April 17, 2011

Birthday Cake (Nutty carrot cake with dark chocolate and almond decoration)

Mom's birthday falls on Easter weekend this year but I'm going to be in Cebu, Philippines, so we celebrated the weekend before. I started a new job this week and didn't have much prep time (well, actually, I'm just not that artistically endowed), so this Easter-themed birthday cake has that "home-made" touch for sure!

It's a 2-layer carrot cake. The cake layers have carrots, pineapple, almonds, coconut, and golden raisins. I used my standard recipe and added extra nuts, raisins and 1/4 more pureed pineapple. Oh, and I also used grated fresh ginger this time as I ran out of the dried stuff (living in Asia, it's much easier to find fresh ginger than the powder). This resulted in a slightly more dense & moist cake, but luckily not too dense. It's up to your personal preference whether you prefer a drier and finer cake or a more moist, richer cake.

Sandwiched between the two layers is a mix of the lemon cream cheese frosting + raspberry jam. The remaining lemon cream cheese frosting was used to frost the top and sides of the cake.

  • Cadbury's Mini Eggs (for Easter);
  • chocolate letters (you can pipe your own on baking paper with melted chocolate in a pastry bag; I cheated and used ready-made Dr Oetker chocolate letters); and
  • dark chocolate shavings (bar of dark chocolate + vegetable peeler is all you need). 
Flaked almonds on the sides of the cake covered up the results of my uneven frosting skills.

Cake decorating/frosting tips:
  • For layer cakes, I recommend following Deb of Smitten Kitchen's guide
  • I mainly recommend that you make as much as you can ahead. In this case, I baked the cakes and made the lemon cream cheese frosting the night before (put it in fridge overnight), and then assembled and decorated the cake in the morning.
  • Also, in warmer climates like Hong Kong, it's extremely important to keep things cool. The subtropics are not exactly friendly to frosting, icing and other delicate, heat-sensitive food items. You might not be able to frost/decorate the entire cake in one go, as the frosting may melt and slide downwards if you let it warm up too much. Gravity is not your friend! Pop the cake back into the fridge for 10 minutes if you feel the frosting's getting too soft.
  • Try not to touch chocolate with your bare hands - it WILL melt. 
  • Before using, chill your frosting beforehand but give it a good mix so it's easily spreadable.
  • After you finish decorating, chill the finished cake in the fridge for at least 20 minutes before putting in the box; then chill the entire box (with cake inside) for at least 30 minutes, if possible, to ensure the cake is surrounded with cool air during transport.

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