What better for Easter dessert than carrot cake? I’ll freely admit I love carrot cake and am happy for an excuse to make it; Easter’s one of those rare times when I whip up a big fattening dessert and don’t worry about it. There are usually some other folks willing to eat most of it and I can send leftovers home with children. All right, I do keep a bite or two for Dave and I to share on Monday. There’s a link about making the bunny cake, though it’s fairly obvious, and if you make the cupcakes, let the kids decorate them with the cream cheese icing and jelly beans. They’re pretty on a big tray filled with Easter “grass.”
Disclaimer: I decorate about one cake a year, so forgive my cake. I do always have fun doing it, whether for adults, kids, or a mix. This old-school bunny method has been around for decades and is simple and easy for children or for anyone who doesn’t have cake decorating skills or equipment. Icing, jelly beans, licorice whips, and food coloring-dyed sweetened coconut are all you need..
(below: Miss Gab and Tucker all ready for Easter. Miss Gab wanted a bonnet I refused to buy.)
Note: This recipe has shown up on the blog before, but it bears repeating. It comes from our housekeeper at Woodlawn Plantation –where I worked years ago — Grace Herson. If we had someone special coming for dinner at Woodlawn, Grace made carrot cake. When I left, the women in the house wrote a cookbook for me. Grace’s addition was this cake.
Grace’s Carrot Cake
Warnings: This cake, while totally delicious, is prone to a sink hole at its center for the 9×13 or 2 9″ layer versions. Fill it with icing and no one’s the wiser. After years, I still can’t fix the problem.
UPDATE: The hole in the center problem can be helped by either grating the carrots by hand and pressing out extra moisture with paper towels or grating them with the food processor and letting them dry for 30 minutes on sheet pans and then pressing out extra moisture with towels. (See photo at bottom of post.) The problem evidently comes from the weight of the extra water in the carrots.
The cupcakes easily run over and sometimes have a hole, too. Don’t overfill the cupcake tins and, if they still over run, scrape them each back off the tin carefully and remove to cool on rack. Trim, cool completely, then cover with icing!
makes 1 9×13 cake, 2 9″ layers for one bunny cake+, or about 24 cupcakes
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs (I use extra large at altitude or add an extra egg.)
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil (I use Canola now)
3 cups grated carrots (blotted dry w/ towel if you use food processor or the extra liquid will make the cake sink-which it may do anyway.)
1 cup chopped walnuts
Icing: 8 ounces cream cheese, 4 Tablespoons softened butter, 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. (If you make cupcakes, use 350 F.)
Cake: mix dry ingredients together and add eggs, oil and mix well. Add carrots and nuts and mix well again. Turn into greased 9x13x2″ pan or scoop into cupcake tins* and bake 45-55 minutes for cake, 25-30 for the 9-inch pans, and about 20 minutes for cupcakes or until a toothpick stuck in middle comes out clean. Cool well in pan, if making the 9×13. Remove cupcakes from the pans and cool on racks. For 9-inch round pans –used for bunny cake — let them cool in the pans about 10 minutes before turning out onto racks to cool completely. Bang pans soundly on the counter before tipping out.
Ice all cakes when completely cooled, piping icing onto cupcakes and topping with a bit of tinted coconut and 3 or 4 jelly beans, if desired.
Refrigerate if not eating that day. Cake freezes very well for up to one month.
*I like muffins and cupcakes baked right in the greased tins so that the cake batter hits the hot metal directly for a nice crust instead of steaming in the paper liners. If you’d like to use paper liners, which many bakers do, please feel free.
+The two nine-inch layers form the bunny: one layer is her body and the other layer is cut into three pieces that form the two ears and the bow tie. See Bunny Cake directions below.
Icing: Beat cream cheese and butter together very well for 2 minutes. Slowly add powdered sugar (or you’ll have a big mess). Beat in vanilla and whip icing until very smooth.
Here’s what my 9×13 cake looks like with my oh-so-artsy carrot at center. (Just draw a carrot with greens freehand with a toothpick and fill with orange frosting for carrot and green for the greens.)
Sing a new song,
below: drying out the shredded carrots.
|Cupcakes–Make them and freeze them tonight. Defrost and frost Saturday or Order plain from the bakery and decorate at home.|
no hassle Easter menu serves 8
Make-ahead Green Bean Salad with Shallot Cream Dressing**
Pan-Grilled Double Lamb Rib Chops with Tapenade**
Oven-Roasted Rosemary Whole Carrots**
Czech Easter Bread, optional *
Cupcakes with Jelly Bean Frosting (Buy or Make)*
*Click link for recipe/choose your own
|Czech Easter Bread (Link to recipe above.)|
|Just a few tulips–the perfect centerpiece.|
Or why do it all yourself? You might get your cousin to do the cupcakes, your sister to do the salad, and so on. Make the day easy on yourself since someone had to clean the house and put out the egg-shaped candles, afterall. But if you’re doing it all yourself, here’s how:
|No cupcakes for these guys.|
1. Today or Tomorrow: Do grocery shopping. Make/buy carrot cake cupcakes. Freeze plain cupcakes.
2. Friday: Make tapenade and store well-covered. Keep others out of it until Sunday. Boil eggs.
3. Saturday: Used boiled Easter eggs and make deviled eggs. Store loosely covered in refrigerator. Do not sprinkle with paprika until ready to serve. Here are three recipes or make your own.
4. Saturday or Sunday morning: Make the salad and dressing. (recipes below); refrigerate them separately until Sunday.
- In the morning: unthaw and frost cupcakes if not already done. Store out of reach of the dogs and kids.
- ” ” ” : set and decorate table
- 1 1/2 hours before dinner: Bring lamb chops to room temperature. Uncork/decant red wine.
- Set out deviled eggs and uncork white wine for starters.
- Peel/prepare carrots and place on a half-sheet pan. Prepare chops for cooking.
- Pan-grill, then roast chops and oven-roast carrots. Place chops and carrots on a large platter with tapenade and pass at the table.
- Just before eating: Spoon salad into large serving bowl, drizzle with dressing, and toss well. Pour red wine. Place bread on table if serving.
- Serve cupcakes and smile.
Make-Ahead Green Bean Salad with Cream Shallot Dressing
This recipe calls for you to blanch the beans and fresh peas briefly in boiling water, drain, and cool quickly in an ice bath. You can also cook them, separately, in the microwave for 2-3 minutes with just a couple of tablespoons of water in a microwave-safe covered bowl.
- 6 cups fresh haricots verts or green beans, trimmed, blanched, cooled in ice bath, and drained
- 3 cups fresh green peas (or frozen), blanched, cooled in ice bath, and drained
- 2 cups sliced celery
- 1/2 c each diced red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper
- 1/2 cup thinly-sliced carrots
- 1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
- 4 cups mixed salad greens
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
Dressing: 2T minced shallots, 2T lemon juice, 1 cup half and half, 2T finely minced flat-leaf parsley, 1/4 tsp each sea salt/ fresh ground pepper, 1 tsp grated lemon zest, 2 drops Tabasco. Place all ingredients in a jar with a tightly-fitted lid and shake vigorously when making and just before dressing salad.
- One day ahead: Mix all salad ingredients—except lemon juice– together in a large bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
- When ready to serve, add lemon juice and toss well. Drizzle with dressing and toss again. Taste and re-season. (You’ll have leftover dressing. Store in refrigerator 2-3 days.)
Note: This salad is loosely based on one from the book SALAD FOR DINNER by Patricia Wells, who is one of my favorite cookbook authors.
Pan-grilled Double Lamb Rib Chops with Tapenade and Oven-Roasted Rosemary Carrots
A. Up to two days ahead, make tapenade and store tightly covered in the refrigerator:
|Tapenade- Chopped olives, garlic, parsley and anchovies. Great with sliced baguette or crackers, too.|
- 2 cups pitted kalamata olives
- 3 anchovies
- 1/2 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1T red wine vinegar
- 1T fresh lemon juice
- Pinch fresh ground pepper
- Pinch of crushed red pepper
- salt, if needed, to taste
Process all ingredients in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Taste and adjust seasonings. Store, well-covered, in refrigerator until needed. Serve in a bowl on the table for guests to help themselves or spoon a bit on each chop if you like.
B. For chops and carrots ( recipe, see below) — about 45 minutes before dinner time.
- 8 double lamb rib chops at room temperature
- olive oil
- kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 dozen long, thin carrots, peeled and trimmed
- Olive oil
- Kosher Salt and fresh ground pepper
- 4T finely minced fresh rosemary
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place carrots on a large baking sheet/s, drizzle with oil and dust generously with salt, pepper, and rosemary. Place pan of carrots in the oven on a rack in the bottom third of the oven and roast until tender and somewhat crispy.
Heat grill pan or large, heavy skillet/s for the chops over medium-high heat. Place another rack, for the chops, in the upper third.
- Meantime, drizzle chops with olive oil on both sides and salt and pepper thoroughly on both sides. Brown chops very well on each side and remove to a roasting pan or oven-safe casserole. When all the chops are browned, place pan/casserole in the oven and roast until done to your liking.
- Use instant-read thermometer to determine if chops are done. I like mine fairly rare (quite pink) and took them out to rest when the temperature was between 120 and 125 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’d like them just pink, try 140 degrees. Quite done is about 160.
- Remove pan/casserole from oven and remove chops to serving platter. Let sit 2-3 minutes.
- Remove carrots from the oven and add them to the platter. Serve hot with tapenade
Note: If you’d like to use nice big and thick bone-in pork chops instead of lamb chops, they’ll work just as well using the same process. You’ll want them cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit (medium rare) and allowed to rest a few minutes. Great with tapenade.
Happy Easter and Sing a New Song,