Farewell PEI, Hello Cake!

For the last four days of my holiday on PEI, I was joined by my friend and frequent PEI travel buddy, Dayna

With the bit of time we had to adventure, Dayna and I (with a good dose of driving on the part of my parents) knocked off the usual touristy items from our PEI To-Do List, frequenting beaches and antique shops, taking scenic drives with the windows down and Paul Simon’s Concert in the Park on high, visiting extended family, checking out the farmers’ market, and dropping in on the distillery for a bit of cane sugar molasses moonshine.

Upload from September 23, 2011But, as is often the case when Dayna and I get together, we spent the better part of our time on the Island doing things that are a little more, er, off the beaten path. This time around, we found ourselves:

- In historic (and super-quaint) Victoria-by-the-sea, stopping in at Island Chocolates for an iced tea and staying to hang with the locals and hold photos of Elton John’s face in front of our own while we sang (very poorly) a promotional jingle -  the shop was holding a contest to win tickets to Elton’s upcoming concert - set to the tune of “Your Song”;
- On the side of a road at a location I cannot name (Rule #1 of mushroom picking!), battling mosquitoes for golden chanterelle mushrooms. This time, the mosquitoes came out on top;


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- In someone’s front yard, checking out PEI’s biggest tree (officially);
- At the parish hall, eating biscuits and listening to bluegrass with Island elders; and,
- At the Cheese Lady’s shop, buying wheels of gouda and accidentally angering the sheep (the latter was all me, sorry sheep!). 

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Another common occurrence when Dayna and I get together is that we take control of the kitchen. After three days of the “all butter, all the time” approach to eating (make that 15 days for me), we were feeling vegetable deficient. So we raided the garden and Dayna put together an amazing feast of orange-glazed carrots, potatoes with oregano and lemon, beets with fennel fronds, and stewed cherry tomatoes. 

And, for good measure, we grabbed a monster carrot (so big we needed less than one) and baked a super-decadent carrot cake, which we served in giant hunks and enjoyed with abandon, after dinner and again for breakfast the next day. 

Upload from September 23, 2011

Now that we’re home, Dayna and I will have to slowly reintroduce vegetables to our diet (don’t want to shock the system, you know). And since my dad sent us home with five pounds of vegetables each, including some of those monster carrots, I figured that making another carrot cake was probably a good way to start. (Please feel free to question my judgment, because I sure am.) 

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Tender, moist, packed with all sorts of tasty additions - pecans, raisins, pineapple and cinnamon - and topped off with cream cheese icing, this is one happy cake. Perfect, I’d say, for at least pretending to get a healthy start to the new season; happy first day of fall, everyone! 
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Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing
Adatped from allrecipes.com
Makes two 8-inch cakes, perfect for stacking!* 

Ingredients
Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1¾ cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 cups grated carrots
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 cup raisins
1 cup crushed pineapple, juices drained

Cream Cheese Icing
1½ cups cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature
3½-4 cups icing sugar, sifted**

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 8-inch pans (circles or squares - both work just fine!). In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, vegetable oil and eggs. In another medium bowl, mix together carrots, pecans, raisins, and pineapple. 

Upload from September 23, 20112. Add sugar mixture to flour mixture and stir until dry ingredients are almost fully moistened. Add carrot mixture and fold until dry ingredients are no longer visible and carrots, etc. are evenly distributed through batter. Divide batter evenly between your two prepared pans and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool cakes on a wire rack for 10 minutes then turn out of pans and allow to cool completely. Centers of cakes may sink a little - you’ve been warned! 

Upload from September 23, 2011

3. Once cakes are cool, beat together cream cheese and butter. Add powdered sugar, starting with the lesser amount, and mix until smooth. Add additional sugar, if necessary, to obtain desired sweetness and consistency.

Upload from September 23, 20114. To ice the cake: place one layer, bottom-up in the centre of a plate. Slide a few strips of wax paper under the cake to catch any icing that may drip along the way (this’ll ensure you’re left with a tidy-looking plate at the end of the icing process). Place one slightly-heaping 1/2 cup of icing on top of cake and spread to the edges of the top with a knife or offset spatula. Place next layer on top, bottom-side up. Place another slightly-heaping 1/2 cup of icing on top of cake and spread to the edges. Spread remaining icing around edges and top of cake until cake is evenly covered in icing. Remove wax paper strips and serve. 

Upload from September 23, 2011*You can also make a 9x13-inch sheet cake, if you’re not big on doubling up. 
**I only used 3 cups of icing sugar this time around, and the resulting icing was tasty but pretty runny (so much so that I had to pop the cake in the freezer to prevent the icing from succumbing to gravity). I suspect that an icing made with 3.5-4 cups of icing sugar would be much more manageable, and still super-tasty! 

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