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Carrot Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting

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Carrot Cake SliceObviously, I have not kept up with my blog since Hadley has come along.  I really enjoy it, but with Craig doing his med school rotations and trying to get everything together for his residency applications, he is staying quite busy.  Of course Craig is amazing and spends just about every moment he can with us, but med school is still med school.  I am still trying to work from home while I take care of Hadley, so that obviously does not leave a lot of spare time for blogging, hence my hiatus.

However, with the deliciousness of this cake, I have decided to force the time it takes to post this recipe.  It was that good.  Who knows, maybe I will get inspired from this post and start keeping up with this again. 🙂

Craig and I love having family and friends visit, and we have been truly blessed by many visits between living in Charleston and having the sweetest baby in the world.  Still, we decided we wanted Easter this year to be just us.  I was so excited for the family fun we would be having, until Hadley came down with a terrible cold that Friday, and the poor girl felt pretty cruddy all weekend.  Our weekend ended up being a Castle dvd marathon while we cleaned the condo and traded off holding our sweet, sick girl.  A bit of a bummer.

Despite this all, that Sunday was going to be Resurrection Sunday and Hadley’s first Easter; we were going to celebrate.  So, with my lowered revamped expectations of how our weekend would be, I was still determined of two things: 1. We would get a family picture. 2. I would make an Easter dinner and dessert.

With Hadley having a cold Plus the annoyance of such a windy day, there was no way were going to get a picture without a paci in Hadley's mouth.  That girl was such a trooper!

With Hadley having a cold plus the annoyance of such a windy day, there was no way were going to get a picture without a paci in Hadley’s mouth. That girl was such a trooper!

I really don’t remember what all was included in dinner (besides the ham that I made for the very first time), because the whole weekend was such a chaotic blur.  BUT, I do remember the dessert very well. Yum, yum!  I have always loved carrot cake, especially the cream cheese frosting, but I had put off making one since Craig and I got married, because I wasn’t sure how a dairy free cake would compare to the real thing, plus Craig didn’t remember what he thought of carrot cake when he is a kid.  There are few thing more frustrating in the realm of dairy free cooking/baking that taking the time to make something dairy free from scratch only to find out at the end that Craig would have really preferred a from-the-box pan of brownies.  But this was our first Easter Sunday with Hadley, and even though she obviously wouldn’t be having the carrot cake, something about it being her first Easter made me feel extra domestic and Southern Living-esque (same reason I made a ham that weekend for the very first time).

I am so glad I took the risk on this.  Craig loved the cake and the variety it added to his dairy free dessert options.  I was surprised at how easy it was to make dairy free.  And most of all, I was totally surprised at how non-dairy free it tasted, which is always the true sign of success in my world of dairy free cooking and baking.

This recipe is somewhat based off a recipe I found on allrecipes.com, but I made a good number of changes based on reviews and personal preference.

Carrot Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

Cake

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable/canola oil
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 8oz can crushed pineapple (juice mostly drained from it)
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
    • I chopped these up itty bitty, because I wanted the flavor and just a tab of texture, but Craig isn’t a big fan of the intense texture that large nut pieces add to my baking.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
    • I used Earth Balance Vegan Butter Sticks, but Fleischmann’s Unsalted Margarine is another great dairy free option for baking.
  • 8oz cream cheese, softened
    • I used Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese Imitation Cream Cheese.
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners’/powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
    • Again, I chopped these up tiny.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9in round pans.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, pineapple, brown and white sugar, and vanilla extract. Separately, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Add dry ingredient mixture to wet ingredient mixture.  Stir in carrots.  Fold in chopped pecans.
  3. Pour into prepared pans.  Bake in preheated oven 35-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Let cool in pans for ten minutes, and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla extract.  Stir in chopped pecans.  Stack the two cake layers with a coat of frosting in between, and then finish frosting the cake completely.

Carrot Cake

Apple Pie Muffins

Apple Pie Muffins

With Craig being in medical school, we really don’t get to spend too much time together.  Recently, Craig has been trying to make more of an effort to be extra focused and productive while he does study so that our together time can actually be real “together time”…not Craig, me, and the third wheel of medical school notes and notecards.  We also want to be more intentional about how we spend the time we have together so that it is legitimate quality time and not wasted time vegging out on the couch and messing on our own computers.  We want to actually plan fun activities in advance so we can make the most of the little time we have.

Craig and I both love college football.  We could happily spend a date night at home watching a South Carolina game, and that might just be the perfect evening for us.  Or it might not.  Watching a South Carolina football game as Craig’s and my “together time” does in theory sound like a great idea since we both love football.  However, this date night idea is always a gamble. When a football game is really bad, Craig has a more difficult time than I do with not letting the outcome of the game affect his mood for the next couple hours.  He works to let the game go, but neither one of us is interested in having a football game make or break a date night, so we just never know if it will be a good or bad idea.

Of the last three South Carolina games, our game against UGA was the only “date-night” game, and the next two were games that we tracked online or watched on t.v., but Craig still studied and I did some work around the condo.  God clearly understood how desperately Craig and I needed quality time, because the South Carolina game against UGA was the only one of these past three that we won.  And we didn’t just win.  We obliterated them.  That game was a fabulous amount of fun to watch.  We enjoyed some egg salad sandwiches and a game of cribbage while we watched.

The game against LSU sucked, but we fought hard, and I was still proud.

Then there was the South Carolina game against Florida this past weekend.  That game was incredibly painful from beginning to end.  It was embarrassing…agonizing…horrific.  We will just leave it at that.  The one and only redeeming moment of the otherwise miserable three hours of a football game (if that’s what you want to call it) was tasting the batch of apple pie muffins I made to help distract myself from the massacre on t.v.

These muffins are unbelievably moist, but they also have a delightfully crusty streusel topping.  I adapted this recipe from allrecipes.com, making a few changes to my liking loving.  Please try them.  You won’t regret it.  I mean, how can you possibly go wrong when you are making a dessert-for-breakfast type of treat?!

Ingredients

Muffins

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
    • If you don’t have buttermilk, you don’t need to waste you time and money going to the store to get some.  Click here to see how easy it is to make your own dairy or nondairy buttermilk for baking!
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
    • I used Fleischmann’s Unsalted Margarine.
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 3-4 cups peeled and diced Granny Smith apples
    • The batter in this recipe is very sweet, so I highly recommend sticking to Granny Smith apples, or a least make sure to use something tart that will not get lost in the muffin.

Topping

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
    • Again, I used a combination of Fleischmann’s Unsalted Margarine and Blue Bonnet Light.  Either would work, but I was just using up the end of one stick and the beginning of another.

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, stir together 2 1/4 cups of flour, baking soda, salt, 3/4 tsp cinnamon, and nutmeg.  In a separate bowl, mix together the egg, buttermilk, 1/2 cup melted butter, vanilla, and 1 1/2 cups brown sugar until the sugar has dissolved.  Pour egg mixture and diced apples into flour mixture and stir until everything is well blended.
  2. Spoon batter into greased muffin pan(s), filling cups almost to the top.  For me, the batter ended up making 18 “regular-sized” muffins (a pan and a half).
  3. In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1/3 cup flour, and 1 tsp cinnamon.  Add in the 2 Tbsp melted butter, mixing until well blended.  It should be dark brown and clumpy.  Sprinkle over the top of the muffins.
  4. Bake 25 minutes at 375, or until the tops of the muffins spring back when lightly touched.  Remove from muffin pan to a cooling rack, and enjoy!

Pumpkin Spice Bread

Pumpkin Spice Bread

There is absolutely no way around it.  Fall is just not fall without pumpkin bread.

I have seen so many pumpkin bread recipes recently, and I really wasn’t sure which one to try first.  Should I choose one with chocolate chips?  What about the one with the glaze on top?  I was having a lot of trouble deciding, so I asked Craig what he thought.  He of course liked the idea of pumpkin bread that had chocolate chips and glaze, but then we thought about the fact that there are only two people living in this condo.  It takes us some time to work our way through a loaf or two of bread.  So, we decided that this time I should choose a more classic pumpkin bread recipe so that it could work for breakfast, snack-time, dessert, or really whenever, instead of being strictly a dessert bread.  It’s not that Craig and I are opposed to having desserts for breakfast or snacks, because there have been many mornings of brownies for breakfast in the McKinney Condo. 😉  However, since I was going to be making two loaves, I figured I would make something that left more options open for how we want to eat it.  We can mix it up with butter/margarine or cream cheese (not for Craig, though) or just have it plain or whatever.  It’s just more versatile, so we can eat the bread up faster and not let any of it go to waste.  Plus, by choosing a classic pumpkin bread recipe, I could try to deceive myself into thinking that I was actually being healthier.  Our bathroom scale has unfortunately had absolutely no problem informing me that this bread is not exactly a super-food, although it does taste very super!  Craig described it as having the taste of pumpkin pie, but in bread form, and I think he’s pretty spot-on with that.  It’s like all the happiest thoughts and feelings associated with autumn jumped into a loaf of bread so that I could enjoy a fall-themed party in my mouth, complete with party hats, streamers, and confetti. 🙂

Pumpkin Spice Bread

Source: Hostess (With the Mostess)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups canned pumpkin
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup vegetable/canola oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp ground cloves

Directions:

Heat oven to 350.  In a large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, sugar, water, vegetable oil, and eggs.  Beat until well mixed.  Mix the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, nutmeg, and cloves together in a separate bowl.  Stir until well combined.  Slowly add the dry ingredient mixture to the pumpkin mixture, beating until smooth.  Grease two 9x5in bread pans and dust with flour.  Evenly divide the batter between the pans.  Bake for 60-70 minutes or until toothpick inserted all the way to the middle comes out clean.  Let the bread loaves sit for 10 or so minutes before moving them to a cooling rack (unless you are like me, because I burnt my fingers in the midst of my determination to taste the heavenly smelling bread right away…it was worth it).  Serve plain, with butter, or with cream cheese.

Overnight Pumpkin French Toast Casserole

Overnight Pumpkin French Toast Casserole

It’s finally cooling off a little bit down in Charleston, with highs in the upper 70s and lower 80s.  I am loving the break from the deathly heat.  And, best of all, it finally feels appropriate to start cooking and baking with pumpkin!  Now don’t get me wrong, because I could eat pumpkin-anything year-round, and I don’t know that I would get tired of it.  However, Craig pumpkins out a lot more easily.  I’m worried that he’s going to get tired of my unending autumn-talk about pumpkin and then not want to eat all of my creations, but I really can’t help it.  Pumpkin is just so amazing!

My first pumpkin baking experience this year was an overnight pumpkin French toast casserole.  I love classic French toast, and there was not a doubt in my mind that I would love any French toast that had a pumpkin twist to it.  With this recipe, I was particularly interested in the “casserole” aspect, especially because that meant I could do the preparation the night before and just stick it in the oven in the morning.  No having to stand at the stove the entire time.  Just pop it in, and you are free to curl up on the couch, enjoy a cup of coffee, and take in the morning stillness while the casserole bakes.

I was definitely happy with how these turned out.  You bake the toast with two layers of bread in the pan, so each pumpkin French toast “sandwich” is basically a serving.  Craig thought these were absolutely fabulous.  The pumpkin aspect obvious makes this the perfect breakfast for an autumn Saturday morning.  The casserole aspect of it definitely adds a different twist from regular French toast.  I wouldn’t say regular or casserole French toast is better.  They are just different, and I really like both.

I will say that casserole French toast is probably a nice option to have if you have company in town, because you can throw it together the night before and then actually enjoy the company of your guests while it bakes in the morning instead of being stuck in the kitchen making breakfast while everyone else is talking in the family room or something.

This is a very rich meal, especially if you add the syrup on top.  I must warn you that if you eat too much, you will definitely want to go back to sleep for a while right after breakfast.  I know this from experience.  😉

Overnight Pumpkin French Toast Casserole

Recipe From: Daily Dish Recipes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
    • I used Fleischmann’s Unsalted Margarine
  • 12 slices white bread
    • The original recipe calls for what you would think of as you typical “bread-shaped” bread, however Craig was 100% adamant that he would not have French toast that did not use French bread…so that’s what we used.  🙂
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4-1/2 cup pumpkin
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
    • I used vanilla soy milk.

Recipe

  1. Melt the butter or margarine and pour it into a 9X13in pan.
  2. Mix the brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice together.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, and vanilla together.
  4. Lay a single layer of six slices of bread into the casserole dish.
  5. Spread a thin layer of pumpkin (as if you were buttering a piece of bread) over all the all the bread slices.
  6. Sprinkle about half of the brown sugar/pumpkin pie spice mixture over the layer of pumpkin.
  7. Now repeat steps 4-6 again with a second layer of bread (each slice should pretty much line up with the one below it).
  8. Pour the egg mixture over the top of it all, and sprinkle any remaining brown sugar/pumpkin pie mixture over the top.
  9. Cover and refrigerate overnight or at lest 4-8 hours…the longer, the better.
  10. In the morning (or after your soaking time), cover the dish with foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Then, remove the foil and bake an additional 15 minutes.  It should be golden and set.
  11. Remove from oven and serve hot.  Sprinkle with some powdered sugar if you would like.  You could also serve this with some butter, whipped cream, or syrup on top…or you could just eat it plain.  It’s fabulous.  Enjoy!

Streusel Centered Apple Bread

Streusel Centered Apple Bread

I was awakened by a chill that ran over my body.  Cool, crisp air filled in the space around me.  This is glorious I thought as I pulled the covers just a little tighter around my body, and yet made sure to take in the feel of Autumn’s first breath on my face.  True, it was a chill that had run over my body, but it had somehow warmed me from the inside.  After all, this wasn’t just any chill.  It was a chill from the first day of fall.  I rolled over to snuggle up against Craig, and I relished the fact that the air around me was making my nose a little bit cold.  It was refreshing.  I drifted back to sleep as beautiful leaves, cozy sweaters, and hot chocolate all frolicked together through my mind.  Mmmm…the first day of autumn, and, wow, does it feel like it!

Well, I wish I could tell you that my little anecdote above is true, but it is sadly not.  While autumn officially began at 10:59am on September 22 this year, I live in Charleston, SC, so the first “official” day of autumn for me consisted of a high around 88 and a heat index in the 90s.  While I have grown to love Charleston, I do feel that it has a tendency to rob me of my favorite season, and I am not really a fan of this.

I’m not saying that I did not enjoy my first day of fall.  My cousin and uncle were actually visiting that day, so I spent the day showing Sarah around Charleston, and Craig spent the day checking out the USS Yorktown Aircraft Carrier with my uncle.  We met back up at home to watch the South Carolina Gamecocks game on t.v. and to relax.  So, yes, the first day of fall was definitely an enjoyable day.  It was just a hot, anti-fall-esque enjoyable day.

We thankfully had a “cool front” this past Monday and Tuesday, with the highs only reaching the low-to-mid 80s, and I was inspired to begin my first round of autumn baking.  To kick off this season, I made an apple bread that has a streusel “topping” in the middle.  I found this recipe from a blog called You Made That?, and it’s actually an adapted/slightly altered version of a Pampered Chef recipe.  The smell was tantalizing as my bread baked in the oven, but the satisfying taste of warm streusel centered apple bread proved to be well worth the wait.

Ingredients:

Bread

  • 1 cup melted butter
    • I used Fleischmann’s Unsalted Margarine
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled

Streusel

  • 6 Tbsp flour
  • 3 Tbsp butter
    • Again, I used Fleischmann’s Unsalted Margarine
  • 6 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

Directions

  1. Core and chop up the apples, then set them aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, eggs, lemon juice, and vanilla.  Add the dry ingredient to the wet ingredients and mix them together.
  3. Add the apple pieces to the batter, and stir it together.
    • This is kind of thick batter, so make sure to take you spatula and really bring the batter from the bottom to the top, so you can make sure the apples get mixed in well and somewhat evenly.
  4. Make the streusel by combining all the streusel ingredients and stirring well.
    • The streusel will be a medium or dark brown and starting to clump together.  Make sure you don’t stop stirring it too early.
  5. Spray two bread pans (I used a 4 1/2 x 8 1/2in pan and a 5 x 9in pan) with nonstick cooking spray, and scoop out some of the bread batter into the pans.  Crumble half of the streusel topping over each bread pan with your fingers.  Scoop the rest of the batter into the two pans, trying to keep the portions somewhat even.
  6. Bake at 325 for 70-80 minutes or until a knife inserted into the bread comes out clean.

Happy Autumn, everyone!

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