Like the title of this blog, simplicity is often the answer to achieving a great outcome. The humble carrot cake was developed after WWII by housewives looking for a sweet alternative to scarce sugar. Today we have excessive sugar in our diets and hardly need to add a sugar-filled vegetable to our baking, but the reintroduction of the carrot cake in the 80s under the pretext of healthy food has firmly entrenched it as the most popular cake in the USA. I don’t recall where I got my recipe from (hand written in an A4 folio hardcover – showing my vintage here), but I haven’t made it in about 30 years. At that time I began working at a local bakery that produced the finest confectionery for the high end retail market and never needed to bake for myself again!
In a fit of domesticity I pulled the book out and flipped through the pages to Carrot Cake, not splattered with previous mixtures like Lemon Meringue Pie, but quite pristine after all these years. I remembered that it hadn’t yielded a substantial end product I.e. it didn’t rise much! But nevertheless I remembered it was rather delectable and so proceeded to grate the carrots. If you still grate carrots by hand, you will know that it can give you a cardio workout worthy of a climb up Skeleton Gorge and, having grated a couple, I sat down with a cup of tea while I read the recipe. The ingredients were all in the cupboard and the method involved beating with a simple wooden spoon, so no need to lug out the food processor. In no time, the mixture was in the pans and in the oven – slow at 150 for an hour.
Of course, they didn’t rise much, perhaps a few millimetres, and again I remembered that the two halves wouldn’t be higher than 8cm without a thick layer of cream cheese icing! However, they smelled delicious and as soon as they had cooled, I sandwiched them with a suitably restrained mix of butter, cream cheese and icing sugar – a dieter’s disaster if ever there was one. The cake was demolished by the family overnight, and two days later I made another one, just to use up the rest of the cream cheese. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
The long and the short is, you are unlikely to find a carrot cake with such superb flavour and texture anywhere, and the fact that the final result is undersized in comparison to the confectionery castles you find in coffee shops only adds to its desirability!
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