Foolproof Carrot Cake

Carrot cakes seem to pop up everywhere these days in the form of breakfast breads to wedding cakes. Equally as likely to show up in a loaf or with a luscious cream cheese frosting in multiple tiers, carrot cakes are just as pleasing dressed up or down. A combo of sugar and spice, a true carrot cake is sweet enough to be considered a treat, but earthy enough to dismiss any guilt when scarfing it down. Here are some tips for making your ultimate carrot cake:

Use fresh young carrots. As carrots mature, their sugars turn to starches, dulling the sweet carrot flavors.
Never overcook. Test for doneness by sticking a wooden toothpick in the center of the cake, when it comes out clean, remove it from the oven.
Make a signature spice mix. Play around with cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Throw in a little ginger or lemon zest. All of these flavors compliment the carrots wonderfully and will give your cake its own identity.
Avoid over-mixing. Quick breads of all types should have a tender crumb. When mixing wet and dry ingredients together, stop as soon as the two are evenly incorporated. Continue past this and you'll have a tough chewy cake.
Try a low-fat or healthy version. Replace some sugar with apple juice or prune puree or substitute low-fat yogurt for sour cream or buttermilk.
Go nuts. Additions like pecans or almonds will give your cake a little crunch. Texture contrasts are usually pleasantly received by the lucky eaters.
Make extra and freeze. Quick breads and cake do particularly well in the freezer when properly wrapped. Have some on hand for unexpected guests.

With so many carrot cake recipes available, the best way to find the ultimate is to play around with a good basic recipe until it is perfect for you. Why not start with this Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting from the cookbook Mother's Best by Lisa Schroeder with Danielle Centoni.

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