Thursday, October 27, 2011


banana chocolate cupcakes (4)

Here’s a really great, easy recipe for chocolate cupcakes.  You don’t even need to get your mixer out, because these are mixed like muffins, with one quick mix by hand. 

banana chocolate cupcakes (3)

Full of flavor, very light and moist, this one is a definite winner!  The banana flavor comes through, but in a background sort of way.  It leads the applause for the chocolate.  The only problem is that the batter is more than enough for 12 standard-size cupcakes.  I used two (6-oz.) ramekins for the extra batter, and got two over-sized cupcakes for a total of 14 cupcakes.  I’ll be making these again.

banana chocolate cupcakes (5)

Banana Chocolate Cupcakes
Adapted from Joy of Baking
Rating:  10 out of 10

1 cup granulated white sugar (I ground this in my food processor for superfine sugar)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, lightly spooned and swept
1/3 cup unsweetened natural or Dutch cocoa powder (I used Dutch.)
3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt  (You can substitute table salt.)
1 large egg
1/2 cup mashed very ripe banana (about 1 medium-sized banana)
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup warm coffee
1/4 cup plain or vanilla-flavored non-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup vegetable, corn or canola oil
3/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract  (I used my homemade vanilla.)

Heat oven to 350F (180C) and place rack in center of oven.  Line 12 standard-sized muffin cups with paper liners, or spray each cup with nonstick vegetable spray.  Set out two (6-oz) greased ramekins and line each with two wax paper circles cut to fit the bottoms. 

In large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients:  sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a second large bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients:  egg, mashed banana, water, coffee, yogurt, oil and vanilla. 

Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and stir or whisk till combined.  Do not overbeat.  Pour or scoop batter into muffin cups and ramekins, filling each about 3/4 full.  Bake 15-18 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted in center returns with just a few crumbs.  Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool.  Frost with Double Chocolate Buttercream Frosting, Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Frosting, Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting, Chocolate Mint Buttercream Frosting, White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting, Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting , or one of your own favorites. 

banana chocolate cupcakes

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


banana chocolate cupcakes (4)
Looking for a chocolate frosting that has deep chocolate flavor?  This is it.  A combo of Dutch cocoa and extra-strong dark chocolate produces a rich chocolate flavor and a super creamy texture.  It’s a simple recipe, but one that I’ll be making again and again.  banana chocolate cupcakes (3)
Rating:  10 out of 10

1-1/2 oz. dark chocolate, chopped (I used Chocolove extra-strong dark, 77% cocoa content)
6 Tbsp. butter, softened
2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa (or natural, if preferred)
1 Tbsp. coffee
1-2 Tbsp. heavy cream, half and half or milk
1 tsp. vanilla (I used my homemade vanilla extract)
optional:  1/4 tsp. coffee essence (equal parts of coffee brandy and instant coffee granules)

Melt chocolate in double boiler (or place in small glass bowl set over hot, simmering water but do not let bottom of glass bowl touch the water and be sure that any steam rising does not get into the bowl, as chocolate will seize if steam or water touches it.)  You can also melt chocolate in a microwave oven by processing in 30-second intervals on high, then stirring, until chocolate is almost melted.  Let cool too room temperature.

Combine butter, sugar, cocoa, coffee and 1 Tbsp. cream in medium bowl and beat at low speed 2 minutes or till combined.  Increase speed gradually to high and beat for 3-4 minutes till smooth and creamy.  Add flavorings and cooled chocolate and beat 3-4 minutes, or till smooth and creamy.  If additional liquid is needed, add more cream until desired consistency is reached.  Enough to frost 1-1/2 dozen cupcakes.

banana chocolate cupcakes (5)

Friday, October 21, 2011



I found this recipe on the Lizzy Goes Dutch blog, where she gave it rave reviews as her adaptation of a Better Homes and Garden’s recipe.  It was simply titled "white chocolate chunk and pecan cookies."  I followed her recipe exactly, only adding some grated orange zest to pick up the flavor. 

The test batch turned out disappointingly soft, a texture I usually don’t appreciate.  That should have been no surprise, considering the amount of dark brown sugar used.  My first impulse, after tasting the soft cookies, was to throw out the remaining dough.  Then I remembered a similar incident about a year ago and remembered what I did then.

Cooling, then rebaking, produces ultra-crispy edges with chewy centers.  And the crispiness does not go away the next day, as it does in most recipes using large quantities of brown sugar, especially dark brown sugar.  But that’s not all – the extra baking caramelizes the ingredients, producing a caramel-butterscotch flavor that goes so well with white chocolate, pecans and orange flavors.   The cookies that I hated turned out to be phenomenal winners that I absolutely loved!

Ultra-Crispy, Chewy White Chocolate Chunk and Pecan Cookies
Adapted from Lizzy Goes Dutch blog and Better Homes and Garden’s “New Cook Book”
Rating:  10 out of 10


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. finely grated orange zest
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt or kosher salt
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract (I used my homemade vanilla)
2-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
7 oz. chopped white chocolate
1-1/2 cups toasted chopped pecans

Heat oven to 350F.  Using paddle attachment of a stand mixer, beat the butter for 30 seconds on medium to high speed.  Scrape sides of bowl.  Add sugars, zest and salt.  Beat till combined and scrape the bowl again.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Scrape bowl.  Sift flour and baking soda in small bowl.  Add gradually to butter-sugar mixture, mixing on low speed after each addition to combine.  Stir in chocolate and nuts.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight. 

When ready to bake, take dough out 45 minutes before baking to soften.  Heat oven to 350F.  Line baking sheets with parchment.  Roll rounded tablespoon-sized drops of dough (about 2 Tbsp.) between palms to form round balls.  Space 2” apart on cookie sheets.  Bake 10 minutes, or till centers are underdone and edges are still soft.  Cool in pan 2 minutes, then transfer to rack to finish cooling. 

When cool, place on pans and bake 10 more minutes, till edges are super crispy but centers are still soft.  Cool in pan 2 minutes.  Transfer to rack to finish cooling.  Yield:  25 (3”) cookies

NOTE:  If you are a fan of soft cookies, then bake these for 11-13 minutes just once and skip the second baking.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011



Here’s a simple weeknight recipe for flounder, or any mild white fish (sole, tilapia, etc.).  The flounder I used was frozen and thawed.  (Backstory:  A friend gave us a gift of about 35 small flounders, freshly caught.  We gave some away and froze the rest.  Trying to make room in the freezer, Guy cut the heads and tails off our fish.  While it made room in the freezer, it also ruined my plans for grilling them on cedar planks.  Oh, yes, we tried:


We found that the heads and tails are critical to the moistness of the fish when planking.   In other words, the fish was sort of dry.   I needed a plan B for the 20 or so flounders sitting in my freezer.  So, at my request, Guy filleted two of them.)
We both enjoyed our flounder simply pan fried in a cast-iron skillet and drizzled with a lemon-caper sauce.  The fish was moist and the sauce was a perfect complement to the mildness of flounder.  We’ll definitely be having an encore soon.

Flounder with Lemon Caper Sauce
Rating:  10 out of 10

1 tsp. unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, grated or minced
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 lb. flounder (or other mild white fish) fillets
Fine sea salt or kosher salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1-1/2 Tbsp. capers, rinsed, drained
2 tsp. chopped fresh parsley

In small saucepan, heat butter over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds.  Add broth and cook till reduced to half.  Off heat, cover and keep warm.

Pat fish dry with clean paper towels.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.  Heat a medium heavy skillet, preferably a cast-iron skillet, over medium-high heat.  Add oil.  Right before it reaches its smoking point, add the flounder.  Cook about 1 minute, then flip to the other side and cook another 30-45 seconds.  Transfer to a plate and cover to keep warm. 

Increase skillet heat to high and pour in reduced broth mixture.  Add lemon juice and cook about 1 minute, or till mixture starts to thicken slightly.  Add capers and parsley and cook till heated through.  Serve sauce over flounder.  Yield:  4 servings 


Monday, October 17, 2011


bobby flay's sw pot soup

Bobby Flay is one of the most brilliant chefs on today’s culinary scene, IMHO.  He has a knack for blending flavors in recipes to produce amazing results.  After all, he is an Iron Chef on Food Network Channel.  So when I saw his recipe for Sweet Potato-Coconut Soup with Spicy Relish in the September 12, 2010, issue of Parade, I knew I wanted to try it.  Since sweet potatoes add a depth of flavor to winter squash, I decided to make this recipe using a mixture of pumpkin and sweet potato.

bobby flay's sw pot soup (2)

The soup is delicious.  Flavors are perfectly balanced with just enough heat from red pepper and ginger, and just enough honey and cinnamon to coax the sweetness from the veggies.  The spicy relish really makes this soup special.  The little chunks of sweet potatoes are slightly crisp outside, but soft inside.  Cooked with parsley and red pepper flakes, they’re the perfect accent to this comforting, creamy soup.  The leftover soup was great the next day with some freshly cooked scallops.  I’m keeping this one.

Pumpkin-Sweet Potato-Coconut Soup with Spicy Relish
Adapted from Bobby Flay
Rating:  9 out of 10

SPICY RELISH:  1-1/2 tsp. canola or olive oil
1-1/2 tsp. unsalted butter
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 of a medium sweet potato, peeled, diced
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. freshly chopped parsley

Heat oil and butter over medium heat in a small, heavy skillet (cast iron is perfect).  Add red pepper flakes; heat for 10 seconds.  Add diced sweet potato and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.  Cover skillet.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 15 minutes.  Uncover.  Increase heat to high and cook till potatoes are golden brown, 5 – 7 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl; stir in the parsley.
SOUP:  1-1/2 tsp. canola or olive oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
1” piece fresh ginger, peeled then grated (to yield 1 tsp. grated ginger)
pinch red pepper flakes
1-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup water
1 cup pumpkin (I used fresh roasted pumpkin, but canned is fine.)
3/4 of a medium sweet potato, peeled, chopped
3/4 cup lite coconut milk
1-1/2 tsp. honey
pinch cinnamon
1/2 tsp. sea salt and 1/4 tsp. black pepper (taste and adjust, adding more if needed)

In a 2- to 3-quart saucepan, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onion and ginger; cook till soft, 5 minutes.  Add red pepper flakes and cook 30 seconds.  Add stock and water; bring to a boil.  Add pumpkin and sweet potatoes; bring to a simmer.  Cook till veggies are soft, 20-30 minutes.  Cool 10 minutes. 

Puree with immersion blender (or transfer mixture to a blender and process until smooth then return to saucepan).  Simmer over low heat.  Whisk in coconut milk, honey and cinnamon.  Cook until thickened and warmed through.  Taste soup.  Season as desired with additional salt and pepper.  Ladle into bowls; top with a spoonful of the spicy relish. 

Yield:  2 servings (Double ingredients to serve 4)

Friday, October 14, 2011



We received a gift of a 2-lb. bag of fresh-frozen sea scallops, caught from a local fisherman and so we happily ate scallops for a few days.  This recipe was made with what I had in the fridge.  The flavors went well together and the meal was satisfying and filling, besides being nutritious.  Sweet creamy scallops, served on a bed of thin spaghetti, mushrooms, white wine, spinach and fresh Parmesan:  very yummy.

Tip:  To get that appetizing sear on scallops, dry them thoroughly between paper towels.  Get your pan very hot, and don’t add too much oil.  Don’t crowd the scallops in the pan and cook them towards the center rather than the perimeter.  Only turn them once.

Seared Scallops with Pasta, Mushrooms and Spinach
Rating:  8.5 out of 10


10-12 oz. fresh or frozen and thawed sea scallops
sea salt and pepper 
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion
1/2 tsp. grated fresh garlic
1-1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
3 cups fresh spinach, chopped
1/3 cup dry white wine
3 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. chopped fresh basil
cooked pasta of choice (I used Barilla thin spaghetti)

Dry scallops thoroughly between layers of paper towels.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.


Heat a heavy skillet on high heat.  Add half the oil.  When oil is sizzling and ready to smoke, add scallops, leaving room between them to properly sear.  They will sear best towards the center, rather than the perimeter, of the pan.  Cook scallops for about 2 minutes without stirring, then flip and cook another 1-2 minutes, till cooked almost through. 


Remove to a plate; cover and keep warm.  Add remaining oil to pan with onion and mushrooms.  Cook over medium high heat till onions are transparent and mushrooms are starting to brown.  Add garlic and saute for about 30 seconds.  Add spinach and wine and cook till spinach starts to wilt.  Stir in butter, lemon juice, parsley, basil and pasta.  Toss to incorporate pasta.  If desired, add scallops briefly,  just to reheat slightly.  Serve mounds of pasta and veggies with scallops on top.  Yield:  2-3 servings

Wednesday, October 12, 2011



This recipe, my creation, is a result of experimentation that paid off.  A tender and flavorful almond graham cracker crust holds a rich and chocolatey filling with a mild almond undertone.  The whipped-cream topping is spiked with almond liqueur and sprinkled with chocolate shavings.  A dessert made in heaven.
Chocolate Almond Cream Pie
Rating:  10 out of 10
Almond Graham Cracker Crust:
1/2 cup almond meal or finely ground almonds
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1-1/2 Tbsp. sugar
5 Tbsp. butter, melted
8” pie pan (I used my Emile Henry)

Heat oven to 375F.  Combine almond meal, cracker crumbs, sugar and butter.  Mix with fork or in a food processor till crumbs are moistened.  Press into 8” pie pan.  Bake 8-10 minutes, or till crust is set and lightly browned.  Cool on wire rack.

Chocolate Almond Filling:
3/4 + 1/3 cup whole milk, divided
2 large eggs
1/8 tsp. sea salt or kosher salt
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1-1/2 Tbsp. cocoa (I used Penzey’s high-fat natural unsweetened)
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. freshly brewed, cooled, coffee
1-1/2 oz. chopped unsweetened or bittersweet chocolate
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. almond extract
2 Tbsp. butter

Whisk together in medium bowl, or blend in blender, 3/4 cup milk, eggs, salt, cornstarch, cocoa and sugar.  Pour into saucepan, adding remaining 1/3 cup milk and coffee.  (For an even richer filling, use 1/3 cup heavy cream in place of milk.)  Cook and stir over medium heat till thick and stiff.  Off heat.  Stir in chopped chocolate, vanilla, almond extract and butter.  Set pan in a larger pan of ice water and whisk, on an off, till mixture cools.  When cool, pour into cooled crust.  (TIP:  To cook the filling faster, use a saute pan instead of a sauce pan.  Since the filling is spread over a wider surface, it'll take less heating time to thicken it.)

Cover with plastic wrap and chill several hours or overnight.  Before serving, top pie with sweetened whipped cream and garnish with chocolate shavings or curls.

Whipped Cream Topping:
1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, chilled
4 Tbsp. confectioner’s sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla powder (or vanilla extract)
1 Tbsp. almond liqueur
Garnishes:  chocolate shavings or curls

Using a chilled bowl and beaters, whip the cream till it thickens.  Sift the sugar and vanilla powder (if using) over the cream and continue to beat till thick and stiff.  Beat in vanilla extract (if using) and almond liqueur.  Spoon over filling.  Garnish with chocolate shavings or curls.

Friday, October 7, 2011



These muffins are absolutely delicious.  Half whole wheat flour, Smart Balance 50-50 Butter Blend, mashed bananas, nonfat Greek yogurt and crushed hazelnuts give a nutrition boost to these decadent-tasting treats.  A tender, light and moist crumb envelops a hidden spoonful of chocolate-hazelnut spread and will keep you coming back for more.
I made 10 standard-size muffins, but I overfilled the muffin cups, causing the muffins to spread over the tops too much.  If I make these again, I’ll divide the batter evenly among 12 cups so the muffin will stay contained better.

Whole Wheat Nutella-Banana Muffins
Rating:  8.5 out of 10

1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. fine sea salt or kosher salt
1/2 stick (2 oz.) Smart Balance 50/50 Butter Blend, or butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/2 cup  sugar (or  sugar substitute)
1/2 cup nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt
1 large egg
1/2 cup mashed banana (about 1 medium)
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
About 5 Tbsp. Nutella
About 1/3 cup coarsely crushed hazelnuts

Heat oven to 350F.  Grease a 12-cup muffin tin, or line with paper cups.  In large bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In medium bowl, whisk together butter and sugar.  Add yogurt, egg, banana and vanilla, whisking till smooth.  Pour over dry ingredients all at once and stir lightly with spoon or spatula just till barely combined.  Do not over beat.  Divide half of the batter evenly among the 12 cups.  Top each with a generous 1/2 tsp. of Nutella.  Top with remaining batter, then with another 1/2 tsp. Nutella.  Sprinkle a generous 1 tsp. hazelnuts over top of each muffin. 

Bake 17-19 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted in muffin returns clean.  (You’ll have to test away from the centers because of the Nutella, and you may have to use your baking judgment as to when they’re done.  Generally, after they puff up all the way to the center, they should be done.)  Cool in pan about 5 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack to completely cool.  Yield:  12 standard-size muffins


Wednesday, October 5, 2011



My two favorite cheesecakes are Lindy's and Junior's.  Both are traditional New York-style cheesecakes, firm, smooth and creamy.  The answer across the pond to our New York-style cheesecake is London cheesecake.  No cornstarch or flour is added to firm up the cake and no heavy cream or sour cream is added to the batter for extra richness.  Instead, eggs and egg yolks do the job, three of each, producing a firm and rich cheesecake.  A sour cream topping is added at the end of the baking time for extra flavor and richness. 

Instead of using a mixer, as Nigella  did, I opted to use my Cuisinart to mix the cheesecake batter, but I followed her recipe exactly.

We liked this cheesecake a lot.  It has a nice firmness and it’s rich, smooth and creamy,  though not quite as firm, smooth and creamy as my two faves.   I would definitely make it again, especially if I had an abundance of eggs to use up.

London Cheesecake
Adapted from Nigella Lawson
Rating:  9.5 out of 10

Crust:  1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (5 oz.) graham cracker crumbs
6 Tbsp. unsalted  butter, melted or very soft

In medium bowl, or work bowl of food processor, add butter to crumbs and mix or process till well combined.  Butter an 8” springform pan.  Press crumbs in with your hands or the back of a spoon.  Put the pan in the fridge to set, and heat oven to 350F (325F  for dark or coated pans).

Filling:  20 oz. Philadelphia cream cheese or Neufchatel, room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
3 large egg yolks, room temperature
1-1/2 Tablespoons vanilla extract (I used my homemade vanilla)
1-1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice

In work bowl of a food processor, combine cheese and sugar.  Pulse several times, till ingredients are well combined and smooth.  Add eggs, one at a time, processing briefly after each till yellow disappears.  Repeat with yolks.  Add flavorings and pulse till combined.  Scrape  sides and bottom and pulse one more time to be sure all ingredients are mixed.

Put the kettle on, or heat up a pot of water.  Line the outside of  the chilled springform pan with foil so that it covers the bottom and sides in one large piece, and then do the same again and put it inside a roasting pan.  This will protect the cheesecake from the water as it is cooked in its water bath. 

Pour filling into chilled base, and then pour hot water into roasting pan around the cheesecake.  It should come about halfway up or less.  Don’t overfill, as it will be difficult to lift up the pan.  Put the pan into the oven and bake for 50-55 minutes.  It should feel set, but not rigidly so.  You just need to feel confident that when you pour the sour cream over, it will sit on the surface and not  sink in.

Topping:  3/4 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp.sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Whisk together the sour cream, sugar and vanilla.  Remove cheesecake from oven and pour sour cream topping over the cheesecake.  Put it back in the oven for a further 10 minutes.

Take roasting pan out of oven, remove springform pan, unwrap foil and stand pan on a rack to cool.  When completely cool, place in fridge for 1 hour uncovered.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight for best flavor.  Slice with a knife that’s been dipped in hot water first.  Serve as is, drizzled with chocolate or caramel sauce, or sprinkled with chocolate shavings.  Serves 8-10

Monday, October 3, 2011



Oh, winter squash, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways…..hubbard squash, delicata squash, butternut squash.   Those are my faves, in that order.  Hubbard is my absolutely #1 for its rich, deep sweetness and smooth texture.  It can be hard to find, and expensive, but it’s worth the search and the price. 
I never tire of experimenting with new flavor ingredients to add to my winter squash.  This recipe was born out of my extreme love of caramelized onions coupled with my extreme love of hubbard squash.  You could say I performed a marriage ceremony here, and I think these two will be together for a long time, because they’re perfectly matched.

Caramelized Onion Winter Squash Mash
Rating:  10 out of 10

1 Tbsp. Smart Balance Butter Blend, or butter or oil
1 medium sweet onion, peeled, halved, sliced thin
1/2 – 3/4 tsp.(or to taste) fine sea salt, or kosher salt, divided
2 Tbsp. dry red wine, drinking quality
1 cup cooked winter squash (hubbard preferred)
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. garam masala or hot madras curry powder
2-3 Tbsp. water or broth, if needed

In 10- or 12-inch heavy skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Add the onion slices and sprinkle lightly with about 1/4 tsp. salt.   Cook for about 5 minutes, or till onions begin to turn translucent.   Add wine, stir, cook for another minute or two, then cover and reduce heat to low.  Cook 20-30 minutes, or till onions are reduced and caramelized, stirring if needed to keep from sticking or burning.

When onions are nicely caramelized, stir in squash, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp. pepper and 1/8 tsp. garam masala.  Increase heat briefly to heat the squash, then cover and reduce heat again to low.  Cook 5-10 minutes, or till squash is heated through and flavors have blended.  Taste to adjust seasonings, adding up to an additional 1/4 tsp. salt, if needed (or more if you are a salt lover).  If mixture is too dry at any point, stir in water or broth.  Yield:  2 servings  (Double ingredients for 4 servings.)

Saturday, October 1, 2011


copycat cracker barrel carrot cake

I’ve never tasted carrot cake from Cracker Barrel, but this recipe is supposed to be a copycat of it.  Whether it tastes like Cracker Barrel’s or not I can’t say, but I can say that this is one delicious carrot cake.  It’s fully loaded with everything that can go into a carrot cake:  walnuts, carrots, pineapple, coconut, raisins and spices.  Light and flavorful with a sweet cream cheese frosting, this cake will make a bit hit at your next gathering. 

copycat cracker barrel carrot cake (5)

I made some changes.  I used some white whole wheat flour in place of some of the unbleached all-purpose flour, I subbed buttermilk for half the oil, stevia for some of the sugar, and I soaked the raisins in Canadian Mist whiskey.  I couldn’t resist.  The recipe below is printed as I got it, with my changes in brackets and Italics.  You can decide if you want to make it from the original or my way. 

copycat cracker barrel carrot cake (2)

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Carrot Cake
Adapted from
Rating:  9 out of 10

3 cups flour (I used 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour + 2-1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose)
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. sea salt or kosher salt
1-1/4 cups vegetable oil (I used 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil and 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. low-fat buttermilk)
1-1/2 cups sugar (I used 3/4 cup sugar + 3 Tbsp. NuNaturals Stevia)
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract (my homemade extract)
3 large eggs
3/4 cup toasted finely chopped walnuts
2 cups finely shredded carrots
1 cup crushed pineapple (8 oz. can with juice)
1/2 cup finely shredded coconut (I used Baker’s sweetened dried)
1/2 cup raisins (soaked in bourbon or whiskey till plump then drained)

Heat oven to 350F.  Grease and flour a 9” x 13” pan.  In large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt; set aside.  In another large bowl, using medium speed of electric mixer, beat oil, sugars, vanilla and eggs until smooth and fluffy.  Add walnuts, carrots, pineapple, coconut and raisins and blend well on low speed.  Gradually add flour mixture, 1/3 at a time till blended thoroughly.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 40-50 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted in center returns clean.  Cool in pan on wire rack at least 1 hour, or till thoroughly cooled. 

Prepare cream cheese frosting: In medium bowl, beat 8 oz. softened cream cheese and 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter on medium speed of electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Beat in 1 tsp. vanilla and gradually beat in 2 cups powdered sugar till smooth.  Turn mixer on high and beat frosting till light and fluffy.  Spread on cooled cake and sprinkle with 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans or walnuts.  Yield:  about 24 servings, depending on size of slices