If you know me, you know my carrot cake. It travels with me from place to place to kitchen to Tupperware to dorm to classroom to office to bellies. I think in most – save Italy – kitchens, I’ve set claim to my territory by baking carrot cake. And undoubtedly, every time grated carrots are sitting in a bowl, and eggs, sugar, and cinnamon are all combined, waiting for a quick mix, I think of Brenda.
Brenda is a dear friend whose name is not in fact Brenda. Only when carrot cake – or some other luxurious pastry – comes around her or she smells a whiff of the maple syrup infused carrot treat does her name change magically from Brianna to Brenda. It’s unexplainable, but adorable and simultaneously scary.
“Is that carrot cake? No really, is it? I can smell it. JOSH! Why don’t you tell me?!”
“It is, yes. It’s”
At this point I black out because Brenda rushes toward me, takes the cake – and extra cream cheese frosting from my hand – and sits down at the most convenient location (sometimes a floor covered in Newfoundland dog hair), and digs in, no matter her hunger level.
There is always a moment of clarity while she is fork in cake – “Wait, I should cut a piece off and just eat that.” But that drifts slowly into the background of carrots, cinnamon, cardamom, cream cheese, sugar, and maple syrup.
I do have to say that this reaction does come from a place of sanity: this cake is my crowning baking achievement. Not flan or cheesecakes or crème Brule, or soufflé, but this 1970’s health treat.
Since I have been feeling feisty with my new oven, I decided to stake my claim in my Korean Kitchen, once and for all. Equipped with tiny bread baking tins, and an oven that doubles as a microwave, I started in on the process.
Grate the carrots fine with a grater or my new food processor, and let them sit. I always add a little brown sugar to the grated carrots to help them sweat a bit – that is to say that with this added sugar, the carrots will release a little carrot juice which, when added to the cake batter, makes the final product really moist, and carrot-y.
Combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and if you have it cardamom. Now, there is a foreign foods mart a few subway stops away from me, but cardamom likes to price itself out as the most expensive to buy there. 10 pods for 4 dollars? Not in my book, or in my carrot cake coincidentally.
The one thing I was missing for this Brenda-tastic cake was the icing.
Brenda: I know that the icing is your favorite part, but I just couldn’t find the cream cheese to work within my budget. If you were here, I’d spend all the money in the world on it, but alas, it was just me.
Thirty to forty minutes in the microwave-convection oven, and out comes beautiful orange-brown cakes ready for a honey drizzle and a cooling on the windowsill. Moist, deep and rich notes sourcing themselves from the carrots, not overly sweet with spicy hints of cinnamon and well rounded flavors of vanilla and honey dancing on top. It was unashamedly moist, and perfect for a morning, afternoon, or evening snack. This carrot cake was something that Brenda would have flown from France to Seoul for. But until that happens, I’ll enjoy a slice of it for breakfast with a hot cup of French Pressed coffee, cooled slightly with soy milk, and wish her good luck in the Parisian Marathon. Because not only is she a carrot cake monster, but also a running fiend. Good luck!