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This springtime carrot cake has a difference

Recipe: Chocolate glaze especially appropriate for a holiday dessert

Carrots and chocolate -- how perfect for Easter or any other spring occasion.

Carrots and chocolate -- how perfect for Easter or any other spring occasion. Kathy Morrison

Carrots, eggs and chocolate chips
These are the key ingredients for the cake.

Classic American carrot cake, first popular in the 1970s and early '80s, typically is loaded with spices, raisins and chopped nuts, stacked in layers and swathed in thick cream cheese frosting.

It's a fine dessert, but not my favorite, even though the cake at my wedding was "carrot chiffon." (That'll give you a hint at how long my husband and I have been married.)

So when I happened upon this unusual carrot cake recipe, I was immediately intrigued.  I had been searching for something different to do with the bunches of sweet little carrots that came in my farm box. They were filling my refrigerator vegetable drawer and needed to be used soon.

The recipe was called "Brazilian carrot cake." I couldn't figure out what made it Brazilian, but I liked the idea of 1) just carrots in the cake and 2) that glossy chocolate glaze on top. The fact that it went together easily, baked in a half-sheet pan like a Texas sheet cake, made it all the more appealing.

"I'll make it for Easter," I decided. "Carrots and chocolate, how appropriate." I wound up using 10 of those little carrots, hence "10-carrot cake," a play on 10-karat.

I can see varying this recipe a bit more. I already reduced the amount of sugar and added vanilla. I could see adding spices -- cardamom, maybe? -- but no nuts or raisins, not in my house. The sprinkles on top are as fancy as it needs to be. And it's very moist, so leftovers will keep for several days.

Chocolate-glazed 10-carrot cake

Serves 16

Ingredients:

2 cups peeled, sliced carrots (10 small or 4-5 large)

3 large eggs

1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-1/4 to 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar (depending on sweetness desired)

2 cups plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

carrot-cup.jpg
Carrots should be 1/4-inch slices or thinner.

Glaze:

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons honey or agave nectar

Instructions:

Grease a 12-by-18-inch half-sheet pan with oil spray, making sure to get the sides and the corners. (If using a smaller pan, make sure the sides are at least 1-1/2 inches tall, preferably 2 inches, or you'll have batter overflow.) Set it aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

The carrots should be thinly sliced, no more than 1/4-inch-thick. Place them in the bowl of a food processor (a blender also will work if you have a strong one) along with about 1/2 cup of the oil, and pulse several times to start breaking them down. Add the rest of the oil, the eggs and the vanilla, and blend until smooth. (You may have to stop and scrape down the sides a few times.)

Add the sugar and blend briefly to combine.

Pour the dry ingredients into the processor or blender and, before turning it on, hand-stir the ingredients with a rubber spatula to get the flour into the wet mixture somewhat. (This helps prevent clumps.) Then blend until the dry ingredients are fully mixed into the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, distributing it as evenly as possible. 

Ceramic bunny with slice of cake
The cake is a beautiful color and not too sweet.

Bake for 22 to 27 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with just a few moist crumbs.

Cool the cake completely on a wire rack before adding the glaze.

To make the glaze, melt the chocolate chips, butter and honey in a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally. I typically use a microwave to melt chocolate, but like the double-boiler method for getting this glaze as smooth as possible.

Pour the warm glaze over the cooled cake, spreading it evenly with an offset spatula. If desired, add sprinkles or other decor soon, before the glaze sets.

Once the glaze is set, cut and serve.

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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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