Slow Like Honey »

Masthead header

the tale of three cakes

For the past few months, I’ve lusted over the glorious concoction called Bill’s Big Carrot Cake from Dorie’s book. With its impressive layers and pillowing cream cheese frosting, it practically demanded attention which made it a perfect choice for when it came time for me to pick the next recipe for Tuesday’s With Dorie. Till now, I’d never baked a carrot cake. GASP! I’ve baked everything else from Coconut cake to Cheesecake but not Carrot cake. Why? Because it seemed like a cake that everyone could make better than I ever could.

That might sound nuts, but think about it. Everyone has recipes that pass on from generation to generation, recipes that have stood the test of time. But sadly, I don’t have that envious pile of recipe cards stained with butter and/or coffee because my mom didn’t grow up in America but in Indonesia. And the natural food resources in Indonesia are quite different than here. So, for the first 15 years of my life, baked goods for me primarily came from Betty Crocker’s boxes.

When I started baking more, I learned not from the traditions passed on to me, but from television shows or books or simple trial and error. Carrot cake was one of those All-American, down-home desserts that every mother/friend/grandmother had in their repertoire and I greedily devoured every bite I could get throughout the years, thinking sadly that this was one cake that I couldn’t possibly make as well as them because they had years and years of tradition behind them.

Don’t fret though, I slowly conquered that ridiculous mind obstacle in time to learn that duh! You make your own traditions, silly girl. And my experience baking this cake is one that will go down in the books. I didn’t bake just one cake. Oh no, that would’ve been too easy. Instead I baked three cakes, accidentally, mind you. Accidentally? Oh yes, folks, I messed up two times before I made one suitable enough to satisfy my perfectionist streak.

My first fatal attempt at this cake should be chalked up to two things: not drinking enough coffee in the morning, and failing to thoroughly read the directions. Instead of filling the cake pans only half way, I filled them to the brim. Needless to say, they exploded. Literally. Cake batter was everywhere. But I was undeterred, and attempted the second one, making note to only fill the pans 2/3 of the way. While the cake was baking away, I eagerly ate the bits and scraps of my disastrous cake. Hey, can’t let it go to waste, right?

I wish I could say the second cake was better. And it was, slightly. But I must’ve over-mixed the cake or something because the center of my cakes sunk, not enough to trash them, but enough o know that making a layer cake out them would be tricky. By this time, I was flustered, frustrated, frightened. With less than 2 hours till the carrot cake needed to make their appearance at a birthday party, I knew I was in a crunch. I gave the recipe a last try, this time converting it to a sheet pan.

Thank god it worked or else I might’ve gotten homicidal in my kitchen. By this time, I was steeped in butter and sugar, my hair a frantic bird’s nest, and smelling faintly of sweat. But I happily danced around my kitchen at the sight of my third cake.

I’m no stranger to the wonders of cream cheese frosting and this one didn’t let me down. It was sweet and tangy, and blended beautifully to make a nice solid frosting. After decorating the sheet cake and adding some chopped walnuts to the top, my adventure was complete.

Being a freak about not-wasting food, I proceeded to assemble the second cake for a dinner party I attended later. The layers were a little shaky and lopsided as expected, but that didn’t stop my friends from groaning with delight as they sunk their teeth into the moist cake speckled with carrots and coconut. The third sheet cake delivered to the birthday girl was greeted in the same way. She loved every bite of it, and sent me a nice thank-you note.

I had enough cake to last me a week, especially since my second round with this cake produced enough batter to make small mini loaves of carrot cake as well. These little babies lasted a week without drying out and I enjoyed nibbling on them every morning with a big cup of coffee. If I could change one thing about this recipe, it would be the sugar content. 2 cups of sugar as well as 1 cup of shredded coconut is enough sugar to sending you soaring high, not to mention the additional cream cheese frosting.


All in all, this experience is one for the books. Traditions are made through your stories and tales, and my tale of three cakes is one to pass on to my future generations. I hope all you Tuesday-bakers enjoyed playing around with this recipe as I much as I had, but minus all the errors.

Bill’s Big Carrot Cake
From Baking: from my home
Yields 10 servings


For the cake:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon salt
3 cups grated carrots (about 9 carrots, you can grate them in food processor fitted w/ a shredding a blade or use a box grater)
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
½ cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden) or dried cranberries
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 large eggs

For the frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick ( 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 pound or 3 and ¾ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or ½ teaspoon pure lemon extract
½ cup shredded coconut (optional)
Finely chopped toasted nuts and/or toasted shredded coconut (optional)

Getting ready:
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter three 9-x-2-inch round cake pans, flour the insides, and tap out the excess. Put the two pans on one baking sheet and one on another.

To make the cake:
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, stir together the carrots, chopped nuts, coconut, and raisins.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the sugar and oil together on a medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one by one and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear. Gently mix the chunky ingredients. Divide the batter among the baking pans.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until a thin knife inserted into the centers comes out clean. The cakes will have just started to come away from the sides of the pans. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes and unmold them. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.
The cakes can be wrapped airtight and kept at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.

To make the frosting:
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is velvety smooth. Beat in the lemon juice or extract.
If you’d like coconut in the filling, scoop about half of the frosting and stir the coconut into this position.

To assemble the cake:
Put one layer top side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. If you added the coconut to the frosting, use half of the coconut frosting to generously cover the first layer (or generously cover with plain frosting). Use an offset spatula or a spoon to smooth the frosting all the way to the edges of the layer. Top with the second layer, this time placing the cake stop side down, and frost with the remainder of the coconut frosting or plain frosting. Top with the last layer, right side up, and frost the top- and the sides- of the cake. Finish the top with swirls of frosting. If you want to top the cake with toasted nuts or coconut, sprinkle them on now while the frosting is soft. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes, just to set the frosting before serving.

This cake can be served as soon as the frosting is set. It can also wait, at room temperature and covered with a cake keeper overnight. The cake is best served in thick slices at room temperature and while it’s good plain, it’s even better with vanilla ice cream or some lemon curd.

The cake will keep at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. It can also be frozen. Freeze it uncovered, then when it’s firm, wrap airtight and freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
April 22, 2008 - 6:39 am

Amy W - Mine cake sunk too…wonder why…

April 22, 2008 - 7:20 am

Holly - Yeah, I overfilled the cupcakes I made too and they looked just like that overflowed pan above. At least this cake pretty much tastes great no matter what happens. Thanks again for choosing it!

April 22, 2008 - 7:20 am

katrina - Oooh… Those look so good I practically want to stick my finger in and scoop up some frosting to taste.

I too had the exploding batter problem on my cupcakes. It rises a LOT more than I expected!

April 22, 2008 - 7:51 am

Sihan - this seems to be the most problematic baking recipe ever. strange.. had no probs with mine though. anyway, great effort on this one! u sure are one hell of a perfectionist!

April 22, 2008 - 8:58 am

Stacie - Yum, carrot cake is awesome and yours looks wonderful! You get lots of credit for making it three times! After the first exploding I would have threw it in a bowl with cream cheese/nut/coconut layers and made a trifle. Hmm…that’s an idea, I’ve never seen or had a carrot cake trifle. I wish I could join TWD but I don’t know who would eat all of it, my husband is picky and if I ate it all I’d be 400 lbs!

April 22, 2008 - 9:13 am

Caitlin - Wow – thanks for the awesome recipe pick, and I’m impressed at your persistence! Third time’s definitely the charm!

April 22, 2008 - 9:52 am

Heather b - great pick this week! I love carrot cake so it was a delicious pick for me! I can’t believe you made it 3 times! Good for you for sticking with it!

April 22, 2008 - 9:54 am

Di - I’m impressed that you stuck with it and made the cake three times! Thanks for picking this recipe–I had a lot of fun with it.

April 22, 2008 - 10:03 am

carrie - Three times! Wow!
Thanks for picking this week’s recipe.
I loved it!!!

April 22, 2008 - 10:51 am

kdgreen - Thanks for choosing this recipe. I was fairly ambivalent about carrot cake before and would probably never have tried this recipe. Now I am a convert. I thought it was fantastic and will probably make it again! I had my own aesthetic problems with the layers but c’est la vie.

April 22, 2008 - 11:23 am

mary - great pick this week…I don’t even like carrot cake and this was totally fun! Your cake is beautiful!

April 22, 2008 - 11:33 am

Lori - Good pick. A classic. Your cake looks great. Now you can say you baked carrot cake! I had never done marshmallows. THat waht I love about this group.

April 22, 2008 - 11:58 am

slush - My cakes sunk a tad in the middle too. But it didnt matter. This cake is freakin awesome. (I was sacrelidg and didnt even frost mine cupcakes… the cake was THAT good on its own) Your cakes sound great and you get bonus points for dedication babe!

April 22, 2008 - 1:11 pm

kim - sorry about all the snags you hit, but the finished product looks great! thanks for a great pick!

April 22, 2008 - 1:41 pm

Mari - Hmmmm…you chose a great recipe for this week, but boy howdy, did you work hard on it! I totally feel you on re-making a recipe until you get it right. Been there, done that!

April 22, 2008 - 1:43 pm

CB - Wow. way to perserve! I am sure Dorie would be so proud. You picked a great one. Thanks for hosting!
Clara @ I♥food4thought

April 22, 2008 - 4:44 pm

CookiePie - Hi Amanda – saw your blog on Tastespotting and thought I’d check it out. Good for you for sticking with it!

I had a problem a few weeks ago with a sinking cake — I looked it up in the Cake Bible and it said that can happen when you have too much baking powder. So if you’re incline to try this a fourth time… :) maybe cut back a bit on the b.p. and see what happens?

But I think your cakes are gorgeous and I certainly wouldn’t have turned down a slice! All the best…

April 22, 2008 - 4:51 pm

Erin - Thanks for choosing this week’s recipe! You did a great job pushing through this one until you got it right. Your end result is lovely.

April 22, 2008 - 5:49 pm

Chris - Wow! You’re better than me…I think I would have through in the spatula. :) Thanks for a great pick – it was a fun first TWD for me!

April 22, 2008 - 5:58 pm

Melissa - Thanks for the recipe pick. I love it when the picks don’t include chocolate…strange I know. Love the story behind yours!

April 22, 2008 - 6:56 pm

Gigi - I am totally impressed that you baked this cake three times until you got it just right. I loved the photo of the cake in large pan!

April 22, 2008 - 7:46 pm

Amanda - thanks for all the kind words and thoughts everyone! hope you all had fun this week with my treat…

April 22, 2008 - 7:47 pm

steph - this was such a good choice you made! i have two pieces left and my husband is in korea on business, so they are both mine!! glad that all of your yummy cakes were enjoyed!

ps: i wrote you back about fci…hopefully the length didn’t put you to sleep!

April 22, 2008 - 8:04 pm

Rebecca - Ha-ha! Victory! Teaching yourself how to do something new is so rewarding. You OWN this cake now!

April 22, 2008 - 8:10 pm

Annemarie - This was a great choice! Thanks for picking a great one!

April 22, 2008 - 8:15 pm

Robin - Thanks for choosing this recipe, I loved it. Yours looks fantastic!

April 22, 2008 - 8:31 pm

Ulrike aka ostwestwind - Thanks for this recipe. It was the easiest and I really loved it.

Ulrike from Küchenlatein

April 22, 2008 - 10:10 pm

emily227 - I would have definitely given up—way to go! And nice choice—today was my husband’s birthday and he loves carrot cake, so it was an awesome choice!

April 22, 2008 - 10:14 pm

A.Ho - Sweet~!

April 23, 2008 - 12:23 am

diva - wow! that cake looks sooo moist. love it

April 23, 2008 - 4:25 am

Donna - Thanks for choosing this cake! I usually don’t put any extras in my carrot cake…I like it pure! But this was darned good ~ even with the raisins and coconut in it!
Good job for sticking with it to the end!

April 23, 2008 - 5:07 am

Celine - it seems to be pretty common for any sort of carrot cake to sometimes have mishaps. perhaps linked to the level of humidity in the carrots indeed, who knows? you still made it look absolutely stunning!

April 23, 2008 - 5:26 am

Gretchen Noelle - Aaahhhh, so glad you are now creating your own traditions. Maybe not baking three times but just the carrot cake in general! So glad you enjoyed this recipe and very happy that you picked it! Great job!

April 23, 2008 - 6:03 am

Shari - Wow, you made this 3 times! Good for you to keep at it! Thanks for picking this recipe…we’re enjoying every crumb.

April 23, 2008 - 6:54 am

Cecilia - Such a pretty cake! And to think you made it more than once!

Oddly enough, I didn’t even notice that that cake mixture was a little sweet until you said something about. I had just taken a bite of my cupcake when I read what you wrote. However, I think the sweetness factor is definitely tolerable when you add a bit more carrots and cut back on the sugar content of the frosting.

April 23, 2008 - 8:24 am

LyB - Three cakes?! You are a perfectionist! We’re still working on finishing the one HUGE cake I made this weekend, but no one’s complaining! All your cakes look amazing!

April 23, 2008 - 11:06 pm

peabody - This was a great pick…I can see why you made it three times. :)
Good choice.

April 24, 2008 - 10:46 am

Tartelette - All 3 cakes look mouth watering! I have yet to meet a carrot cake I did not like and they are relatively new to my repertoire as I don’t think people would put carrot incake where I am from but rather in a buttery sauce! Perfect!

April 24, 2008 - 4:40 pm

Jayne - Bravo! Three cakes! I’m really impressed. And thanks, also, for choosing this recipe – it was a huge hit with everyone who had a taste. …I’m still just grinning and shaking my head – three cakes. Good for you!

April 25, 2008 - 5:51 am

Sharon - They all look great. Thanks for picking this great recipe!

April 26, 2008 - 7:22 am

beth - Thanks for hosting this week! It was the perfect way to start my adventures with TWD! :)

April 26, 2008 - 10:26 pm

Food Quiz - I have never seen a better looking Carrot cake in my life.

June 23, 2008 - 8:28 pm

CookMaster - to much frosting made it top heavy and bring the cake down

November 12, 2008 - 10:16 pm

an oldie but a goodie « Slow Like Honey - [...] know I’ve made carrot cake before but these two recipes aren’t the same AT ALL. The other is your holiday dessert, the [...]

December 27, 2010 - 12:56 am

Tia - I’ll be baking this for TWD this week – a rewind!

January 25, 2011 - 4:32 am

IN THE KITCHEN: Big Bill’s Carrot Cake Cupcakes « daily nibbles - [...] RECIPE: Big Bill’s Carrot Cake can be found on pages 253-255 of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home To Yours or on the Tuesday’s With Dorie member blog slow like honey. [...]

February 5, 2011 - 6:24 am

Rotterdam Redux « Morningside - [...] things get a bit hazy as I foolishly decided on a whim that I just had to make a space cake (using Bill’s Big Carrot Cake recipe) to celebrate New Year’s–which I then consequently slept through. I remember [...]

April 24, 2012 - 7:24 am

Karen - This was one of the early cakes I missed when TWD started and I made it yesterday. Thanks for a fun story. I am sure 4 years later you have many more traditions now than you did in 08! :)

April 27, 2012 - 4:21 am

aboyce18 - glad you enjoyed it!!

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *



SubscribeEmail this postTweet this post