Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Carrot Cake and life lessons

The first time I heard of carrot cake I was, obviously, revolted. Carrots! Orange vegetables with their very distinct and strong flavour in a cake! Impossible. Gajar ka halwa was made barely palatable only by the addition of obscene amounts of ghee. And raisins. How could you put carrots in cake and expect it to taste nice?

Of course, one day, I finally ate some. It was cake, after all, and one thing I cannot resist is cake. What I found was a ridiculously moist, cinnamony cake that made me purr in joy at every bite. I fell in love. Dark and damp, with fluffy white icing, only faintly sweet, with undertones of caramel, and that suggestion of spice. And raisins, of course. I looked for my dream carrot cake recipe for a long time. I found a few good ones along the way, including an eggless one.

I met another person who had this same obsessive love for carrot cake, and I baked him one, for his birthday, exactly two years ago. I only glazed it, and no, it wasn't my current, heavenly recipe, but it was the heavenliest I had ever discovered at that point, and so I baked it, with all my love, for the man I was in love with. It was a good time too--we had just gotten past a month or so of not talking, and a month or so of extreme awkwardness; we were beginning to exult in our happiness at being with each other; we were all of twelve days from our first day as a couple.

One year and fifty-one weeks later, I made this cake for my own birthday. I found this perfect recipe just about the time that our happy life was beginning to fray, and I made this heavenly cake for just me three months and three and a half weeks after our life together ended. He was in the same city, and he even came to say happy birthday, but he wouldn't look me in the eye, and then I could only see the man I hurt, not the man I loved. The man I loved was still there; I was no longer allowed access to him.

And he never did taste the heavenly carrot cake.

Cake from Joe, and frosting from my head.

For the cake:
  • 2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon powdered cinnamon (you can also use cloves and nutmeg but me I love cinnamon)
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar (I usually use all brown sugar, but this time I forgot and used 1.5 white)
  • 1 ¼ cups canola oil
  • 4 room-temperature eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups coarsely grated carrot
  • (Also raisins, say 1 cup, rolled in flour so they don't sink, but I omitted this time.)

For the frosting:
  • 1 package cream cheese (philadelphia brick, its 8oz)
  • About half that much butter (Yes, I know, not scientific)
  • 3 cups of icing sugar

Making the cake:
Prep your baking pans. It bakes in a bundt, well in my huge one, two loaf pans, or two 9" round pans. Experiment and enjoy. Preheat oven to 350F/180C.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda and powder, salt and cinnamon. In another bowl, beat the sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla together, till nicely mixed. Add in the dry stuff and beat till its mixed, but not too much. Joe calls it "until the flour mixture barely disappears". Stir in carrots. (This is when you'd add raisins or nuts if you're using them.)  Pour into greased pans and bake for 45 min to 50 min. If you're doing what I did and baking serially, then don't pour the second cake into the greased pan till before baking, and give it a whizz before you do, cos my second cake sank like a stone (which is why the glob of icing in the middle!). Let em cool in the pan for a few minutes and then take out and allow to cool properly.

Making the frosting:
Beat the cream cheese till soft. Add butter. beat till soft. Add sugar, beat till well combined. Frost cake. Refrigerate for 4-5 hours.

With friends if possible, and after a friendly birthday dinner and an unexpectedly kind birthday day in the office.

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