Thursday, October 7, 2010


 My husband only asks for one thing for his birthday: a triple layer carrot cake.  I've been making it for years now, so it's become a fun ritual.  I'm rather particular when it comes to carrot cake, and there are a lot of varieties out there.  My preference is one that is moist, has a good dispersion of nuts and raisins, is not overly spicy, and has a generous, even layer of not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting.  My recipe is a hybrid of about three I've made, and I don't even recall the sources at this point.  I just know that it's delectable and worth all the effort.  Here's a good close-up of all the chunks.

Triple Layer Carrot Cake

2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups veg oil
4 extra large eggs
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
3 cups finely grated carrots (about 1lb)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease 3 9-inch round cake pans.  Line the bottom of the pans with waxed/parchment paper (also greased).  Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and veg oil until combined.  Add eggs, one at a time.  Sift flour, baking powder and soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into sugar and oil mixture.  Fold in carrots, pecans and raisins without overmixing. Divide mixture evenly between pans and bake about 45 minutes.  Allow to cool completely.  For the frosting, beat 4 cups powdered sugar, 2 8-oz packages room temperature cream cheese, 1/2 cup unsalted room temperature butter, and 4 tsp pure vanilla extract until creamy. (The cream cheese and butter must be fully room temperature, or you'll get goofy clumps.)  Frost each layer generously!

We went to Patina Grill for Ryan's birthday dinner.  It is such a great place to go if you find yourself sans children one day, or all days, whatever.  We made a poor decision of bringing kids there once before, and it was a total disaster.  It's a bit more urban/modern than most of the places I've been to in Richmond and is a nice spot for a quiet dinner.  The menu is short, but inventive. Most importantly, what we tasted was brilliant.  With a couple nice glasses of Malbec, we shared two small plates, the first of which was seared scallops served with spinach gnocchi and topped with prosciutto.  You can see in the (fuzzy, cell-phone taken) picture that a lemon was offered for a last minute squirt of freshness and acid.  The flavor combination was incredible, but the unquestionable highlight - of the entire evening, I think - was the spinach gnocchi.  I almost started crying when it was over, because it was just that heavenly.  The second small plate was crab cakes served with house made fettucini and roasted red pepper-basil-bacon butter. The crab cakes weren't extraordinary, but I did really enjoy the texture of the homemade pasta. 

We shared one large plate: grilled beef tenderloin with red pepper-maytag blue cheesecake, roasted fingerling potatoes, and port-blackberry reduction. This was a great dish.  My favorite bite - because I'm weird like that - was to take a forkful of the perfectly cooked potato with some "cheesecake" (basically like a die for) and run it through the sauce on its way to my face.  

Between the birthday boy's impeccable company, delicious food, and peaceful ambiance, I'd say it was a pretty perfect date!  The fact that we had a massive, decadent carrot cake waiting for us at home was just an (indulgent?) added bonus.


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