My Daddy’s sister, Carole, was one of three girls in his family and, in my humble opinion, remains our family’s truest version of “Aunty Mame.”
Every one of my father’s sisters is a force of nature (like their mother and my grandmother, Ilo Bren)–and true to that legacy Carole was always bringing “something new to the table” (and I mean that literally!) At one point in the late 60s/early 70s she went off to visit the Southwestern United States with her then husband, my bowlegged Uncle Warren–complete with big silver belt buckle and that crooked cowboy smile–and brought us all back a recipe for homemade chili and cornbread–both seriously wide-open epicurean wonders in 1970s Clear Lake, South Dakota!
Carole also introduced our family to crazy easy, moist and rich carrot cake and indulgent cream cheese frosting (insert “fight over the beater” here) with this recipe and it was many years before I found out that other people spent so much time grating carrots for their recipes that they often avoided making this incomparable comfort food dessert!
Carole’s big hearted laughter and her love of family and friends remain larger than life and while, sadly, it has been many years since I’ve been able to hug her neck I know in my heart that she remains true to her legendary lack of patience for time wasted in putting together a family gathering! So, check out the list of ingredients for that carrot grating time saver that makes these bars so simple–less than 15 minutes to put it all together and get it in the oven to bake!
And, yes, my darlings this recipe easily translates into cupcakes (even a sheet cake or layers) but it sure saves invaluable time to frost that single wondrous pan of bars instead of individual and fussy little cakes! I cut it all into individual squares and then serve on cupcake liners–dresses ’em up and provides something to catch the crumbs (so you don’t end up snatching crumbs off your britches when nobody’s lookin’!)
From our family with love to you and yours–“Aunt Carole’s Crazy Easy Carrot Cake Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting.”
Carrot Cake Bars:
4 jumbo eggs
2 cups sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
3-4 oz. jars baby food carrots (I use “Gerber’s; 2nd Foods” brand)
2 ½ cups All Purpose Unbleached Flour (I use “King Arthur’s” brand)
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt (I use “Diamond Crystal” brand)
1 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts, chopped (black if you can stand ’em or english will certainly work but no pecans, please–this is a recipe from the Great Plains)
1 Tablespoon All Purpose Flour
Cream Cheese Frosting:
½ cup (1 stick) of salted butter, softened (I use “Organic Valley” brand)
8 oz. package of cream cheese, softened
4 teaspoons real vanilla extract (I use homemade)
3 ½ cups powdered sugar
½ cup walnuts, chopped finely (reserve)
Jelly roll pan
“Baker’s Joy” Spray (a combination oil and flour prep spray—look for it with other cooking oil sprays like “Pam”)
Preheat oven to 350°.
With an electric mixer on high, mix together eggs, sugar, vegetable oil and strained carrots in a large bowl until completely combined.
In a small bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and then add to ingredients in large bowl. Mix together until thoroughly incorporated.
Toss together raisins, walnuts and 1 T. of flour until thoroughly coated. (The flour coating will ensure that the raisins and walnuts are suspended in the cake and do not fall to the bottom of the pan.) Fold flour covered nuts and raisins into batter.
Spray jelly roll pan with “Baker’s Joy” or grease and flour bottom and sides.
Pour batter into prepared pan and evenly distribute with a spatula or the back of large spoon.
Place pan on middle rack of preheated oven and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean—about 30 to 35 minutes.
(For a sheet cake preparation–I use glass–13X9 takes about 26 to 29 minutes.)
Cool completely before frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
Using an electric mixer on low, mix together all ingredients except reserved walnuts until well incorporated then whip on high until light and fluffy.
Frost bars and then dust thoroughly with finely chopped walnuts.
Cut into delectable little squares and serve