or candied nuts, if you like, or just have it plain like this. This cake is sweet enough to stand on its own merit, in my opinion, so I don't like to let it get too frilly and fussy. I think a good portion of what we like to see, especially on Instagram, is a cake that's too pretty to eat. Cake, however, is meant to be eaten, and with so many of you all learning to bake at home, I think it's more than fine to love the things that are delicious and without frills. 

Good luck everyone! Happy cooking and happy eating!

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