The day after I baked the artisan bread, I developed a craving for carrot cake. I have no idea where this came from, and maybe it’s my way of missing the visits to the cafes. I’m normally not a fan of carrot cake, as I always find it way too sweet or too heavy. My mother was not fond of making it either, as it entailed the additional burden of grating the carrots, so my affinity to this particular cake is tenuous at best.
I was in the middle of reading a good book when I suddenly remembered that I wanted to experiment with a carrot cake recipe, and decided what the heck, I haven’t played combine-three-recipes-and-see-what-happens in a long time, and it was time to resume the adventure. The theme of the existential dialogue remained restoration of balance, but this time my thoughts ventured more towards trusting my instincts and creating something new with what I already know. My grandfather would have been proud of me, even though his culinary experimentations were more towards main meals and never with baking as far as I know.
Baking this particular carrot cake turned out to be unexpectedly therapeutic. It was an attempt to reach far into my past and touch base with a flavour memor that felt like a dangling participle, and unfinished chapter. I wanted to figure out what it was that bothered me so much about the past recipes, and in order to do that, one has to allow the walls to crumble, the chasms to expand, and the adjustments will fall into place. I suppose this is why I refer to it as my Second Chance cake.
First I attacked what always bothers me with carrot cakes in general – the sugar levels. So I drastically reduced that, doubled the usual cinnamon quantity, and added ginger powder. Some will take the shortcut and just use pumpkin spice but this curtails the ability to adjust the individual spices. Also, much to my horror I discovered too late in the game that I didn’t have enough powdered sugar in my pantry for the frosting. Thanks to Chef Google, I managed to make my own powered sugar, which allowed me to again reduce the sweetness. I could sense my mother breathing down my neck and asking “do you know what you are doing?” while my father would have whispering “add food colouring”… I ignored them both.
Second Chance Carrot Cake
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 cups shredded carrots
3/4 cups vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 coconut rum
1/4 cup butter
250gms / 8 oz cream cheese
4 Tbsp rum*
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar**
*or replace rum with
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp lemon zest
** click here for the powered sugar substitute
4 Tbsp dried coconut
Preheat oven to 200C. Grease pan and set aside. (I used a casserole dish simply because I didn’t want to transfer the cake or have the frosting run).
Mix dry ingredients and set aside. Combine wet ingredients in the mixer and gradually add dry ingredients. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 45 min. Cool at room temperature.
Once the cake has cooled for and hour, pour the coconut rum over it and begin making the frosting
For the frosting: combine butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add vanilla and gradually incorporate powdered sugar and rum or lemon juice and zest, whichever you prefer. Chill for at least an hour before serving. Since I made this in winter, all I had to do is place the cake outside for half an hour and it was the equivalent to a freeze blast!
My efforts resulted in a light and comforting cake that made me smile. Yes, the experimentation paid off, and I will return to this recipe in due time and fiddle around with the spices. Did I create an aesthetically perfect masterpiece? Certainly not, but I was able to shoot down one more demon from my past, and inch towards restoration.