Goodbye Cake

Goodbyes suck. Even when they’re accompanied by cake. So we’re losing a fabulous nurse at my workplace. She has decided to leave cold, snowy Wyoming to live on the beach in California. I mean who in their right mind would make a decision like that? Leave all this for the beach? Smart people, that’s who. Still, I am going to sorely miss our current Public Health “dream team.” Our current group has been a really good fit for awhile now. It’s such a great change from working with people who exhaust and irritate you to working with people who make you happy to get out of bed and come to work just to see their faces (and I’ll admit it has been a boost to the old self esteem because Shelley laughs at all my jokes no matter how dumb they are. I am now and will always be thoroughly convinced that I am HILARIOUS. Shelley deems it so thus it is true.) So we couldn’t send her off with a store-bought cake so I made one. If you’re going to make a goodbye cake that will ensure that the person you are saying goodbye to will miss you, this is the one to make. It’s a perfect Fall cake, it’s dense yet moist with warm spices and it has all the components I know Shelley likes: carrots and cream cheese icing. I took a gamble that everyone would be okay with the presence of pumpkin because I have a suspicion that Erik is the only person I know who hates pumpkin with the fervor that he does. If anything, I hope the memory of this cake will mean she’ll come visit us on her trips home. I may make more of these in the future to make sure we can lure her back once in awhile. Cake as a Shelley lure. That works for me.

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Pumpkin Carrot Cake
recipe by Ben Starr 

You Need:
to make a meringue first:
6 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 Tablespoons sugar
In your mixer, place the egg whites. Fit the whisk attachment and let it start whipping up. Add the sugar slowly when it begins frothing, then add the cream of tartar. You’re looking for stiff peaks but don’t overheat it. Pop this in a small bowl and set it aside until you’re ready to add it to your batter.

For the cake:
2 sticks butter, softened at room temp
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups pureed pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling please)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups grated carrots
2 1/2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 Tablespoons  cinnamon
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
1 Tablespoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon salt

Heat the oven to 350 and prepare your baking pans. I made this cake in a standard nonstick 9×13 rectangular pan and still had enough batter leftover for like, 4 cupcakes. Butter & flour (or use baking spray) and grease that thing like your life depends upon it. Set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together all your dry ingredients. Set aside. In your

(now clean) bowl of the stand mixer, cream the butter with the sugars until fluffy and well blended. Add in the egg yolks and beat until combined. Add in the pumpkin and vanilla and combine. Add your carrots and blend on low speed until combined. Then add your dry ingredients and blend until no traces of dry stuff are left. Add in the egg whites mixture gently with a spoon and stir until everything is all combined. Put your batter into whatever baking receptacle you’re using, smooth the top, pop it in the oven. Bake until a cake tester (my trusty toothpicks!) comes out clean. Let it cool for a few minutes then turn it out onto a cake plate or wherever it’s going to land when you finally ice it. Cool completely before you frost it.

I used a standard cream cheese frosting to frost it but apparently cream cheese frosting isn’t a very good decorating medium (too thick, wouldn’t pipe) so I ended up making a real quick buttercream to do up some roses on top and called it good. Use whatever recipe you like for frosting. But I do heartily recommend adding the following candied nuts to the cake. It pushes it way over the top from amazingly good to the most spectacular cake you’re likely to have ever eaten.

Candied Nuts
recipe also by Ben Starr

You need:1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon water

In a deep sided pan, combine everything and then bring to a boil and stirring constantly, let it boil until it is a deep brown. In candy terms you want hard crack stage which you can test by placing a drop of your mixture into a small cup of cold water. If that drop turns hard, then it’s ready. You have to be prepared

to work quickly here because sugar can burn fast. Anyway, when the mixture is ready pop 1/2 cup chopped pecans (or whatever kind of nut you’re into) into it and mix fast to get the nuts covered. Drop the nuts onto a greased sheet of parchment paper laid on a cookie sheet and let it cool completely. When it’s cooled, drop the hunk of candied nuts into a bag and beat it up to get chunks of candied nuts. Use this to decorate your cake. Or use a little of it to decorate and then eat the rest like a mad woman like I did. (Sorry I’m not sorry.)

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