Tuesday, March 29, 2016

(Bunny) Bottoms Up!

Yes, I know that Easter has passed.  And generally I do try to post themed cakes before the actual event, whether it be Christmas, or Easter, or -- you get the idea.  But sometimes that's impossible.  Because I don't actually make the cake until the actual day.  Which, if you couldn't guess, was the case here. Procrastination. . . it is a curse.  However, frequently unavoidable, as all of you busy, over-scheduled people (basically everyone) know.  In any case, this particular themed cake at least got eaten on Easter, which is a step in the right direction, I think.  To keep true to the Easter theme, I went with a carrot cake.  Because, what is Easter if not carrot cake??

It must be said:  This is possibly the best carrot cake that I've had.  Or at least a tie.  When I got married several years ago, I had the most amazing carrot cake while tasting potential wedding cake flavors.  Seriously, it was so amazing. . .  I actually considered having a carrot wedding cake.  I know . . . but it was that mind-blowing.  For those of you lucky enough to be living less than a day of travel from Northeast Philly -- it's worth going and testing it out.  Actually, for those of you in Philly ever it's probably worth making a trip.  Truli Confectionary Arts on Southampton Road.  Mmmmmm, I'm starting to salivate just thinking about it.

But I digress. I've been searching for a recipe to compete for almost 7 years, and I finally, finally think I may have found it. And I'm sharing it.  Enjoy!

Easter (and every other day) Carrot Cake adapted from Real Life Dinner

1½ cups white sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 tsp lemon juice in a measuring cup, then filled up to the 3/4 cup point with whole milk
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/3 cup all purpose flour
2½ tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salts
2 cup finely shredded carrot
1 can (8 oz) crushed pineapple (NOT DRAINED)
½ cup walnuts chopped roughly
1 cup raisins (not packed)

Spray an 8 in pan (3 in deep) with PAM. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a bowl until combined.  Set aside.  Combine the sugar, oil, eggs, and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix until well combined.  Add in the vanilla and mix. Add in the flour mixture while mixing at low speed and mix only until combined. Fold in the carrot, nuts and raisins with a flat spatula until well incorporated.
Fill the prepared pan with the batter and bake for one hour.
When done, cool in pan on rack and turn out to cool completely.

While the cake cools, make the frosting. I used my own cream cheese frosting recipe (because it's AMAZING), but doubled it.  It can be found here.

After the cake is fully cooled, torte and top with a crumb coat of the frosting.  Dye the remaining frosting green with a gel food color.  Fill a pastry bag, fitted with a grass tip (Ateco133.)

This is an interesting tip.  Depending on how you use it, you can achieve multiple different textures.  If you squeeze the bag and release very quickly, you can get almost a star pattern.  If you squeeze the bag, pull up, and release, you can get longer strands (handy for making grass.)  If you continually squeeze the bag and go back and forth, you can get a spaghetti-like look.

Lots of fun cakes can be made with this tip -- monster cakes, sports field cakes, lawn cakes, pasta cakes, etc., etc.  Lots of fun cakes to eat, however, most decidedly not fun to decorate.  See the smaller end of the tip?  That is what gets covered with every squeeze of the bag.  3/8 inches to be exact.  So to cover the cake I made, with a surface area of 201 inches (dust off some of that primary school math) took, well, a very long time.  But it was worth it in the end. . . look at that grassy field!

Now, this is an Easter cake, so it definitely needs more. . . like maybe a bunny? Probably not the Easter bunny, since that guy seems to be stocked with candy, so he probably wouldn't need to forage for food in a field. Unless he was doing that new trend diet -- whole 50, whole 30, something like that? Maybe for a post-Easter cleanse? Hmmm, something to think about. . . (Although for the record, I don't believe in cleanses. . . or diets -- makes it too hard to eat what I bake.)

Anyways, a bunny . . . a bunny searching for carrots in a field.  Sounds Easter-y.  Or at least spring-y.  (It was in the 70's this year on Easter, by the way.  In March. In Ohio. I felt like squealing with joy.  I actually may have done so.)

In my very type-A way, I needed to somehow depict dirt around where the bunny was digging.  Because, hello, if the bunny is digging into the ground, obviously the grass around the hole will be gone.  The dirt previously in the ground has to go somewhere, right?  Enter the Oreo cookies.  Ground in a food processor, they make perfect dirt (but much, much tastier.)  Pour the ground Oreos in the middle of the cake, and spread out into a circle.  (I used a funnel, because, again -- type A.)

Now the good part.  Break out the adult play-doh (otherwise known as fondant.)  Roll out 7 balls with your hands.  The largest should be the size of a cricket ball (unusual analogy, I know.)  Two smaller ones should be rolled out into cylinders, the size of  baby carrots.  One ball should be the size of a cotton ball (guess what that's for. . .#cottontail.) The last two should be the size of dimes.

Cut the cricket ball fondant in half and shape one of the halves to resemble, well, the bottom of a bunny.  Set aside.

Take the cotton ball sized fondant and cut in half.  Remold into a half-ball shape with a flat bottom. Taking one half, start snipping into the fondant, lifting slightly as you bring the scissors out so that the fondant starts to show multiple peaks.Continue along the entire top half of the ball.

By the end, you should have a fluffy looking bunny tail.

The last two round pieces of fondant are to make the feet.  Flatten the balls slightly with your fingers, so that each ball ends up resembling a flat teardrop shape.  Soften the point of the tear drop so that it isn't too severe. Attach the tail and the feet to the large piece of molded fondant. You can attach fondant to fondant by brushing the side to attach with a little bit of water.

The cylindrical pieces are (obviously) for the ears.  Shape with your fingers so that they reach tips at one end and flatten at the other end. (Like bunny ears!) Using the leftover fondant (from when you cut the balls) dye 1/3 of the fondant pink, 1/3 green, and 1/3 orange (again using gel colors.)

Use the pink fondant to make the paw pads. (Interesting fact -- rabbits actually don't have paw pads -- just fur pads.  But this makes is so much prettier!)  To make the paw pads, divide up the fondant into six tiny balls (the size of peas) and 2 slightly larger balls.  Flatten out and attach the larger pieces superiorly with three little pieces surrounding the bottom of each big piece.

Roll the orange fondant into cones of various sizes. Imprint with a scoring tool to look like carrots.  Then, with your hands, mold tiny ellipse shaped balls, rolling the end into a thin string, to resemble vines with leaves on them.  Score the leaves to resemble the veins. Attach the vines to the carrots.

Finally, position the body of the bunny on the cake with the ears, pointy ends up, at the front.  Leave some room so it looks like the head is burrowed in the dirt.  Mold the ears as desired to flop one way or another.  Scatter the carrots in the dirt, half burrowing some of them if you wish.

And there you are -- "bottoms up" to a fun and tasty (belated) Easter!  (If he digs deep enough he may actually get to the good part!)

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