Thinking of Thanksgiving

As the leaves begin to transition into reds, oranges and yellows and pumpkin spice fills store shelves, fall holidays come into focus.

I’m not a big Halloween fan (I’ve never been one to welcome a ghoulish or skimpy costume), so I’m planning to skip those festivities and get ready for Thanksgiving.

This year, I get to show off a new hobby around my family’s dining table. Up until now, I think I may have only contributed one or two dishes to the family feast.

I say “think” because my mother says I did, but I’ve blocked it out.

So, in anticipation of my self-appointed assignment of dessert, I am spending the next few weekends trying new recipes.

Ehh, what’s up doc?

Forget pumpkins. I’m all about carrot cake this time of year (or all year, to be honest).

Test one: allrecipes’ Carrot Cake III. With a 4.5 star review, very few ingredients and just four steps, this seemed like a good beginner cake.

Ingredients – check

Within minutes, I was sold on this recipe.

The first mixture of eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla smelled delicious. I tried whisking the combination together by hand, but quickly realized in order to get the oil to blend correctly with the other ingredients, I was going to have to pull out the hand mixer. (I still haven’t invested in a stand mixer, in case this hobby doesn’t work out…)

During the second step, I realized there is no world in which cinnamon and vanilla are wrong.

When adding the three cups of carrots, I had a bit of a hiccup. I bought shredded carrots, but then realized I needed grated ones. I poured the orange shards into my mini food processor to break the vegetable down more. Each filled bowl equaled a cup.

Note: items in the mini processor are finely grated when the items appear to be growing in the bowl.

It doesn’t look appealing, but it smells wonderful.

I repeated the same process for the pecans, and whipped all of it together to create the cake batter.

Once my oven welcomed my offering, it was time to focus on the creamy frosting.

Spattering on my Spam apron!

Every. Damn. Time.

Thanks to a number of previous baking lessons, I made sure to give the butter an hour to soften before jumping into this step. Adding in the cream cheese, confectioners sugar and vanilla left me with a sinking feeling. I saw a mess beginning to bud.

Can someone please tell me how on earth I can keep all the ingredients inside the mixing bowl? Without exception, there is a step that ends up with white powder on my counter, floor and all over me.

From lumps, to curds to cream.

This recipe says to “beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy.” For the record: that sounds easier than it is. My first attempt at this ended with what looked like a curdled heap.

While it wasn’t explicitly mentioned in the directions, I increased the speed on my mixer, and voilà; the frosting was suddenly creamy and smooth! Since the cake was still in the oven, I didn’t think it would mind if I tried the frosting first.

Out of the oven and in my mouth

After an hour in the oven and another hour to cool, it was time to see how my first attempt at carrot cake turned out.

Spreading the frosting over this brown brick full of fall scents was rather tricky. I am still a novice in the kitchen, so when the recipe called for me to flip the cake out of its baking dish onto a cooling rack, I obeyed. The issue is: when you’re trying to frost a cake on a cooling rack, it can turn into a sticky mess.

Cutting a slice of this fall spicy sweet treat was almost everything I’d hoped it would be. While the cake wasn’t as moist as I would have liked, it was flaky, fluffy and full of flavor. The frosting had a nice crunch to it that made the cake feel more substantial.

This Thanksgiving test was a success! With more than a month before I put a similar dessert on the dining table, it’s time to look for test two.

You can see the flecks of carrot and pecans!

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