Every year since living in DC, I make my sister her all time favorite dessert- Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. Every year I try a new recipe hoping it will be better than the last. This year according to my sister “Was the best yet!” Mission accomplished. Recipe is at the end of this post. We also have a tradition of going out to a restaurant of the birthday person’s choice (as I am sure many people do. So far we have hit up- Thai x-ing, Little Serow, Komi, Barcelona, Roses Luxury, Ambar, and I am sure I am missing a few but all have been fantastic! This year Steph picked a spot none of us had been to before, Sally’s Middle Name.
Located on H st. in DC, Sally’s has been open since June 3, 2015. Owner and chef, opened Sally’s along with his wife and good friend. The name is a homage to Sam’s older sister, Sally. Growing up she was jealous of his middle name (which is Ulysses). When Sam was only 11 he promised her that when he opened his own restaurant he would name it “Sally’s Middle Name.” Sam got his first chef knife when he was 7, so this was a pretty serious promise for him, and lucky for us, we can reap the benefits of his soulful, unpretentious cuisine.
A bookcase overflowing with classic and noteworthy cookbooks greets you as you walk in, no host stand in sight but we were greeted promptly and sat immediately. The dining room is small, with a simple contemporary vintage feel. Small tea cups line the wall, a large bar overlooking the kitchen, different vintage dinner plates set on the table. It has a laid back feel, with good food and a changing menu that focuses on seasonal small plates. I love the menu is written on the chalkboard wall, it cuts down on waste and the menu changes easily and often, so you know it’s always something a little different.
The dishes offered are great for all types of diets, everything is labeled for easily identifying gluten-free and diary-free options. They also have an array of delicious vegetarian options that will not leave you wanting. It was suggested by our server we order about 3-4 small plates per person but we got 4 plates between the 3 of us plus dessert and felt content (although I am sure with hungry men 3-4 would be a good assumption). They have wine and Prosecco by the glass- all offered by the bottle for 4 times the price, which was interesting but just fine. Also a variety of microbrews to choose from.
The staff was knowledgeable and friendly. As I walked in with cake in hand the host offered to take it from me and bring it out as a surprise when the time was right. We ordered the vanilla bean ice cream to accompany the cake, it was absolutely delectable! Velvety and creamy consistency bursting with real vanilla bean flavor, some of the best I have tried (and I have tried my fair share).
The chicken breast was juicy and flavorful, although we were told it was large enough for 3 of us, so we were a little surprised by the portion. None the less it was fine because we had plenty of other delicious additions to our meal. Including:
Pork fried rice – this was Hannah and Stephs favorite, it had Szechuan pepper flakes to give it a nice kick of heat.
Mashed potatoes- AMAZING! Rich, savory and slightly chunky, exactly what I want at my table next Thanksgiving. The gravyish sauce was not too thick and was a match made in heaven for the chicken.
Roasted carrots and parsnips with harissa, cilantro and dill. My personal fav. Bursting with fresh herb flavors and a subtle heat of harissa. The carrots were roasted just right, a bit of char, slightly underdone so not to get overly mushy.
None one said it better than Julia Child “A party without cake is just a meeting.“
Carrot Cake with Salted Bourbon Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Flour
- 9 Carrots, medium, you want to end up with 2 cups shredded carrot
- 2 Large Eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup Coconut Sugar
- ¾ cup Vegetable Oil
- 3 tbsp Almond milk (or buttermilk)
- ½ tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1⅛ cups Cake Flour
- ½ tsp Baking Powder
- ½ tsp Baking Soda
- ½ tsp Sea Salt
- ½ tsp Ground Cinnamon
- ¼ tsp Fresh Grated or Ground Ginger
- 1 cup Walnuts, toasted and chopped (or a little less)
For the Frosting:
- 12 oz Cream Cheese, softened
- 8 tbsp Unsalted Butter, softened
- 1⅓ cups Powdered Sugar, sifted if needed
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup almond milk (or heavy cream)
- 2 Tbs bourbon
- a pinch of salt
- On a box grater, finely grate all the carrots. You need 2 cups, packed. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350°F and position a rack in the middle.
- Prepare two 8-inch cake pans with butter and parchment paper.
- In a stand mixer or with a hand-held mixer on medium speed, beat eggs and sugar together until thickened and light in color—about 4 minutes with stand mixer, longer with hand held.
- Mix together the oil, almond milk, and vanilla. Add liquid into the egg/sugar mixture on low speed until combined.
- In a small bowl, combine all the dry ingredients—flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Gently fold into the egg/sugar mixture with a spatula.
- When it’s almost fully combined, add in the shredded carrot and toasted walnuts. Continue to gently fold everything in until well combined.
- Divide cake batter between the two cake pans and bake for 30-33 minutes until it’s golden-brown and feels springy. Let cake completely cool in the pan on the counter for 3-4 hours.
- To make the caramel, add sugar to a heavy bottom sauce pan on medium heat. Wait until the sugar starts to melt on the bottom and start swirling for about 10-15 minutes until a deep amber color is reached and it is slightly bubbling. Watch closely as not to let it burn. Turn off burner and remove from heat and slowly add milk while stirring, it will bubble and hiss so be careful not to burn yourself. Add pinch of salt and bourbon and place back on still-warm burner for another minute while stirring. Let cool and place in the fridge, you can make this a day or two in advance and use the leftovers for a sundae!
- To make the frosting, use paddle attachment on a stand mixer, or use hand mixer and a bowl again. Beat cream cheese on medium for a couple minutes until smooth. Add the butter and continue to beat another minute until combined. Then add the powdered sugar until incorporated. Scrape the bowl a few times in between.
- Remove cakes from pans and set one layer on a cake stand. Use ⅓ of the frosting and spread to the edges with an offset spatula. Place the second layer on top and press. Use ⅓ of the frosting for the very top, then the remaining ⅓ for the sides.