The household was abuzz with the news. A Famous Publisher, in town for the holidays from his home in tropical San Juan, Puerto Rico, was going to come by the house for dinner. Delicacies were laid in, food was bubbling away on the stove and...gasp...even the rug got a good vacuuming. (That's when you know a guest is important around here.)
The FP arrived exactly on time in a well-burnished leather coat and woolly cap, since his blood has thinned out in the tropics. He regaled us with the gossip about the art world in sunny PR and we gabbed about the amazing transformation of Portland from little Puddletown to a burgeoning food capital.
The meal was preceded by cheeses and Viande's incredible venison pate with dried cherries and hazelnuts. The main course was a paella and a salad of wild greens, with dessert an incredibly dense and delicious chocolate carrot cake I'd read about and had been wanting to try.
FP was kind enough to ask for seconds on the paella and raved about the cake, and we were thrilled he'd taken time from his busy hobbing and nobbing to visit our humble abode. Perhaps we'll make it down to his part of the world sometime. Till then, at least we have cake!
Chocolate-Orange Carrot Cake
From Bon Appetit, 1998
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 1/2 c. vegetable oil
4 lg. eggs
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
2 1/4 c. sugar
2/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 c. finely shredded peeled carrots (about 10 oz.)
1 c. (packed) sweetened flaked coconut
1 1/2 tsp. grated orange peel
1 11-oz. can mandarin oranges, drained, cut into 1/2" pieces
2 1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips (about 15 oz.)
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted margarine, room temperature
1/3 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. frozen orange juice concentrate
Additional canned mandarin orange segments, drained, patted very dry
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. [I used a bundt pan and dusted it with cocoa powder. - KAB] Using electric mixer, beat 1 1/2 c. oil and eggs in large bowl until well blended and thick, about 2 minutes. Add flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt; beat at low speed to blend. Increase speed; beat 1 minute longer (batter will be very thick). Stir in carrots, coconut and orange peel, then orange pieces. Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. [Bundt cake will take 90 minutes or more. Test with skewer till it comes out clean. - KAB] Cool cakes in pans 10 minutes. Turn out onto racks; cool completely.
Stir chocolate chips in heavy medium saucepan over very low heat until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm. Spoon 1/3 c. chocolate into small bowl and reserve for decoration. Beat margarine and sugar in medium bowl until fluffy. Beat in remaining melted chocolate and orange juice concentrate. Place 1 cake layer on platter. Spread with 2/3 cup frosting. Top with second cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Arrange additional orange segments around top edge of cake. Rewarm 1/3 cup reserved chocolate to pourable consistency if necessary. Drizzle orange segments with chocolate. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)