Baking For Others: Late-Night Birthday Cake
EVENT: Alex’s Birthday
VENUE: Cara’s Apartment, Park Slope
TIME: 2:30am, January 17th
MENU: 7-inch, Dairy-Free Carrot Cake
I may be a decent baker, but I’m not so good with surprises. So when, for Alex’s birthday, I determined I’d make him a cake, I didn’t have the wherewithal to kick him out of my studio apartment while I did so. He claims to have guessed at the nature of my concoction long before the scent of the cake wafted out of my kitchen to the desk where I’d exiled him, eight feet away. It was the sound of me grating a vegetable drawer’s worth of carrots, apparently, that tipped him off. Anyway, before we went out for the evening I made the cake as fast as I could. By the time we left, I had the cake nearly cooled, frosted (well, the frosting melted into the layers a tad), and hiding in plain sight on a cake plate on my table.
Alex, who made the stomach-related decision, several years ago, to consume no dairy whatsoever, thought (and I quote) that he would never eat things like creamy icing ever again. Having vowed, somewhere in the fall of 2007, that I’d be a vegan for life, I had an idea of what it was like to stand in his shoes. I got both the sadness and the conviction of this vow. And a year of dairy-, meat-, and egg-free life back then led me to the knowledge now that carrot cake is a resilient, long-suffering hero of a confection. You can cut out its eggs, its butter, its cream cheese, and somehow the cake tastes delicious. I’m not exaggerating. This faith-like belief in carrot cakes long ago chose the flavor of Alex’s birthday cake for me.
Later, after we’d gotten back from celebrating my friend JoJo’s birthday, it was 2 or 3 hours into Alex’s actual birthday. Persisting in my delusion that the cake would be a complete surprise, I disappeared into the kitchen to decorate it with candles. I forced Alexto listen to three rounds of off-key “Happy Birthday To You” while I lit them, then I finally cut him a slice to eat and to share with me. Surprise or not, late-night cake ingestion seemed an excellent tradition, akin to opening one gift on Christmas Eve. I can’t think of a better midnight snack.
Or breakfast. It should be duly noted that carrot cake is one of the best breakfasts around.
From my kitchen, where the cake tastes best after midnight, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Update, 2/8/10: I’m submitting this cake to a Valentine’s blog contest called “Food Is Love” sponsored by bloggers Jennifer at Savor The Thyme and Kelsey at The Naptime Chef. Their idea was to find out how cooks show their love through food. I thought this cake was a good candidate because I modified the recipe to be dairy free for Alex. See his verdict on the cake in the comments below.
Last but not least, you can substitute standard cream cheese and softened butter for the tofu cream cheese and margarine/shortening.
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 large eggs
3 cups finely grated carrots (about 6-7 medium carrot)
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grease the cake pans, and, if you like, cut out a circle of parchment with which to line the bottom. Grease the parchment too.
In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in medium bowl). In another, larger bowl, stir together the sugar and oil until the sugar is saturated by the oil. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the flour mixture, and fold with a rubber spatula until just combined. When the flour’s almost stirred in, add the carrots, raisins, and walnuts, still being careful not to overmix. Divide batter equally among cake pans.
Bake the layers for 40-50 minutes, or until a tester inserted into center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans for a few minutes, then turn them out onto a rack or a plate to cool. Cool completely before icing.
Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
12 oz tofu cream cheese
12 oz margarine or shortening
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
Beat all the ingredients in a food processor until very smooth. You may need to chill it in the fridge for a few minutes so that it’s thick and easy to spread.
Trim the layers as necessary if they’re really puffed up in the center. Then spread a thin layer of frosting on top of the first layer. Top with the second and carefully cover the top and sides with icing. Keep in the fridge–it’ll stay good for a week.