There was really more than one reason to get cooking this week other than Lent. April 22nd also happens to be my Mother’s Birthday! We didn’t go out to celebrate because my Dad was away, and since we were staying home, I decided to make something special for her instead.
Initially, my youngest brother and I chose Red Velvet Cake, but we made her this Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting instead, because Carrot Cake is one of her favourites (as is mine). We then surprised her with the cake during the afternoon, sang her an out of tune birthday song and made her blow one measly candle.
That’s what happens when you don’t want to poke too many holes on your masterpiece. Don’t shoot me, this was my first time to make and frost a layered cake and I thought it looked so pretty!
But more importantly, did she like the cake? The answer would be yes. Actually, everybody thought the cake was a hit! Try it. And try it cold. Trust me.
Simple But Amazing Carrot Cake
Makes two 8×4-inch loaf cakes or two 8-inch round cakes
For the Cake
- 1 cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour, or All-Purpose Flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Zest of one orange, optional
- ½ scant teaspoon of fine grain salt
- 1 ½ cups coarsely grated carrots, about 2 medium carrots
- ½ cup shredded coconut, optional
- ¼ cup coarsely chopped pecans, optional
- ¼ to 1/3 cup raisins, finely chopped, optional
- ¼ cup canola oil, can be increased to 1/2 cup if a really light, airy and moist cake is wanted
- 1 cup granulated sugar, or a combination of granulated and light brown
- ¼ cup plain whole milk yogurt
- 2 large eggs
For the Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- pecan halves, for optional garnish
Make the cake
- 1. Preheat the oven to 350º F (180º C). Butter and flour the pans to be used, or use parchment paper.
- 2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, orange zest and salt. In another bowl, mix together: the carrots, coconut, pecans, walnuts, and raisins.
- 3. In a large bowl, with a spatula or whisk, combine the oil and sugar together until all of the sugar has been coated with oil. Once combined, whisk in the yogurt until the mixture is smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until the batter is smooth.
- 4. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and stir evenly. Gently fold in the carrot mixture, and divide the batter among the baking pans.
- 5. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until risen and firm to the touch, or until a cake tester or a thin knife inserted into the centers comes out clean. The cakes will have began to slightly separate from the sides of the pans.
- 6. Cool the cakes in their pans on cooling racks. *
Make the frosting
- 7. While cakes are cooling, combine the cream cheese, butter, and confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl, and beat until smooth.
- 8. To frost the layer cake, use an off-set spatula, spread a thin layer of frosting over the top and sides of the layer cake. Let the frosting set in the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes; then, spread a thick coat over the base coat. Refrigerate the whole cake as it is best eaten after spending 24 hours in the fridge. **
** The frosting is enough to top two loaves, but for me it was just the right amount to cover my cake as well, given that we're not really big frosting people. However, if you do want to make sure that you get to evenly and generously frost your cake, you may want to double or add at least another half-recipe of frosting just to be sure. Adapted from The Sophisticated Gourmet
For Black Saturday, we decided to go adventuring with good friends of the family, the Co family. It’s a first without my Dad, who is taking a vacation with his high school buddies in the US and the Caribbean. Plus, my other brother is in Taiwan for a Study Tour. I really had no idea where we were during most parts of the trip because there were no signages around in most parts of the provinces. People there are probably so used to their neighborhoods that they just don’t need it anymore.
We had our first stop at the Pandin Lake in San Pablo, Laguna (Philippines), where we hiked for 15 minutes before getting to the lake itself. We cruised in the lake a bit while having brunch on a raft. The raft is pulled by two boatwomen using a black wire tied to the other end of the lake, where there is a small grotto with the image of the Virgin Mary.
As for the food, my favourite was the Pako Salad, as it is called in the vernacular. It’s actually Fiddlehead Ferns, which grow in abundance in that area. It was made with tomatoes, white onions and salty eggs. That’s the kind of stuff that makes me swoon. We also had Grilled Tilapia, and this amazing crunchy Baby Shrimp Dish. It has a hint of a coconut milk taste and true enough, when we asked our boatwomen how the dish was cooked, she said that they cooked the shrimp until crunchy and until they absorbed all of the coconut milk.
We then hopped on back to the car and drove all the way to Ugu Bigyan’s Pottery Garden in Tiaong, Quezon. It sits on a 1.5-hectare property, containing his home and some dining areas where you can enjoy delicious meals served only by appointment. I kind of wish we ate here after seeing this mouth-watering article on the Internet.
They also have small rooms with beds and couches where tourists can have naps or take a break after having their meals. We came here to check out his famous pottery and didn’t get a chance to meet Ugu himself and see his pottery-making in action, because we didn’t set up a formal appointment with him. We shall, next time. Deep in his property is a showcase of his pottery pieces for sale. I find that his works are very homey and have a cozy feel to them.
He has a lot of different clay wind chimes, each made in unique shapes and sizes, but the one with the tiny green leaves are by far my favourite ones because of its pure (and not creepy) sound. I also like this piece of metalwork he has displayed. He has quite a few owl designs but this is what I like best. Because his wares are understandably charged according to their beauty and quality (also known as expensive), the best place to come here I am told would be during sale days, or his birthday where the sale percentage will depend on his age. That’s pretty nifty.
Our last stop was the 4.7-hectare Sitio de Amor farm back in San Pablo, Laguna. The farm used to be a private land but the owners decided to open it for the public. It’s still relatively low-key and is still considered private because only people with reservations are allowed inside.
The owners wanted to maintain the sanctuary feel that the farm gave to its visitors. It has a small lake which I believe you can swim in, but they also have a small Aztec-themed infinity pool. We had a brief tour of the farm and it made me wish my family had farmland too. It would be so nice to have your own tomatoes, apples and mangoes growing out of your backyard, wouldn’t it? You could just step out and pick them fresh to eat or use in salads. Oh the fantasies of a city girl.
Anyway, we had our late lunch composed of Pako Salad (again), Grilled Marlin, Grilled Pork, Asian Green Mussels Soup and this amazing Roasted Chicken which was my favourite. It was marinated in a sweet sauce with star anise. All the meat were cooked until they were so tender to the bite.
The selection was a simple buffet but it was so delicious going for seconds is hard to resist. There was Black Gulaman (black gelatin with juice and sago) for dessert, and a big bowl of sweet tangy pineapples which I munched on happily.
Afterwards was a swimming session where we played the Marco Polo game. Because I did some laps in the pool after having taken a break from swimming for so long, I woke up the next morning with aching swimming muscles. We actually ended up getting home half an hour before midnight because of the traffic, and mostly because it was surprisingly difficult to scout for a restaurant to have dinner in that night. Most of the places we wanted to go to were closed for the holiday. But it was all in all a very very good weekend, and I believe I have the Lord to thank for it.
I wanted to get this out in time but oh well… Belated Happy Easter, everyone!