Ginger Carrot Cake with Pecan Filling

Oh wow, I am in love. I have met my match when it comes to cakes. I’ve been eyeing this recipe for the past year or so and this weekend I decided to try it out. And boy am I glad I did. I will admit, my arm did hurt after a while grating the damn carrots, but the result is worth it. Not only is this cake delicious, but it’s super moist and it’s got pecans and crystallized ginger in it to add extra flavor.. It smells lovely as it bakes. The pecan filling is a must. You have to make the filling for the cake or it’s a bust. The recipe called for toasted coconut to be placed around the cake, but I decided to skip that part because it was almost 9:00 pm Saturday night and the hubby and I were dying to taste it. The next time I make it, I’ll be sure to add the toasted coconut.

Thank you to Michael Recchiuti for sharing his recipe. Here is my adaptation and changes for the recipe.

CAKE INGREDIENTS

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

2 cups granulated sugar

4 extra-large eggs

4 cups grated carrot (about 8 large)

1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

1/3 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped

PECAN FILLING

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

3/4 cup unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups pecan, toasted and coarsely chopped

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

8 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups shredded coconut, toasted

DIRECTIONS

Bake the Cake

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Butter and flour 2 9-inch cake pan

2. Sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon, baking powder, ginger, and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the vegetable oil and sugar. Add half of the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Add the remaining dry ingredients into four parts, adding an egg in between each addition.

4. Fold in the pecans, crystallized ginger, and carrots.

5. Pour into the prepared pans, filling the pans 1/2-2/3 of the way high. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 70 to 75 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely on wire rack.

Make the Filling

1. In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, flour, and salt. Gradually add the cream, stirring until blended.

2. Place the saucepan over low heat and add the butter. Stir until the butter has melted and then let simmer for 25 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm before stirring in nuts and vanilla. Let cool completely until needed.

Make the Frosting

1. Cream the butter with cream cheese and beat until blended. Sift in the powdered sugar. Add the vanilla.

2. The frosting must be firm enough to spread without running. Refrigerate to firm as needed.

Assemble the Cake

1. Loosen the cakes from pan and invert on to a plate. OPTIONS: Split each cake into two horizontal layers using a serrated knife to make a 4 layer cake, or leave the cakes alone and make a standard 2-layer cake.

2. Spread the pecan cream filling between the layers of the cakes and then cover top and sides with cream cheese frosting. Finish by pressing the toasted coconut around the side of the cake.

***Make sure to serve the cake at room temperature.

Please excuse my crappy frosting style. Despite how messy the cake looks, it was so delicious. My hubby even said it’s the best carrot cake he’s ever eaten. Yay.

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Chocolate Chip Cookie with Walnuts

Who can say no to homemade chocolate chip cookies? Certainly not me. I may be known for my baking, but among my friends and family, my chocolate chip cookies are legendary. They’re requested to be made all the time. Even days later these cookies will still be soft and chewy. There’s only one kind of chocolate chips I use and they are the Guittard Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. I’ve been using their recipe for as long as I can remember and I add one additional ingredient to the recipe. If you don’t like nuts or are allergic, you can omit them from the recipe. But if you’re a nut lover, make sure to add the walnuts. I’d also like to try making these with chopped pecans in the future.

Also, after I take the cookies out of the oven, I leave them on the tray for 2 minutes prior to moving them to the wire rack. Enjoy!

Yield: 7 dozen cookies

INGREDIENTS

2 1/4 cups unsifted all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup white sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups (12 oz. bag) Guittard Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.

2. In a small bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.

3. In a large bowl cream butter, sugar and brown sugar until light. Beat in eggs and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add flour mixture until combined. Stir in chips and walnuts.

4. Drop by well-rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.

5. Once cookies are out of the oven, leave on baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer them to wire rack to cool.

Peanut Butter Blossoms

This year I decided to give baked goods as a gift. On Sunday I spent mostly all day making chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter blossoms – if you love chocolate and peanut butter, this is the cookie for you. This is one of my husband’s favorite cookie. In the past, every Christmas his sweet grandmother (we miss you Granny M) would make him a batch of these cookies. For the past few years I’ve tried making them but something never turns out right with the dough. The cookies get too hard or they don’t have enough of a peanut butter taste.

I finally found the right recipe and they turned out beautifully. The cookies were soft and delicious the next day. Hooray!

Thanks to BrownEyedBaker for sharing this recipe.

Yield: 4 dozen cookies

INGREDIENTS

48 Hershey Kisses

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup shortening

3/4 cup peanut butter (use creamy)

1/3 cup white sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 egg

2 tablespoon milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

sugar

DIRECTIONS

1. Set oven to 375 degrees. Unwrap Hershey’s Kisses.

2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, beat shortening and peanut butter until well blended. Add sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk, and vanilla. Beat until well blended.

4. Gradually add flour mixture to peanut butter mix. Stir after each addition until well blended.

5. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and roll in sugar in a small bowl. Place on cookie sheet about 2-inches apart.

6. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Once out of the oven, immediately press a kiss into the center of each cookie and remove cookies to a wire rack. Cool completely.

Chocolate Soufflé

On Sunday night, I attempted the art of making a chocolate soufflé. I found a pretty easy recipe to use that makes 2 soufflés. One for me and one for my husband. It was a lot simpler than I thought. My concern was that it wouldn’t rise and to my surprise, when they came out of the oven, they rose. So I did a little victory dance in my kitchen. Unfortunately after a few minutes, the soufflés did deflate, but I read an article online that assured me it was okay for it to do so.

Once I tasted the soufflé though, there was no doubt in my mind that this was a success. The inside was creamy, smooth and the chocolate melted inside your mouth. I will for sure be making this dessert again.

Oh, and I didn’t make a special sauce or anything for the soufflés. The flavors were already spot on that I didn’t find it necessary to add more to it.

INGREDIENTS

3 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

3 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 egg yolks

2 egg whites

pinch of salt (1/8 teaspoon)

pinch of cream of tartar (1/8 teaspoon)

DIRECTIONS

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Use 1 tablespoon of the butter to grease 2 8 ounce ramekins (I used 7 oz and it worked perfectly fine). Coat the ramekins with cocoa, tapping out the excess

2. In a large bowl, over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and remaining butter. Stir occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and add the vanilla. Whisk in the yolks, one at a time, until smooth. Set aside.

***You can easily separate your eggs by hand or by using an egg separator. If you are doing it by hand, crack the egg open over a small bowl (without letting the yolk fall through), and tip the yolk from one half shell to the next until it’s cleared of all egg whites. If you don’t want to do it by hand, use a separator. Egg separators are fairly cheap and work effectively. I got mine from the local hardware store for under $3.

3. In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites with the sugar, salt, and cream of tartar until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Gently fold the egg-white mixture into the chocolate. Spoon into the ramekins – do not overfill, just fill it as close to the top of the ramekin. (NOTE: You can make the soufflés up to 1 day ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.)

4. Bake until puffed and set. About 20 minutes if you don’t refrigerate. About 25-30 minutes if you refrigerate prior to baking. Serve immediately.

It’s not the best picture, but I got a pic after it deflated.

Glazed Brownies with Mint Cookies

This past summer, a couple of people at work challenged me to make brownies topped with Girl Scout’s Thin Mint Cookies. Genius idea, right? So I told them, I would accept their challenge and I went on a brownie recipe hunt. I’ve always made brownies from a box mix, so I wanted to prove that I could make them from scratch. So low and behold, I found a simple enough recipe from The Food Network website – it’s not a fancy brownie from any of the big name stars featured on there, it’s a solid recipe that got good reviews. So I said, why not?

I am pleased to say that the brownies turned out excellent. And since I couldn’t find any Thin Mint cookies, I used Oreo’s Mint Fudge Cremes. Not only did the brownies look good, but they were very satisfying. It’s not too strong in the mint flavor, so those that aren’t big fans of mint will enjoy it.

During the holiday season, mint is one of my favorite flavors to work with – so I wanted to share this recipe. You’ll impress your family, friends, and co-workers if you bring a tray of these to a holiday party. Enjoy and bon appetit!

INGREDIENTS for BROWNIES

1 ½ cups flour

1 ½  teaspoon baking powder

¼  teaspoon fine salt

10 oz. finely chopped semi-sweet chocolate (I used Baker’s Chocolate Squares)

2 oz. finely chopped unsweetened chocolate (I used Baker’s Chocolate Squares)

½  cup unsalted butter

2 cups white sugar

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

INGREDIENTS for GLAZE

6 oz. chopped semi-sweet chocolate

½  cup heavy whipping cream

ADDITIONAL INGREDIENT

Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies or Oreo Mint Fudge Cremes – 1/2 box of cookies, chopped

DIRECTIONS

1. Line a 13 x 9 inch pan with parchment paper, with edges hanging over the sides (for easy lift out of pan), lightly butter

2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3. Combine chocolate and butter in a heat-proof bowl (like Pyrex glass bowls). Fill a sauce pan with water and simmer over medium-high heat. Once water is simmering, turn off heat. Set bowl on top of sauce pan and whisk until smooth.

4. In a large bowl, whisk sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Stir chocolate mixture in and blend evenly. Add dry ingredients and stir just until blended. DO NOT OVER MIX.

5. Pour batter (the batter will be thick) into pan and bake 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into brownie comes out coated with a fudgey crumb. Cool the brownies in the pan on a wire rack.

6. While brownies are cooling, make glaze. Put chocolate in medium bowl. Boil heavy cream and pour over chocolate. Let stand for 5 minutes. Then stir.

7. Pour glaze and spread evenly over the brownies. Add the chopped cookies on top. Let brownies set at room temperature.

8. Once cooled, lift the brownies out of the pan and cut into 24 squares.

Friday’s Focus Ingredients #2: GINGER

Ginger is by far one of my favorite ingredients to use. I’ve grown up eating plenty of ginger because my mom used a lot of it in the traditional dishes she made. Ginger is a staple in a lot of Asian dishes. Ginger is aromatic, pungent, and spicy and adds a lot of flavor.

The spice ginger is the underground rhizome (mass of roots) of the ginger plant, known botanically as Zingiber officinale. The plant’s botanical name is thought to be derived from its Sanskrit name singabera which means “horn shaped,” a physical characteristic that ginger reflects.

The flesh of the ginger rhizome can be yellow, white or red in color, depending upon the variety. It is covered with a brownish skin that may either be thick or thin, depending upon whether the plant was harvested when it was mature or young. The ginger rhizome has a firm, yet striated texture.

GINGER HISTORY

Native to southeastern Asia, a region whose cuisines still feature this wonderfully spicy herb, ginger has been renowned for millennia in many areas throughout the world. Ginger is mentioned in ancient Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern writings, and has long been prized for its aromatic, culinary and medicinal properties.

After the ancient Romans imported ginger from China almost two thousand years ago, its popularity in Europe remained centered in the Mediterranean region until the Middle Ages when its use spread throughout other countries.

Although it was a very expensive spice, owing to the fact that it had to be imported from Asia, it was still in great demand. In an attempt to make it more available, Spanish explorers introduced ginger to the West Indies, Mexico and South America, and in the 16th century, these areas began exporting the precious herb back to Europe.

Today, the top commercial producers of ginger include Jamaica, India, Fiji, Indonesia and Australia.

GINGER & HEALTH

Historically, ginger has a long tradition of being very effective in alleviating symptoms of gastrointestinal distress. In herbal medicine, ginger is regarded as an excellent carminative (a substance which promotes the elimination of intestinal gas) and intestinal spasmolytic (a substance which relaxes and soothes the intestinal tract).

Modern scientific research has revealed that ginger possesses numerous therapeutic properties including antioxidant effects, an ability to inhibit the formation of inflammatory compounds, and direct anti-inflammatory effects.

Ginger can not only be warming on a cold day, but can help promote healthy sweating, which is often helpful during colds and flus. A good sweat may do a lot more than simply assist detoxification.

Ginger is so concentrated with active substances, you don’t have to use very much to receive its beneficial effects. For nausea, ginger tea made by steeping one or two 1/2-inch slices (one 1/2-inch slice equals 2/3 of an ounce) of fresh ginger in a cup of hot water will likely be all you need to settle your stomach. For arthritis, some people have found relief consuming as little as a 1/4-inch slice of fresh ginger cooked in food.

GINGER STORAGE & SELECTION

Whenever possible, choose fresh ginger over the dried form of the spice since it is not only superior in flavor but contains higher levels of gingerol (anti-inflammatory compounds) as well as ginger’s active protease (its anti-inflammatory compound). Fresh ginger root is sold in the produce section of markets. When purchasing fresh ginger root, make sure it is firm, smooth and free of mold. Ginger is generally available in two forms, either young or mature. Mature ginger, the more widely available type, has a tough skin that requires peeling while young ginger, usually only available in Asian markets, does not need to be peeled.

Even through dried herbs and spices like ginger powder are widely available in supermarkets, you may want to explore the local spice stores in your area.

Ginger is also available in several other forms including crystallized, candied and pickled ginger.

Fresh ginger can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks if it is left unpeeled. Stored unpeeled in the freezer, it will keep for up to six months.

Dried ginger powder should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place. Alternatively, you can store it in the refrigerator where it will enjoy an extended shelf life of about one year.

GINGER COOKING TIPS & HINTS

To remove the skin from fresh mature ginger, peel with a paring knife. The ginger can then be sliced, minced or julienned. The taste that ginger imparts to a dish depends upon when it is added during the cooking process. Added at the beginning, it will lend a subtler flavor while added near the end, it will deliver a more pungent taste.

RECIPES

Here are a few simple ginger recipes to try

Ginger-Orange Dressing

½ teaspoon freshly grated orange zest

¼ cup orange juice

4 teaspoons canola oil

1 tablespoon minced scallions

1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger

¼ teaspoon minced garlic

Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

Whisk orange zest, orange juice, oil, scallions, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl until well blended. (Alternatively, combine ingredients in a small jar, secure the lid and shake until blended.)

Spinach, watercress and Belgian endive are good matches for this zesty dressing.

Ginger Cheesecake Dessert (from Betty Crocker)

1 pouch Betty Crocker® gingerbread cookie mix

½ cup butter or margarine, softened

1 tablespoon water

1 egg

1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

2 cups frozen (thawed) whipped topping

1. Heat oven to 375°F. Spray bottom and sides of 13×9-inch pan with cooking spray. In large bowl, stir cookie mix, butter, water and egg until soft dough forms.

2. Make 5 cookies by shaping dough into 5 (1-inch) balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with bottom of glass dipped in sugar. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are set. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack.

3. Meanwhile, press remaining dough in pan. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

4. In large bowl, beat milk, cream cheese and lemon juice with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Fold in whipped topping. Spread over cooled cookie base.

5. Crumble 5 baked cookies; sprinkle over cream cheese mixture. Cover; refrigerate about 1 hour or until chilled. Store covered in refrigerator.

Chicken with Ginger, Scallions, Cilantro, and Chili Peppers

*This is one of my go-to recipes I make for dinner – it’s delicious, fragrant, and spicy. I don’t normally use exact measures when making this dish, so you can add/subtract depending on how you want it. The amounts I list sound about right when I make it.

4 to 6 chicken thighs or breasts, sliced into stir-fry pieces

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

1 to 2 cloves of garlic, minced

½ cup to 1 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes

1 cup sliced mushrooms (baby bellas or white buttons are fine)

2 tbsp minced ginger

3 to 4 green scallions chopped

handful of cilantro chopped

2 to 3 Thai Chili peppers minced

1. In a large skillet or wok (preferred), add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add minced garlic and let it saute for a 1-2 minutes. Add your chicken and cook until it’s no longer pink (6-8 minutes, stir constantly) – at this point, you can add a little salt to flavor the chicken, just a few pinches.

2. Once chicken is cooked, add tomatoes and mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes or so until tomatoes are tender and can be “mashed” with a wooden spoon. Press down on tomatoes in pan lightly. Add ginger, scallions, cilantro, and peppers and cook for 3-4 more minutes. Serve with rice and enjoy!

Additional Uses
  • Turn up the heat while cooling off by making ginger lemonade. Simply combine freshly grated ginger, lemon juice, cane juice or honey and water.
  • Add extra inspiration to your rice side dishes by sprinkling grated ginger, sesame seeds and nori strips on top.
  • Combine ginger, tamari, olive oil and garlic to make a wonderful salad dressing.
  • Add ginger and orange juice to puréed sweet potatoes.
  • Add grated ginger to your favorite stuffing for baked apples.
  • Spice up your healthy sautéed vegetables by adding freshly minced ginger.

*I do have several dessert recipes that feature ginger and will add those later this month as the holiday nears 🙂