Today is my 27th birthday. On one hand, I wonder, “Where has the time gone?” and, on the other, I think, “Am I really still that young?”
Birthdays always make me reflect. Reflect on the past year. Reflect on my life as a whole. I like to use this time to think about all the wonderful things that I have around me and look back on all the amazing opportunities I have been given. But, most of all, I like to see how much I’ve changed and what I’ve done to make sure that those changes have occurred.
And boy has a lot happened over this last year. I’ve met some incredible people who have challenged me to become a better cook and photographer. I’ve left my comfort zone to make sure that I not only build relationships with people through e-mails and actually meet them in person. And I’ve moved forward with pursuing a career in photography, something I’ve grown quite passionate about over the past couple of years.
Eric and I traveled to California and ate one of the best meals of our lives at The French Laundry. We bought a new car… our biggest single purchase together (after dinner at The French Laundry). We became uncles again. And our other niece now lives in the same city as us.
In the last year, I also lost my grandfather. There’s no denying the fact that this has effected the path that I’ve chosen to take. Life is just too short to let happiness pass you by.
By my next birthday, I expect that my life will change even more. I expect that things will happen over this next year that will scare me, that will inspire me, and, most of all, that will make me a better person.
A few months ago, I talked about a bucket list that I want to complete by the end of 2011. And it’s my pleasure to announce that I can cross one of the items off. I made my first layer cake! Was it the prettiest? No. Was it darn tasty? Yes. Am I ready to make another one? You betcha!
I already know that over the next year, I hope to improve my cake baking skills. Icing will be a big part of it. So, expect some more cakes in the future.
This cake recipe comes from the delightful Rosie, of the blog Sweetapolita, who was kind enough to help guide me as I put this baby together. It has all of my favorite flavors and, as soon as I saw the recipe and rave reviews on Rosie’s site, I knew this was going to be the one for me.
Zingy Orange Carrot Cake with White Chocolate Icing
(from LCBO Food & Drink magazine, Spring 2011, via Sweetapolita)
5 cups (1.25 L) grated carrots
1/2 cup (125 mL) finely chopped crystallized ginger or stem ginger in syrup
2 1/2 cups (625 mL) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp (15 mL) baking powder
1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1 tsp (5 mL) ground ginger
1 cup (250 mL) butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) granulated sugar
2 tsp (10 mL) vanilla
White Chocolate Icing
1 cup (250 mL) butter, at room temperature
6 squares (6 oz/175 g) white chocolate
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
3/4 tsp (4 mL) almond extract
Generous pinch of salt
3 cups(750 mL) sifted icing sugar
Chopped crystallized ginger
1. Preheat oven to 350° F (180° C). Spray or lightly oil two 9-inch (1.5-L) round cake pans.
2. Grate carrots using a food processor. Measure out 5 cups (1.25 L). Finely chop ginger. Grate peel from orange. Set aside separately. Place flour in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ginger. Stir until blended. Sprinkle in orange peel while stirring.
3. Place butter in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually beat in sugar, then beat on medium for 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, then vanilla. Don’t worry if it seems curdled. Beating on low, gradually add about a third of the flour mixture. Beat until just mixed, followed by half the milk. Repeat additions, ending with flour. Sprinkle chopped ginger and stir to distribute. Stir in carrots.
4. Divide batter between pans. Spread as evenly as possible to sides of pan. To remove air pockets, bang pans on counter 5 to 6 times. Bake until centers seem set when lightly tapped, 30 to 35 minutes. Place on a baking rack to cool. After about 15 minutes, turn cakes out of pans and cool completely on racks. It’s best to bake cakes a day ahead of icing and leave at room temperature overnight.
5. To make icing, beat butter in a bowl with an electric mixer until very creamy. Place chocolate in a small microwave bowl. Microwave on medium for 1 1/2 minutes. Stir, then microwave on medium for another minute. Stir until smooth. Or on stovetop heat chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir, often. Gradually beat into butter. Add vanilla, almond extract, and salt. Gradually beat in icing sugar.
6. To assemble, place 1 cake, flat-side up, on a platter.Generously spread with icing, leaving a narrow border of cake around the edge. Top with the second cake, flat-side down, and gently press down. Smoothly spread icing over the sides of the cake, then the top. Garnish top of cake with chopped crystallized ginger. It’s best to refrigerate several hours or overnight before serving.
1. I added about 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of water to the mixed icing and then beat on high speed for about another minute.
2. I weigh the cake pans filled with batter to ensure they are exactly the same, then use a small offset palette knife to spread the batter evenly in pans.
3. I refrigerate cakes for about an hour before frosting, then do a crumb coat, followed by a final topping of icing.
Recipe Source: LCBO Food & Drink Magazine, Spring 2011