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Monday, April 22, 2013

The "Continent's Best Carrot Cake" vs Alton Brown

I was truly excited for this challenge, even though I was the one that created it and the only one participating it (see how sad and lonely my life is?)

It all started when Mom decided to bake dad a cake for his birthday. Since his favorite is carrot cake, mom found a recipe online called "The Continent's Best Carrot Cake". She had briefly looked at Alton Brown's recipe but decided against it because it looked like too much work (WAT, more than one spice? Uncalled for!) Well, I couldn't let this go down with such indignity! Actually, the reason I decided to challenge this was because mom's and Alton's recipe were so drastically different that I really wanted to bake a cake too and taste the difference. However, I was still convinced that Alton's would be better. (I had made this cake before for dad's birthday, which of course neither of them seem to remember, and they liked it!)

So, here are the contenders:

THE CONTINENT'S BEST CARROT CAKE
  
2 c. sugar
3 tsp. cinnamon
3 tsp. vanilla
3 c. grated carrots
1 c. vegetable oil
2 tsp. baking soda
2 c. flour
4 eggs
1 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients except carrots. Beat for 2 minutes. Mix in carrots. Pour into two 8 inch round cake pans which have been greased and floured. Bake 35-45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Mom decided on buying a can of cream cheese frosting. She also had a heck of a time trying to find "8in cake pans".

ALTON BROWN

Unsalted butter, for the pan
12 ounces, approximately 2 1/2 cups, all-purpose flour, plus extra for pan
12 ounces grated carrots, medium grate, approximately 6 medium
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 ounces sugar, approximately 1 1/3 cups
2 ounces dark brown sugar, approximately 1/4 cup firmly packed
3 large eggs
6 ounces plain yogurt
6 ounces vegetable oil
Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.


Butter and flour a 9-inch round and 3-inch deep cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Set aside.

Put the carrots into a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process for 5 seconds. Add this mixture to the carrots and toss until they are well-coated with the flour.

In the bowl of the food processor combine the sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and yogurt.
With the processor still running drizzle in the vegetable oil. Pour this mixture into the carrot mixture and stir until just combined. Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 45 minutes. Reduce the heat to 325 degrees F and bake for another 20 minutes or until the cake reaches 205 to 210 degrees F in the center.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow cake to cool 15 minutes in the pan. After 15 minutes, turn the cake out onto a rack and allow cake to cool completely. Frost with cream cheese frosting after cake has cooled completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese
2 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
9 ounces powdered sugar, sifted, approximately 2 cups


Notice how Alton's recipe is much more detailed. I love this about him. Some natural cooks may not apprciate having to read a recipe like a book but I need all the direction I can get. The only change I made was that my 3" deep cake pan is in storage, of course, so I had to settle for two 9" pans (in which I weighed the batter so they cooked evenly. I also cut that secondary cooking time by 10 minutes because of the thinner batter.)

Now, my judges for this event were Justin, his Grandma, and un-biased me (lol). And not my dad, because that would be evil and wrong to make him choose between his wife and his daughter! (Actually, he just refused to participate lol). Alton's repuation was on the line here! I had to do my best and make this right! No self-respecting Alton Brown fan would let a self-toting cake beat her! Right?

So.... WHO WAS THE WINNER?

Well, technically, I'd say it was a tie. Even though dad wouldn't admit to liking one cake over the other, I can tell he enjoyed mom's better. And I thought it was pretty good too. I gave it to Justin in a blind taste test. However, it was slightly skewed because I'd mentioned how mom's frosting was sickenly sweet, and Justin picked up on that. A clear winner for frosting was defintely me. I'd always make my own over buying a can of it. Justin told me he did actually enjoy mine a bit more (and Grandma thought both were quite good), dispite the fact that it was drier than mom's. I blame the fact that even with 10 minutes less cooking time, when I checked the temp, it was already at the high end of 210 degrees. Slightly overbaked, possibly.

I'm slightly disappointed in this outcome. I was hoping, because of Alton's more intricate recipe, that there would be a clear difference in taste - whether better tasting or not. But honestly, I couldn't much tell a difference when I tried them side by side.

*Shakes fist* I'll get you next time!!

1 comment:

  1. The up side? You have a crap ton of cake to munch on!

    ReplyDelete