There are certain recipes that become family secrets for generations and they normally die with the patriarch of the family. This happens all too many times with family favorites. On my father’s side of the family that one recipe was his carrot cake recipe. It took me 20 years just to get it from him.
As a kid growing up, every holiday season meant carrot cake was about to be in full production at the Temple residence. Pounds and pounds of carrots were purchased from the store. Newspapers full of carrot peelings and tops and the food processor getting every pennies worth of its cost put to use. We went through a few of them, which is why my dad is like the consumer report of kitchen appliances.
Now, even though I was in charge of peeling, shredding and using the food processor to get the carrots to the right consistency. I still wasn’t allowed to have the recipe. My father would give it to me like any person keeping the recipe a secret. A little bit of this, a dash of that, bake it and there you have it. What could I create with vague details? Nothing!
My father finally gave me the coveted full recipe along with others once I graduated from college. I finally had the family recipes and I was going to master them. After years of trying them he finally gave me the nod of approval for perfecting the recipe. Family members would ask me to share recipe with them but my response was always, “I just got the recipe and I’m his son. I cannot give that up yet.” And that’s how it has been for years.
Last year I was telling my dad how one of my cousins reached out to me asking for the recipe and I explained to him why I could not give that away to him. With the calmest response my dad said, “Oh that’s nothing but the carrot cake recipe out of the NOPSI cookbook; it’s not my own personal recipe.”
Imagine my devastation when I found out that after all these years this deliciousness that’s been regarded as a coveted family recipe is merely a recipe out of a local cookbook?!
I eventually got over it. And in usual Kenneth form, of course, I added my own twist to this great recipe by adding spiced pecans to the batter and let me tell you it gives it a new depth of flavor. The moist cake, the spicy notes from the pecans and the richness from the cream cheese icing is a symphony in your mouth.
Since finding out this family recipe is not a true family original it that means I don’t have to be as secretive and I can share this deliciousness with you. Some of you may not like carrot cake others may love it. This recipe is so good it will definitely convert non-believers to believers.
Carrot Cake with Spiced Pecans
- Carrot Cake:
- 20 oz. shredded carrots
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 ½ cups oil
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Spiced Pecans:
- 1 cup pecans chopped
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne
- 2 teaspoons water
- Cream Cheese Icing:
- 1 lb. powder sugar
- ½ stick unsalted butter room temperature
- 8 oz. cream cheese room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Place 10 oz. of carrots in the food processor and pulse for 1 minute scrape down and pulse for another minute until carrots are fine. Then repeat with remaining carrots, sit to the side in a bowl.
- In a cast iron skillet over medium heat, toast pecans by stirring for 3-4 minutes until you can smell them. Add butter, salt, black pepper and cayenne, cook for 30 seconds, add water and cut off heat. Transfer pecans to metal bowl, not plastic, you want the pecans to cool for 10 minutes.
- Get two bowls out in one bowl mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl with a hand mixer blend sugar and oil together. Add eggs one at a time. Next, in thirds add flour mixture. Working flour as little as possible. Fold in carrots, vanilla and ½ cup of pecans. Transfer to greased 9 x 13 pan. Bake for 45-47 minutes. Cake should be firm and slightly pulling away from the sides of the pan. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 1 hour before icing.
- To make the cream cheese icing in a bowl add powder sugar, butter, cream cheese and vanilla. Mix with a hand blender together on low speed for about 1-2 minutes until mixture is light and fluffy. Spread evenly over cake. Garnish with remaining pecans.
- You can assemble in a mason jars, cut with a biscuit cutter cut out cake to size that will fit in jars. In a zip lock bag add icing, cut off a corner piece to make a pipping bag. To assemble add a dab of icing. Then add cake, icing, cake, icing then top off with pecans.