birthday bash!

I couldn't help but go ALL OUT for Laurens birthday this year. I threw her a party with lots of friends and homemade bites from my kitchen. Fancy little appetizers were my first thought but then Lauren requested simple comfort food. I obliged, but kicked it up a notch obviously. Without a doubt a carrot cake had to be made for Lauren, it's her favorite.


Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from The Essential Baker
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 extra large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
2/3 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 pound finely grated carrots
1 cup toasted chopped pecans
1 cup golden raisins
1 batch Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by lightly coating with oil and lining with parchment paper.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt and nutmeg together in a bowl.  Set aside.
Mix the eggs, sugar, oil, buttermilk, brown sugar, vanilla, and pineapple together in a large bowl.   Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until fully incorporated.   Stir in the carrots, pecans and raisins just until evenly distributed throughout the batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake on the center rack for about 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean.
Cool cakes in their pans for at least 30 minutes before attempting to remove them.  Then, removed from the pans and peel off the parchment paper.  Continue to cool the cakes completely before frosting.
To assemble the cake, place the bottom layer on a cardboard round or other flat surface and put on a cake turntable. Scoop about 1 1/2 cups of the cream cheese icing onto the top of the bottom cake layer.  Using an offset spatula, spread the frosting evenly over the surface.  Carefully place the second layer on top.  Scoop another 1 1/2 cups or so of the frosting on the top of the cake and spread evenly, easing the frosting down the sides.  Spread the icing around the sides of the cake, adding more as needed.  Lift the cake off the turn table and place on a cake stand or platter and chill a bit to firm up the frosting before slicing.
Cream Cheese Frosting
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange extract
3-4 cups confectioners’ sugar to taste
Beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth.  Add extracts and beat just until incorporated.  Beat in sugar, one cup at a time, until frosting has the flavor and consistency you want.  You may not need to add all of the sugar.

iPhone photos... sorry
Elk sliders, Sweet potato fries, grilled cheese & tomato soup, and whiskey apple cider drinks

Margaritas at Rio in Denver
Brunch @ PanzanoIMG_1262
PANZANO Benedict
Two poached eggs served over a sun-dried tomato polenta cake topped with prosciutto cotto, fontina cheese and hollandaise sauce, served over basil pesto 
Smoked Salmon Flatbread/ Smoked salmon layered over a crisp flatbread with basil pesto, shallots, goat cheese, & thin sliced lemon 
Mushroom Omelet/ Egg whites, Hazel Dell mushrooms, basil pesto and Haystack mountain goat cheese drizzled with white truffle oil served with toast

 Root DownIMG_1273
 Pan Seared Barramundi / Sauteed Bok Choy, Braised Parsnips, Shallots, Garlic, Spicy Blood Orange Reduction, Miso-Vanilla Butter & Pumpkin Seed Crust  IMG_1269
Maple Leaf Farms Hoisin Duck Confit Slider / House Made Lemon Creme Fraiche, Fried Sweet Potato Garnish, Organic Arugula & Brioche Bun Colorado
Lamb Sliders  / Aged Cheddar, Harissa Aioli, Arugula,
Organic Sweet Potato Fries, Brioche Bun & Mint-Garlic Yogurt Sauce

Organic Butternut-Ricotta Gnocchi / Mushrooms, Spinach, Black Currants, Shallots, Chile Flake,
Brown Butter, Sage-Hazelnut Pesto & Romano Cheese
Banana “Creme Brulee” Pie / Peanut Butter-Chocolate Crispy Crust & Sweet Whipped Sour Cream 

We did some serious dining as you can tell. It seems to be a rare occasion when every meal for two days is eaten at a restaurant, but doesn't that go hand-in-hand with a celebration? I coordinated a surprise amongst it all- Mommy flew in just for the night. Lauren walked into the hotel that I casually explained 'was taken care of' and our mom was standing there with Grits in her arms. Lauren freaked.
Note: If you are in the Denver area or plan on it, eat at Root Down.


  1. That cake looks DELICIOUS, as do the sweet potato fries, sliders, basically everything! This post is making my mouth water. Great photos, and the food looks delish! Hope you had fun!

    xox Jordana

  2. I like carrot cake very much. I did this cake with coconut filling and it was ok too.


  3. Wow,

    Carrot cake looks amazingly soft and impressive. Cream cheese icing looks incredibly smooth. I could like all of my plate!