Sunday, April 13, 2008

Happy Birthday dear Saaaaaaaaaa-am...

Happy birthday to you!

Today is my darling husband's birthday, so it is a very special day. We celebrated on Saturday (perhaps the most beautiful Saturday yet in 2008!) with a picnic barbecue in the park with friends. Sam and I loaded up on the grilling entrée, and our guests brought the sides. We ate a really good and very spicy chipotle potato salad from Jarret and Casey, homemade red pepper humus and pita from John and Lauren, a vegetarian corn and black bean salad from Anne, cheesy deer sausage from John W., and the most addicting MSG infused chips and salsa from Nakul, Paul, and Sarah (they were not homemade, but the other dishes were!).

We had three dogs attend the party, and after the guests had their fill, I got to feed an entire 3/4 pound sirloin hamburger to the pets! Is there such joy in this world as can be found in feeding dogs table food? Honestly, it hardly mattered to me that I was giving a canine palate $6.99 worth of quality ground beef, because their wagging tails and adoring attention the rest of the afternoon was such an ego boost. I would have paid more for that feeling. I love feeding dogs!

I also love feeding my friends (and husband!) cake, which is why I created a carrot cake on Sam's request. The recipe is below, and I cannot say enough good things about this cake as a picnic dessert. It is simple to make, it travels well, it is a crowd pleaser, and it is a dessert that involves vegetables. Could a girl ask for more on her husband's birthday?

Flip flops and bocce ball - summer is definitely around the corner!

This cake is the most fabulous picnic cake! The entire cake can be created entirely in a food processor for easy, one bowl mixing. The cake is also baked in a casserole dish should be transported in the baking dish and served straight from the pan. To keep the cake's texture intact, my mom always puts the raisins and nuts in the frosting, rather than in the cake batter, so I did the same. The result is a tender cake with a textured frosting, and the texture helps to both cut the sweetness in the frosting and preserve the consistency of the cake batter. The cake stays dry enough, the nuts stay crunchy enough. Another trick from my mom makes this cake special - always dust the entire cake pan generously in sugar before you add the batter. It prevents the edges from sticking AND makes the corners pieces the most coveted bites of the cake.

adapted from the Colorado Cache cookbook

1 1/2 cup of vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup of sugar
4 eggs, well beaten
3 cups of grated carrots
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 cups of unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of baking soda
2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons of ground allspice

1/2 cup of butter, melted
1 (8 oz.) softened cream cheese
2 cups of powdered, sifted sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 cup of chopped pecans
1 cup of raisins

Grate carrots in food processor. Cream oil and sugar in food processor with carrots. Add eggs one at a time and mix well. Add vanilla. Mix dry ingredients in separate bowl. Add flour mixture to carrot mixture, a small amount at a time, beating well. Pour into a 10 x 14 inch greased and sugared pan and bake at 325ºF. for 1 hour. Cool slightly before frosting.

For frosting, combine melted butter and cream cheese. Add sugar in portions and beat well. Add vanilla. Stir in nuts and raisins. Spread on cooled cake.

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