“Happy 60th Birthday, Mom.” ~ Megan
I wanted to write a quote from you to put here instead, but there is no single quote that could do you justice. Instead, I wrote what I would say to you today. Happy 60th Birthday, Mom. I made you your favorite type of cake decorated like your favorite place. And not to brag, I actually think this one looks kinda good, so. There is that.
If I had to remember some quotes though, it would be:
- “Why are we even here?!” At Resorts Buffet in Atlantic City, clearly the worst buffet ever
- “Oh, thank GOD!” Smacking a wet towel to your forehead returning to a cruise ship after being heckled by peddlers
- “YOLO, right?” Un-ironically, about things you would actually only do once
- “You can’t play video games for more than 3 hours straight,” bargaining with me as the world’s worst teenager
- “The gift that keeps on taking,” lovingly describing children
- “I always read your blog!” In response to me saying nobody reads this
- “Airfare to you is cheaper :D” Text message when you decided to visit me and Kristin in California instead of going on a cruise vacation
Spoiler, Kristin and I wanted to send you on a cruise for your 60th. Sorry that instead all you get is this cake, haha.
I remember being with you in the kitchen while we made the original cake is not a lie together. We laughed hysterically trying to shave the chocolate off of the bar with a carrot peeler, getting our hands all messy with melted chocolate. And then you helped me find a carrying case to put such a small cake in – which is actually an upside down cereal container.
At the same time, we made the conjured mana cake. This one was so absolutely hilarious – we “borrowed” the raspberries from the original chocolate cake and just placed them on top, which is why you can still see bits of dark chocolate on the edges of the white icing. I remember you laughing, bent over the counter, telling me to stop joking because you were laughing so hard you were going to pee! We both knew this cake looked terrible, but it was fun and we loved every second. I’ll never stop joking around.
Anyway, let’s talk about this much better-looking cake I made.
One 10-inch cake. Or, as pictured here, two 4-inch cakes + 24 mini cupcakes. Endless possibilities.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil (I use light olive oil)
- 4 eggs (room temperature preferred)
- 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups grated carrots, lightly packed (12 oz, about 5 large carrots)
All of these are optional. You can add all of them, one of them, or none of them! My Mom always liked it with as much stuff as you could possibly fit into it, so I used them all.
- 1/2 cup crushed pineapple
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut
- 3/4 cup chopped walnuts (decrease to 1/2 cup for “a little nutty,” and increase to 1 cup for “good n’ nutty”)
The amount of frosting you need heavily depends on the size of cake you’re working with. If you’re playing with colors, you will also want to make extra (in case you mess up, basically). I can only speak to what I’ve done with this recipe.
Two 4-inch cakes + 24 mini cupcakes: Double this.
The middle layer between two full cake recipes (two 10-inch cakes): One of these.
- 1 (8-oz) package brick style cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Brown Sugar, for sand
- Chocolate Seashells (I used Guylian Chocolates, a childhood favorite my Mom and I loved)
- Icing dye, if you want to make a gradient
- White icing dye, if you want a light colored gradient
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the pans you want to use.
- In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt until well combined. Set aside.
- In a different bowl, combine oil, eggs, vanilla, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until fully combined.
- Prepare your mix-ins: Grate your carrots, chop your walnuts, drain your crushed pineapple. Especially the pineapple, you need to drain it well or it will water-down your batter.
- Add your mix-ins into the wet ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Do not over mix! Mix just enough so you’re not seeing the white flour anymore. My batter looked really watery at this point and I was terrified I messed something up, but it came out fine.
- Pour the cake batter evenly across your pans, about 3/4 full to give room for the cake to over-rise enough to cut off a straight top.
- Bake at 350 until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cooking time will vary based on your oven, pan size, pan type, etc. My 4-inch cakes took 25 minutes, mini cupcakes 15 minutes, and a 10-inch cake 45 minutes.
- Remove from oven and cool on wire rack until cakes are cold to the touch. If the cake is warm at all, your frosting will melt.
- Whip the butter and cream cheese together first. Really go to town here. When I forget to do this, there is a chance the entire batch curdles. It’s possible to recover from curdled cream cheese frosting, but honestly I never have so I can’t really provide guidance.
- Add the powdered sugar to your whipped cream cheese and butter mixture.
- Add vanilla and whip until smooth.
- You should notice your frosting is slightly yellow in color because of the butter. If you want a light-colored gradient, add a generous amount of white icing dye to your frosting (or a very, VERY small amount of purple color). I learned this the hard way, and when I tried to make a very light blue frosting, I accidentally made light green because of the yellow butter.
- Remove 1/4 of your frosting to leave white. Set aside. If at any point you need to lighten one of your colors, use this white frosting to lighten the color back up.
- Dye the remaining 3/4 of your frosting the lightest color of your gradient. Once you like the color as your lightest color, remove another 1/4 of it and set aside.
- Dye the remaining 1/2 of your frosting to a darker color. Once you like the color as your middle, “medium” color, remove another 1/4 of it and set aside.
- Dye the remaining 1/4 of your frosting as your darkest color.
Assemble the Cake
- Level the top of your cake with a knife or a cake leveler.
- Place your cake on a cardboard round.
- Place your cake on a turntable, and slide small pieces of wax paper under the bottom so your cake round stays neat and presentable.
- Crumb-coat your cake. I did not do this (because at the time, I didn’t know it was a thing you needed to do). This is why my cake edges are not smooth and contain crumbs.
Frost with a Gradient
Start with your lightest color on the top. let this color just run over the sides of the cake.
Add you second “medium” color to most of the middle, leaving only a little bit of cake showing on the bottom. Smooth over where your lightest color reaches over the edge of the cake.
With your darkest color, fill in the bottom of your cake. Smooth over your entire cake at once, blending all of the colors together.
Decorate in Beach-Theme
Crumble brown sugar by hand in the center of the cake, slowly making the circle larger until your island is a size you like. Slower is better here – you can’t really take sugar off the cake once it’s there.
Add your seashell chocolates on top.
Add brown sugar around the bottom edge of your cake. I did this with the back of a really small spoon, slowly pressing sugar up against the cake. This hides the inevitably messy edge.
Mini Beach Gradient Carrot Cupcakes
I only made two small cakes, so I had leftover batter and frosting. It was quite a bit of work to make this batter and dye all this frosting, so mini cupcakes were a fun easy way to use up my extras.
To frost 24 mini cupcakes in a gradient:
- Add a large star tip to an icing bag.
- Fill your bag with your remaining pure white icing and ice 4 cupcakes.
- Squeeze any remaining icing out of the bag without rinsing the bag. All you need to do is squeeze the daylights out of the bag, trying to get out as much as you can.
- Add your lightest color to the same bag and ice about 6 or 7 cupcakes, or until a cupcake comes out with barely any white icing.
- Squeeze any remaining icing out of the bag.
- Add your medium color to the same bag and ice about 6 or 7 cupcakes, or until a cupcake comes out with barely any light colored icing.
- Squeeze any remaining icing out of the bag.
- Add your darkest color to the same bag and ice about 6 or 7 cupcakes, or until a cupcake comes out with barely any medium colored icing.
I hope you enjoyed this beachy, carrot-cakey journey, and good luck practicing your gradients and crumb coats!
Love you forever, Mom.