Monday, April 20, 2015

Totally Spring-like Carrot Cake with Cardamom

Spring has finally sprung, and I am psyched! Every year I am amazed at just how much the weather affects my mood.  Winter is fine for a while, but I got so tired of wearing my duck boots every. single. day and dealing with tons of snow, slush and ice. This past weekend I went running outside in shorts, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I did that!

This cake screams spring. It also screams spice! And excitement! And a moist crumb! I love that it has all of the best parts of carrot cake: the freshness of the shredded carrots, lightness of the cream cheese frosting and just that wholesome feeling you get when you are eating a dessert made out of veggies, ya know?

Adding cardamom to this cake is life changing—it adds a whole new dimension to this tasty cake, and I can’t picture going back to any other plain ol’ carrot cake. 

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Spring, oil on canvas, 1573

With spring outside and in my kitchen, I can’t help but be reminded of one of my favorite artists, Arcimboldo, and more specifically, his work Spring. Giuseppe Arcimboldo was a 16th century Mannerist painter, who is best remembered for his anthropomorphic portraits, using flowers, plants, fruits, vegetables and other inanimate objects to create the faces. Arcimboldo grew up in Milan when naturalism was really in style, which no doubt influenced his later work, though there is no question that he took it a step further than his contemporaries! When he was in his 30s, he left Milan and went to Vienna to work as a court painter, decorator and costume designer for the Habsburg court. It was here that Arcimboldo really flourished. Under the patronage of Emperor Maximilian II and Rudolf II, Arcimboldo was encouraged to study botany, and his works truly began to fuse art and science.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Vertumnus, oil on panel, 1950-1
In the 1570s, Arcimboldo started his “The Seasons” series to celebrate the reign of his patrons, by personifying Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. The series was so popular that he created many reproductions and alternate versions (one version of Spring is hanging in the Louvre, and I saw it last month while I was in Paris!). In 1590, Arcimboldo created one of his most famous portraits, Vertumnus, which portrays Maximilian II’s son, Rudolf II as the god of seasons. In choosing this subject matter, Arcimboldo reinforced Rudolf II’s extreme power—he was Holy Roman Emperor, and ruled as king over Bohemia, Germany, Hungary and Croatia.

Now I realize that most of us don’t currently deal with the rule of monarchs (but some of us do, thank you faithful readers in London and Thailand!!), but with the changing seasons, this cardamom carrot cake is sure to make everyone feel a little bit like royalty! Now get to baking—hurry, before it gets too hot outside to comfortably turn on our ovens!!

Carrot Cake with Cardamom
Adapted from Food52

·      ¾ c. sugar
·      ¾ c. brown sugar
·      2 t. vanilla extract
·      4 eggs, room temperature
·      4 cups shredded heirloom carrots
·      2 c. flour (1/2 of this can be whole wheat)
·      1 c. self-rising flour
·      2 t. baking powder
·      1 t. cardamom
·      ½ t. cinnamon
·      pinch of salt
·      dash of citrus extract (I used this)
·      ¾ c. grapeseed oil
·      ¾ c. plain yogurt

Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Martha Stewart

·      8 oz. cream cheese
·      1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
·      2 t. vanilla extract
·      1-2 c. powdered sugar

First bake the cake: preheat the oven to 325°F and grease two 9 inch cake pans. Lightly flour both pans and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the sugar and eggs until yellow and then add in the vanilla and citrus extract. In a separate bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, salt, and spices. Add the carrots and stir until all combined. Pour half of the carrot and flour mixture into the stand mixer along with half of the oil and yogurt. Mix and then repeat.

Pour the batter evenly into the two pans and bake for about 55 minutes, alternating halfway through. Let cool completely, no ifs ands or buts, I’m talking at least an hour before you frost! Or you can wait to frost the next day, but I doubt you will be able to wait that long!

For the frosting: cream together the butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer for a couple of minutes. Add in the vanilla, followed by a cup of powdered sugar. Taste, and add more sugar until the frosting reaches your desired level of sweetness. Yum!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Rineke’s Stripy Sandwich Cookies

Happy Tuesday! Today’s post combines two things that are new to me: chocolate sandwich cookies that are not vegan (what?!) and the super-talented Dutch photographer, Rineke Dijkstra.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Matisse’s Cut-Out (Linzer) Cookie Bars

Matisse’s very popular show Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs recently closed at MoMA following a successful run at the Tate Modern last summer. Matisse is very well known for his colorful paintings, drawings, sculpture and mixed-paper collages, the latter of which he turned to exclusively in the early 1940s.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Fragonard’s Blushing Apple Pie

Happy Pi Day Weekend everyone! For those not in the know, yesterday’s date 3/14/15 was the first 5 numbers of the mathematical constant π. Celebrated annually by math nerds around the world, it is also a time for all pie-loving freaks to let their pie-flag fly. What other occasion gives you an excuse to eat pie all day? How about all weekend?


Friday, March 13, 2015

Sweet Treats #6

Ever wonder what artists eat? Apparently Leonardo da Vinci’s journals recorded not only his brilliant ideas but also his thoughts about food and nutrition. It seems like he may have been on to something: in addition to advising against eating when you are not hungry, he also understood the importance of eating well-cooked meals made up of simple ingredients. Revolutionary! :)

Meanwhile, in the contemporary world, check out photographer Zachary Zavislak’s clever series Artist’s Palate

The Metropolitan Museum got a new president, replacing Emily Rafferty, who was the first woman to hold this post, and will step down at the end of March.

In celebrity art news, my 4th grade crush, Leonardo diCaprio recently purchased this after seeing it on instagram

And in celebrity parents news: Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s billionaire father has decided to sell of his $50 million+ art collection over the next few years, to benefit the endowment for nonprofit Harlem Children’s Zone 

Meanwhile, James Franco’s mom Betsy is also busy using her influence for good in the art world, and is currently fundraising for WomenArts, an organization that supports gender equality in the arts

Happy Friday, and see you tomorrow for Pi Day! 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Madame Cézanne and Consistently Amazing Chocolate Chip Cookies

Some things seem to always be just the way you want and expect them to be; stable yet perfect, no matter what: the fit of your favorite pair of jeans (perhaps prior to baking a batch of these!), a visit to see one of your favorite classic paintings, Meryl Streep’s performance in just about anything, and these chocolate chip cookies.
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