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Spiced Carrot Cake is made in the new fluted cake pan from Lodge Manufacturing.

Cast iron is king at Lodge Manufacturing, partly because the 122-year-old South Pittsburg, Tenn., company has never stopped innovating. For those of you who have been hoping to find its very popular fluted cake pan, you'll jump for joy knowing that it's back and better than ever.

Known for its incredible durability, cast iron — if properly cared for — never diminishes in quality. That's why so many of us have our grandmother's — even great-grandmother's — cast-iron pans.

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Anne Braly

But finding one of the fluted cake pans has been next to impossible. The factory began manufacturing them in the 1950s, but discontinued them in 2001 due to lack of sales. Since that time, though, baking has become popular again, thanks to the farm-to-table movement that has encouraged cooks to make foods from scratch. Also, the Food Network and baking shows on other channels have introduced the world of baking to a new generation of cooks.

So now, 17 years later, Lodge has reintroduced its fluted cake pan as part of the company's Lodge Cast Iron Legacy series.

"Based on numerous social-media requests through the years, we decided to introduce it as the initial piece of our Legacy series," says Lodge spokesman Mark Kelly. "And so far, everyone thinks it's beautiful."

At first glance, the cake pan looks much like the ones of yore with its lustrous black finish. But on closer inspection, you'll find the handles are much bigger, making transport from counter to oven and vice versa much safer. Also, the finish, like all of Lodge's new products, is preseasoned. So, unlike your grandma, you don't need to take the time coating it with oil, heating it for a while in the oven and cooling it before using it for the first time. Lodge developed this process in 2002.

I've been looking for fluted cake pans ever since I found my mother's sour cream pound cake recipe again. Every one I've made is OK, but I haven't been sold on any of them. None came out as pretty and perfect as my mother's — until now. I don't know what Lodge has done, but they've created a seemingly no-fail cake pan. Included in the packaging is a booklet with tips that I am now following. I never knew that, for instance, you need to wipe up any batter that may have spilled on sides of the pan before baking the cake. This ensures the cake will bake evenly, without any sticking on the sides. Also — and these tips work for any brand of cake pans:

» When pouring cake batter into the pan, fill no higher than 3/4 of the way full. This prevents the batter from rising too high and overflowing in the oven.

» After the cake is done, let it rest in the pan for at least 10 minutes — longer if you can — before flipping it out. This allows the cake to shrink slightly and will minimize sticking.

» For best results, use a cooking spray that contains flour, or use a tablespoon of butter to grease the pan. Vegetable oil is too heavy and will pool at the bottom of the pan, making the top of your cake unpleasantly soggy.

» To keep cast iron looking good, wash it by hand, dry completely then wipe it with vegetable oil before storing it.

The pan sells for $69.99 online at shop.lodgemfg.com, but shipping might take a while since the pan is so popular. You can get it faster at the Lodge Factory Store in South Pittsburg, but call ahead, 423-837-5919, to make sure they have them in stock. A booklet also came in the packaging with a few of Lodge's favorite cake recipes. This is one, a carrot cake that's perfect to add to your list of favorite cakes and will make a delicious addition to your Easter menu.

Spiced Carrot Cake

1 tablespoon butter

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

4 large eggs, room temperature

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 cups grated carrots

1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts

Cream cheese frosting:

1/2 stick butter

4 ounces cream cheese

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 3/4 cups powdered sugar

1/4 cup milk

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cake pan with 1 tablespoon butter. With an electric mixer, beat oil and eggs on high speed for 1 minute. Mix in sugar, 1/2 cup at a time. Add vanilla.

In a separate bowl, mix together flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Add to wet ingredients in two batches, mixing on low between additions until fully incorporated. Fold in carrots and nuts. Pour batter into prepared cake pan, and bake for 1 hour or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let rest for at least 10 minutes before turning out, then let cool for 30 minutes before frosting.

Frosting: Beat butter, cream cheese and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar gradually, beating well. Add milk, a little at a time, until the frosting reaches spreading consistency.

Contact Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com.

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