Emily Parnell — Adventures in baking: The elusive carrot cake and the forgiving recipe

03/04/2014 5:09 PM

03/04/2014 5:09 PM

“Emily, would you make your famous carrot cake for my birthday?”

Of course, I agreed. I didn’t even know my carrot cake was famous. Who could turn down such flattery? I noted the date, then set about solving a dilemma — the small problem of not knowing what recipe I’ve used before.

Yes, I’ve made carrot cake a couple times before. At one point, I even had a special recipe. A friend gave it to me when I was pregnant, promising that if I made it when I was overdue, I would go into labor while it baked. The carrot cake labor-induction had worked for no less than three people already. I made the cake and did not go into labor. My friend rationalized that I wasn’t overdue enough. But the cake was delicious. Moist, with wonderful texture, aromatic with spices, the recipe was a keeper. Except I didn’t keep it.

By my next hankering for carrot cake, I had lost the special recipe, which I didn’t need anyway since I wasn’t pregnant. I blame the loss on my babies, what with the sleepless nights and diaper fumes. How could I possibly have kept track of a recipe? I searched the net for something that seemed similar. The cake was again phenomenal. And once again, I did not keep it.

So when my famous carrot cake was requested, good ol’ Google provided me yet another recipe.

I can’t say the baking went smoothly. It included approximations, substitutions and one mystery ingredient so mysterious, even today, I can’t tell you for sure what it was.

My very last measuring teaspoon had been mangled in the garbage disposal earlier in the week, so I was operating with a tablespoon. I was concentrating so hard on measuring two teaspoons with the aforementioned tablespoon that I swapped the baking soda and baking powder. Unwilling to start again, I simply scooped out an eyeballed amount, and did my best to measure the other ingredients more carefully.

The real trouble came with the flour. I ran out. Positive there would be more in my cabinet, I rummaged until I found a plastic bag with white powder that looked like flour. It tasted almost like flour — a bit sweeter, slightly salty. Perhaps it was Bisquik? Or coconut flour? Or something else? Regardless, I used it.

The result of this baking adventure proves this recipe is a forgiving one. Not a single piece was left at the end of our birthday party, and my mishaps went unnoticed. This one, I promise, is a keeper.

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