When I was little, there was a woman who attended church with us. Her name was Mary Russell. Not Mary. Not Miss Mary. Not Mrs. Russell. Mary Russell. Every time. I never called her anything else other than that – even when speaking directly to her. And now, at age 33, I have no idea why I did that. I think maybe everyone else did too – or at least the people in my family. Maybe it’s why I also refer to myself in third person regularly.
But anyway, Mary Russell was a baker. Not just any baker. She would put Sara Lee or Betty Crocker to shame. Betty Crocker who!? She sold baked goods – and not just any baked goods. Baked goods that would make you slap your mama or push your sister down. True story.
Sometimes I would go to Mary Russell’s home to pick up goodies – and I was always in complete awe each time. You see, Mary Russell was so popular locally that when she would bake, she would BAKE. There would be things cooling on every flat surface in her home…including each of the stairs leading to her second floor.
Occasionally, my dad would order us a batch of Chocolate Chip Cookies. Oh. My. GOSH. We’re taking, eyes roll back in your head delicious. So delicious that it was in fact a point of contention between my sister and me. And so, my dad had to order cookies SEPARATELY so that Jamey and I would have our own bags and couldn’t fight…as much.
I would hoard those cookies like Donald Trump hoards hair. I would take only one bite at a time, so as to make them last as long as humanly possible. Again…true story. These days, I just shove goodies into my mouth as fast as possible before the little people coming running and sniff the air asking, “are you eating chocolate, Mama?”
So with permission from her family, I am sharing Mary Russell’s Carrot Cake recipe today. It’s one of the best I’ve ever had in my entire life. Her recipes are living on in our family, even though she’s gone on to live with the the Lord. Mary Russell is one of the reasons that I write cookbooks – so that even one day when I’m gone, my recipes can live on…kinda like those tests I see where they do on McDonald’s Hamburgers that never mold. Okay, maybe that was a bad comparison, but anyway, let’s move on!
If we’re lucky, I might also get around to sharing her Red Velvet Cake and Hummingbird Cake recipes. And that second one doesn’t include poultry.
A few notes about this recipe:
-I bake in two 8 inch layers but you could also bake in a 9×13 pan.
-I toast my pecans to make them more flavorful. At 350 for maybe 5 minutes. If they start to burn, the smoke detector will let you know.
-You may need some milk to thin the icing to your consistency. Sometimes I need a couple tablespoons.
-I wear a kevlar glove when grating carrots (pictured with ingredients). Because my grater is a BEAST and likes to eat my knuckles. That glove is one of the best things I’ve ever purchased for the safety of my knuckles.
Mary Russell’s Carrot Cake
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups flour (any type, but not self rising)
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups oil (any oil will do – coconut, canola, etc. I wouldn’t use olive oil, as the flavor of it is too strong)
- 3 cups grated carrots
- Beat sugar and oil together until well blended.
- Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.
- Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a separate bowl.
- Add carrots and flour mixture, alternately to the sugar mixture, mixing well after each.
- Pour into two greased and floured 8 inch round cake pans.
- Bake at 350 for 25-25 minutes or until cake tests done in center.
- Cool 10 minutes and remove from pan to cool on wire rack completely.
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 stick butter (1/2 cup), softened
- 1 pound confectioners sugar (powdered sugar)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- Combine cream cheese, butter, sugar, and vanilla. Beat well with a mixer until no lumps remain.
- Place one layer of cake on a plate. Spread evenly with a layer of icing. Sprinkled with 1/2 of the pecans.
- Place second layer on top.
- Ice entire cake and sprinkle the top with remaining pecans.
- Store leftovers in refrigerator.
Yield: 12 servings