By Anne Cain

My husband loves carrot cake. And although I am not really a great baker, I decided to show him how much I loved him by making him a carrot cake for our Easter meal. I spent about 18 years as a cookbook editor and remember all the secrets for great carrot cake: Don't use preshredded carrot, measure the flour correctly, don't overbeat the batter,use the correct pan size, make sure the oven temperature is correct, and don't open the oven door too early or the cake will fall.

Now it's time for true confessions. We ended up having company for Easter weekend and I ran short of time for both grocery shopping and baking. So. . . I did what any efficient person would do. I bought a cake mix and canned frosting. Come on, don't gasp. You know you've done it too!

I lined the cake pans with parchment paper, baked according to the package directions, and the cake layers came out just fine. Since I think that the best part of carrot cake is the cream cheese frosting, I bought two cans so I would be sure to have enough. Once the cake layers had cooled completely, I started slathering on the frosting. (In hindsight, I might have put a little too much frosting between the layers because the next day the top cake layer started sliding off the top. Perhaps I only needed one can of frosting!) However, the cake did look nice at first, and to keep it from looking just like the cake on the box, I sprinkled it with chopped pecans. Because of the sliding issue, I ended up slicing up the cake and transferring the slices to a large plastic container.

The cake really was tender and moist and received a "thumbs up" from my husband and my mother-in-law. The extra frosting did not seem to bother anyone at all. Next time I'll bake a carrot cake from scratch but I believe I'll make a sheet cake, just in case.

If you also believe in the power of cake mixes, see Layer Cake Confidential for some impressive cakes that start with a mix. I'd love to hear about some of your baking adventures.


Recipe: Layered Carrot Cake (the one I intended to make)