My mom is known to a lot of her friends as “the cake lady”. Her cakes not only taste incredible, but they are always something really elaborate. When Amanda and I hiked to the top of Mt. Whitney in CA, she made us a 3-D cake modeled after the mountain—complete with all the switchbacks and two hikers made out of pipe cleaners. It was one of the coolest cakes she’s ever made, and that is saying a lot because she has easily made hundreds of cakes throughout my life.
My junior year in high school she made my Volkl racing skis—full size! Then there was the full size bassoon cake she made for a friend that played the bassoon. She also did a 3-D model of a local theater to celebrate one of its anniversaries. She made paint cans, sports logos, Paddington bear, ladybugs, Barbie—pretty much anything and everything you could imagine. She is incredibly talented and everyone is always in awe of her beautiful cakes. The best part is that everything is homemade—none of this fondant stuff—she makes the icing from scratch and models the cakes using the frosting as a mold.
I grew up watching my mom make these cakes, but it wasn’t until I moved to Japan three years ago that I attempted to make one on my own. It was our friend Mike’s birthday and he had made me a pyramid of Funfetti cake for my birthday (brilliant, right?) so I wanted to make him an awesome cake in return. I was pretty nervous about it because I felt like there was a lot to live up to, but I was very excited at how well it came out. It turns out I did learn a thing or two from watching her all those years!
The reason I’m telling you all of this is because today is my friend Lindsay’s birthday and each year I tell myself I’m going to make Lindsay a cake, and for one reason or another I haven’t done it yet. She made me an awesome birthday cake two years ago—this time involving Funfetti cake (can you tell I LOVE Funfetti cake?) and a cookie crust…YUM!!—and I still hadn’t returned the favor.
I wanted to make Lindsay a cake in the shape of Oregon because I have never met anyone who is more proud of where they are from than Lindsay. We always tease her because anytime she sees anyone’s pictures from vacation she says, “It looks just like Oregon!” In order to make one of my mom’s famous cakes, I would have had to use a lot of processed sugars, and since I’m not eating those right now, I thought that would be submitting myself to unnecessary torture and temptation. I asked Lindsay how she felt about me making her a naturally sweetened birthday cake and she was in.
I decided on carrot cake because I thought it would go well with honey. And it just so happens that my mom also makes a killer carrot cake that can be made with sugar or honey—jackpot! When I say this is the BEST carrot cake ever, I’m not exaggerating. One of our friends told me he doesn’t even like carrot cake and he ate two pieces. Trust me, it’s amazing—even if you think you don’t like carrot cake, you’ll love it. My mom won’t steer you wrong :).
For the Cake:
3/4 lb. (about 6 medium) carrots
zest from 1/2 lemon
1 cup honey (I used 3/4 cup honey and 1/4 cup maple syrup because I ran out of honey)
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2/3 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup raisins (I used golden raisins)
1. Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch Bundt pan. Knock out excess flour.
2. Shred carrots in food processor using shredding disc. Remove and set aside.
3. With metal blade in place, combine honey, lemon zest, and butter. Add eggs and vanilla and process until smooth. Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add to work bowl and pulse on and off only until flour just disappears. Add shredded carrots 1/3 at a time, pulsing on and off after each addition until shreds disappear. Add walnuts and raisins and pulse a few times.
4. Pour batter into Bundt pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Bang pan on countertop to release trapped air bubbles.
5. Bake on center rack in preheated oven for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool thoroughly on a wire rack. To remove cake from pan, loosen from side of pan with a knife, then invert onto a serving plate.
**Makes 1 Bundt cake.
For the Frosting:
16 oz (2 pkgs) cream cheese (low fat is okay, but don’t use fat free)
1/2 cup butter
6 tbsp honey
1-2 tsp vanilla
Combine all ingredients and mix until smooth and creamy.
**I know you might be thinking, butter in the cream cheese frosting? I thought that too, but it gives it a really good flavor without being too rich.
And now for a few of the other cakes I’ve made over the past three years:
Please excuse me if there are any typos here. I re-read it, but I’m pretty tired so I may have missed something! We’re leaving for China tomorrow, but I wanted to post something before we leave. I hope you enjoy this recipe and please let me know if you try it!