We’re not crazy people, I swear, but for both of our children we have made all of their baby food up until they were consistently eating regular table food. This is actually a lot easier than it may sound and is just one small thing we can do to give our kids a healthier start in life. We hope that this early experience with wholesome foods, prepared with love, will plant the seed of appreciation for real food and because we are not limited to the menu in the grocery store’s baby food isle, we can introduce them to endless flavor combinations. As a parent, the aspect of making our children’s food from scratch that I appreciate the most is the control we have over what we put into our children; we actually know all the ingredients in their food and can pronounce everything on the ingredient list. What a novelty!
When it came time for them to throw themselves fingers-first into their first birthday cake, we wanted their first experience with sweets to be as wholesome as possible. Now as I said, we’re not crazy. We could have denied this ritual altogether or made some sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, fat free, and entirely fun-free excuse for a cake, but that’s just not how we roll. We are big fans of fun (and sanity!) so we decided to make each of our children’s first birthday cakes a carrot cake. It is most definitely a cake in the indulgence sense of the word but gets in a solid serving of veggies and we are able to control what goes in it.
Being on vacation at the time of Charlie’s first birthday with limited cooking and ingredient resources, instead of winning a creativity prize, we opted for a simple, well tested, and sure-to-be-good recipe. We were vacationing in Savannah, GA so it only made sense to look up Paula Deen’s carrot cake recipe.
I have never been a very good baker. Baking is a bit more scientific and precise. I rarely measure anything I cook and I hardly ever actually follow a recipe. I am a bit more restrained when I bake but still can’t help but color outside the lines in a few places. Despite choosing Paula’s recipe because of my need for a “sure thing,” this instance would prove to be no different as we added our own twist to this cake recipe.
Danielle got the batter started. I figured this was good as she would probably adhere to the letter of the recipe far more than I, but as it turns out, even she added an extra cup of shredded carrot. After tasting the finished batter, I decided to add an extra teaspoon of cinnamon and 1.5 teaspoons of ground ginger. We decided to omit the nuts since Charlie had not been exposed to them yet. The real deviation from Paula’s recipe happened after the cake was baked.
I was having and early evening cocktail of bourbon and ginger beer at the time. You know where this is going… a little bourbon for me, a little bourbon for the cake! I sprinkled the bourbon right onto the cooling cakes. Maybe ¼ – 1/3 of a cup between the layers. Obviously, adjust this to your taste but I found this amount to give a hint of bourbon flavor and further moisten the cake without making it too boozy. Next time I will probably add a bit more but this is probably the right level for most people.
The finished product turned out so much better than I could have imagined it would. It was VERY moist and had traditional carrot cake flavor but with a bourbon twist that really added to the experience.
- Butter, for pans
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 eggs
- 1 ½ cups vegetable oil
- 4 cups grated carrot
- ⅓ cup bourbon
- 2 (8oz.) packages of cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 stick butter (add a pinch of salt if using unsalted), room temperature
- 1 (16oz) box of powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Butter 3 (9-inch) round pans. Line bottom of the pans with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add eggs and vegetable oil.
- Blend gently until combined.
- Add carrots and combine.
- Pour into pans and bake for approximately 40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes.
- Drizzle slowly or brush bourbon onto each layer of the cake. Let sit for 5 minutes to absorb and distribute.
- Remove from pans, place on waxed paper and allow to cool completely before frosting.
- For the frosting:
- Add all ingredients into a medium bowl and beat until fluffy using a hand mixer.
- Spread frosting on top of each cake layer. Stack on a serving plate and then frost the sides as well.
Charlie enjoyed his birthday cake but I think I enjoyed it even more. Maybe it was the dichotomy of getting your serving of vegetables and your serving of bourbon all in the form of a cake… Have you stumbled upon any unusual food and booze pairings lately? Do you consider yourself to be more of a baker or cook? Do you follow recipes to a tee or view them as merely suggestions or inspiration?