LaBelle and Heaven

I’m guilty. I sing, I sing a lot, and I sing in public. Often. I let loose in the shower, on my walk to the subway, and always (ALWAYS) while I cook and bake. Music is a constant in my kitchen. Always has been. And most of the time it was Patti LaBelle-centric. I have fond kitchen memories of listening to Patti LaBelle’s Live! One Night Only while watching my mom bake. And my “Bubby” used to produce cheesecake after cheesecake (I was allowed to lick the leftover batter clinging to the beaters) while discussing the finer points of life in Philadelphia and Patti LaBelle- it was my mom’s favorite singer.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a little treasure that reminded me of those fond memories. Recipes to Sing about La Belle Cuisine is a collection of some of Mrs. LaBelle’s favorite family recipes as well as some of her personal faves. Not only is Patti LaBelle one of the most accomplished singers of all time, but she really cooks. And, Lord, you better believe she cooks well.

I immediately dove into her recipe for Heavenly Carrot cake with Cream Cheese Frosting – I have a thing for cream cheese. Be warned: most bakers will want to turn the page/close the book after discovering the key ingredient is “jarred carrot baby food”. Kind of weird, but kind of great for me as I am not fond of shredded carrots in cake – that texture always throws me for a loop. Without any corny irony, this particular carrot cake was singing for me to give it a spin.

And about the frosting – maybe it’s the Philadelphia in my blood, but I have a major crush on Cream Cheese. So does Mrs. LaBelle! A half-teaspoon of almond extract and vanilla extract give the cream cheese frosting the perfect compliment to the “heavenly” cake itself.

This cake will not disappoint. It’s got soul and I recommend you revisit some of Patti’s greatest hits while serving!

Heavenly Carrot Cake RECIPE ADAPTED from Patti LaBelle’s Recipes to Sing about La Belle Cuisine

Cake Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs — at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 4 oz jars carrot baby food — 1 1/2 cups
1 8 oz can crushed pineapple — well drained
3/4 cup chopped walnuts — 3 oz
1/2 cup raisins

Cake Frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese — at room temperature
4 tablespoons butter — at room temperature
1 tablespoon half and half or milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups confectioner’s sugar — 1 pound

15 walnut halves — optional


To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly butter and flour three small cake pans, tapping out the excess flour. Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt together and set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer at high speed, beat the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla until well combined, about 1 minutes. Mix in the carrot baby food. With the mixer on low speed, beat in the flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, and mix until smooth. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the pineapple, chopped walnuts, and raisins. Spread evenly in the prepared pans.

Bake until the top springs back when lightly pressed in the center, about 1 hour. Cool completely in the pan on a wire cake rack.

To make the frosting: In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer at medium speed, beat the cream cheese, butter, half and half, and almond and vanilla extracts until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the confectioner’s sugar.

Spread the frosting over the top of the cake. Cut into 15 pieces. If desired, garnish each peice of cake with a walnut half.