A Christmas Tradition: Carrot Cake and Chuck Hughes (Sigh!)

It was two days before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a…

Nope. Can’t keep that shit up.

It really was two days before Christmas and I was attempting to make my first carrot cake.

YES. I realize that Christmas was weeks ago. It’s getting a bit wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey on the blog today.

Why must we all speak like children?

I have no idea where he picks that stuff up.

I love carrot cake. I don’t know what it is. There’s normal cake deliciousity, plus the natural sweetness of the carrots and the raisins. And don’t even get me started on a cream cheese icing.

Have you ever seen someone on TV and REALLY thought you could be friends with that person? Like REALLY? Like if you actually met them, you’d grab a burger and start talking and hanging out or whatever. (This is going somewhere, I swear.) Chef Chuck Hughes is like that for me. He’s really funny and super likable. He’s totally goofy, absolutely adorable, and bonus? He makes a lot of gorgeous dishes on his show on cooking Channel Chuck’s Day Off. Also, that show has an awesome soundtrack.

Last year, Chuck did a Christmas special called “Chuckmas” (no idea where they got the name). And he and his mom made a carrot cake that I believe they make every year. And no wonder. It’s delicious and fairly foolproof.

Fairly foolproof. But don’t worry, I’m always here to play the fool.

One of my springform pans was leaking, so I put it on a cookie sheet. And the only way to get the other pan on the same rack in the oven was to lean the other springform pan on the cookie sheet. So, basically, I wound up with one really nice, even cake and one really slanty cake that looked like a hillside.

Once they cooled, I thought I’d cut the top of the cake off like I’d seen on TV! It looks so easy! Level the cake! Nope. This went very poorly. The cake was misshapen, basically a dome, and it started to lead to some structural damage. Then I had this exchange with my dad.

Me: My cake is falling apart.

Dad: I have something for that!

He brought me a backhoe.

He brought me a backhoe.

I also kind of fucked the frosting up. I overwhipped it in an effort to get the lumps out of the cream cheese.

But my pal Chuck KNEW I was going to struggle a little bit. So he and his mom top the cake with these amazing crystallized walnuts. So, even though I wasn’t completely perfect, he had a way to cover up all my mistakes.

That’s what super talented, hunky friends are for.

Carrot Cake, ever so slightly adapted from Cooking Channel

Cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups peeled and grated carrots
  • 1 cup chopped pineapple
  • 1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup dried cherries
  • ½ cup dried golden raisins

Frosting:

  • 2 packages cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 2 ½ cups confectioners sugar
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange

Maple Walnuts

  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts

For the cake: With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two 8-inch springform pans with parchment paper.

In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the sugar, oil and eggs with a whisk. Gently stir in the dry ingredients. With a spatula, gently fold in the carrots, pineapple, walnuts, cherries and raisins.

Divide the batter between the pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool in the pans on a rack. Run the blade of a knife around the cakes and unmold.

For the frosting: In a bowl, cream the cream cheese with the butter and icing sugar with an electric mixer. Add the zest and juice and continue beating until the frosting is smooth and creamy.

Spread the frosting over the top of the cakes and stack them on a platter.

For the maple walnuts: In a skillet, bring the syrup to a boil. Add the walnuts and stir continuously until the syrup has crystallized around the walnuts. Pour onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and let cool. Garnish the cake.

Cake!

Cake!

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