Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Classic Carrot Cake

cake ingredients 

  • 4 Eggs
  • ¾ cup Vegetable Oil
  • ¼ cup Apple Sauce
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 cup Golden Brown Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Vanilla Extract
  • 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1 tbsp Cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp Nutmeg
  • 3 cups Carrots, grated
  • 1 cup Pecans or Walnuts, chopped (optional)

frosting ingredients

  • ½ cup Butter, softened
  • 8 oz Cream Cheese
  • 4 cups Powdered Sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract


  1. Preheat the over to 350˚. Grease and flour two 9″ round cake pans.
  2. In a large bowl beat together eggs, oil, apple sauce, sugars and vanilla.
  3. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  4. Stir in carrots until just combined. Fold in nuts, if desired.
  5. Pour into prepared pans. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack.

Make the frosting:

  1. In a medium bowl, beat the softened butter and cream cheese. In batches, add the sifted powdered sugar, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.
  2. Frost the cooled cake.


This recipe works very well as cupcakes, cook in muffin tins for 20 – 25 minutes.

Nopales Ensalada

based on the recipe from epicurious
serves 6 to 8

One of the underlying principles of our dinners is to try things we’ve never tried, learn a new skill, buy an interesting tool, and generally work from the rawest ingredients possible. So, rather than starting with canned nopales, or cactus pads, or even the prepared variety in the produce isle, we started with the whole ones…the ones that are still prickly. Sacrifice our hands we did, but we did manage to get every last spine peeled away before continuing to toss this menagerie of fresh ingredients together.


  • 8 Nopales (cactus leaves)
  • 1 Yellow Onion, quartered
  • 5 cloves Garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1/4 cup Cider Vinegar
  • 1 tbsp dried Oregano
  • 1 tsp Chili Powder (we used New Mexico Chili Powder)
  • 3/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 3 Roma Tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 Red Onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Avocado, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Queso Fresco, crumbled
  1. Using a potato peeler, remove spines from nopales. Wear gloves if you have them.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add nopales, onion & garlic and reduce to medium heat. Cook until the nopales are tender, about 6 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Discard onion & garlic. Chop nopales, cover and chill for 2 hours – 2 days.
  3. Whisk the vinegar, oregano, and chili powder together in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil and season with salt to taste. 
  4. Combine the nopales, dressing, tomatoes, red onion, and cilantro in a large serving bowl. Top with avocado and queso fresco and serve immediately. 

Higos con Balsámico y Avellanas

based on the recipe from What’s Cooking America
serves 12

Literally translated, Figs with Balsamic Vinegar and Hazelnuts, this is one of those dishes that are easy to assemble, and really wow the crowds. Sometimes just combining individually delicious (occasionally expensive ingredients) is all it takes.


  • 1 basket Green Figs
  • 1 basket Black Figs
  • 1 cup Hazelnuts, whole
  • your favorite Balsamic Vinegar
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 F. 
  2. Spread the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet and roast for 15 – 20 minutes until lightly browned and fragrant. As time winds down, check often, as the nuts will burn quickly. Remove from oven, allow to cool, remove skins (roll a couple around in your hand), and chop.
  3. Trim stems from figs. With a sharp knife, score an “X” on the top of each figs about halfway down. Squeeze the base gently until the “X” opens up. 
  4. Arrange the figs on a platter, drizzle with the balsamic vinegar, sprinkle with salt and top with a generous shower of the hazelnuts. Serve immediately. 

Melón Picante

based on the recipe from What’s Cooking America
serves 10

This end-of-summer salad perks up flavors that we didn’t know cantaloupe was capable of. Easily one of the best dishes on the table, two melons were perfect for the ten of us.


  • curly Lettuce Leaves
  • 2 Cantaloupe Melons
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1/3 cup Olive Oil
  • 1/3 cup White Wine Vinegar
  • 1 bunch Chives, snipped into small pieces


    1. Line a large serving bowl with curly lettuce leaves.
    2. Using a melon baller, scoop out 1-inch balls in a large bowl (not the one with lettuce)
    3. Sprinkle the melon with salt and pepper. Toss with olive oil. Then add vinegar and toss again. 
    4. Spoon melon onto greens. Top with chives. Can be chilled or served immediately. 

    Paella de Marisco

    based on the recipe from Iberia Restaurant
    serves 4 – 8

    This dish is the true inspiration for this menu. A couple years ago I had a team offsite at Iberia Restaurant where talented chef Jose Luis Relinque taught us how to make paella: all day and with lots of wine. I took copious, indiscernible notes, and this recipe is the result of a wonderful afternoon on the restaurant patio with good friends, good food and perhaps too much good wine. I highly recommend checking this place out for dinner or for offsites.

    Ever since then I have wanted a paella pan, and eventually an outdoor paella burner. I have a vision of having paella cookouts on the beach. We still don’t have a burner, but we do have two paella pans, and even Alton Brown agrees, it is necessary for creating this dish.

    The original recipe calls for monkfish which was difficult to find, expensive to buy, and hideous to look at, so we dropped it. Paella rice was also terribly difficult to find, but well worth the effort as it cooked beautifully, Whole Foods had it in a canvas sack.

    Be forewarned, this dish takes hours to make. HOURS. We made the sofrito the day before and then proceeded on the day of. I think it took around 2 + 2.5 hours total in actual cook time, not including chopping. 

    Paella de Marisco


    • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
    • 3 Onions, chopped
    • 3 cloves Garlic, minced
    • 1 Green Bell Pepper, chopped
    • 2 Tomatoes, chopped
    • 4 cups Chicken Stock
    • 8 Saffron Threads
    • 4 Chicken or Pork pieces, any (we used pork)
    • 1/8 lb Cured Ham, diced
    • 1/2 lb Squid, cleaned and sliced 1/4″ thick
    • 1/2 tsp Pimento (Spanish Paprika)
    • 1/4 lb Bay Shrimp (the little ones)
    • 2 cups Spanish Paella Rice
    • 8 Prawns (16/20), peeled, deveined
    • 4 Large Sea Scallops or 16 Bay Scallops (we used bay scallops)
    • 1/2 lb Monkfish, or other white fish, cleaned, cut into cubes (we nixed this)
    • 2 Artichoke Hearts, quartered, parboiled (we used jarred hearts)
    • 8 Clams, scrubbed
    • 8 Mussels, scrubbed and debearded
    • 1/2 cup Peas (we used frozen)
    • 2 Roasted Sweet Pimientos, peeled, seeded and cut into strips (we used jarred, chopped pimientos)
    • 8 Lemon Wedges
    • Sea Salt, and lots!

    1.  Add the saffron threads to the stock and simmer over low heat.
    2. Sprinkle the chicken, prawns, scallops, monkfish and squid generously with sea salt.
    3. Add 1/4 cup olive oil to the paella pan. Make sure paella pan is flat (oil does not spread in one direction). Over medium heat brown the chicken/pork thoroughly on all sides. Add the cured ham. Move to the edge of the pan.
    4. Sofrito: Over medium heat, put 1/4 cup olive oil in the paella pan. Cook the onions and the garlic until translucent, stirring often. DON’T BURN. Add the bell pepper and cook until soft. Add tomato and continue cooking and stirring until most of the moisture has evaporated. Mix with the chicken/pork and move to the center. Spread homogeneously.
    5. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the squid. Allow some of the moisture to evaporate, then mix with the sofrito, and sprinkle generously with paprika. Add the bay shrimp. Spread homogeneously.
    6. Add the rice over the meat and sofrito. Distribute evenly by jiggling the pan. DO NOT STIR ANY MORE. When the pan regains its heat, ladle 1 cup of the stock gently over the rice and bring to a boil. Add more as necessary, once previous cup has evaporated. Reduce heat to a simmer. Arrange the prawns, monkfish, scallops and artichokes by pushing them down into the mixture. Allow the juices to heat and taste for seasoning. Arrange the clams in the same manner, placing them hinge side up. Sprinkle the peas over the paella. When the clams are barely starting to open insert the mussels in the same manner as the clams.
    7. Cook uncovered until all the broth is absorbed and the shells have opened. Rice should be just about done. Add more broth if needed. Remove from stove and let rest for 10 minutes, covered with newspaper or a dishtowel. Decorate with pimiento strips and lemon wedges.