He is our metro neighbor—of sorts. He happened to visit Miss NiNi’s Desserterie one day—you know—to check us out.
Reposing inside our dessert case at that moment in time was a beautiful three-layer cake chock full of plumped raisins and toasted English walnuts. Perhaps, it was the color contrast between dark-colored cake and cream cheese frosting in which the cake was enrobed that had caught his eye. After all, we do eat with our eyes first, Dear Readers.
Then the gentleman asked, “Is it good?” His question was loaded with sincere concern and not trite by any means. Clearly, my baking reputation was on the line!
Not shy of expressing his love for a spice cake laden with carrots and other goodies, he confidently expressed the fact that he often will travel to Kansas City—a two-and-one-half-hour trip–explicitly to divulge his taste buds in the flavor and texture of “the best carrot cake I have ever found!” This man was serious about carrot cake, Dear Readers!
The chap prepared to answer his own ‘Is it good?’ question when he made a purchase—one generous slice of Miss NiNi’s Heavenly Carrot Cake. Would it pass inspection?
A few days later, I reflected on this scene, opening the windows of my mind to delve further into this dessert called carrot cake.
‘When was carrot cake first created?’ I do remember having seen my Grandma P’s. frosted carrot cookies in the 1950s but never a carrot cake.
Was this carrot-cake icon of the shortening-based cake world introduced in the 1900s, 1800s, or when? And did other gentlemen travel long distances to find the best carrot cake around, too?
Dear Readers, I was in for an interesting gumshoe discovery into carrot land. With the click of my finger, I promenaded to carrotmuseum.co.
The first stop on my timeline was Medieval Europe during which carrot puddings were enjoyed. “No one really knows where carrot cake came from. It looks like it did evolve from the Carrot Pudding of Medieval times. During the Middle Ages, sugar and other sweeteners were difficult or expensive to come by in Britain and carrots had long been used as sugar substitutes.”
Fast forward to November 25, 1783, when the soon-to-be first president of our country celebrated British Evacuation Day. Tedious record keeping of that time noted the historical reference to General George Washington as he enjoyed a carrot tea cake served at Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan on that date.
One might note that this gentleman traveled for cake–from our nation’s capital to New York—and on horseback nonetheless!
My source states that the recipe used to create that tea cake is quite close to the carrot cakes of today.
By the mid-Twentieth Century, carrot cake saw an upsurge in the United States. It is supposed that after WWII, carrot cake recipes were imported. Restaurants and cafeterias sold the soon-to-be-famous cake. The rest is history!
Interestingly, cakespy.com tells the story of an enterprising businessman, George C. Page. “An enterprising businessman named George C. Page hired bakers to find uses for cans of carrots to create a demand for the product, and the solution was carrot cake, which he then sold through the company Mission Pak, a large purveyor of gourmet foods.” Out of necessity comes creativity, Dear Readers!
Just what is so special about this cake? Miss NiNi is enamored with the moist crumb, textural chew, and added cinnamon in the batter. Some like carrot cake loaded with fruits and nuts. Some want it pretty naked. Whatever form of deliciousness you like, the cream cheese frosting performs the perfect job of a white envelope enclosing a rich love letter.
Bakers, there are a couple of hints that I have found that produce better carrot-cake-baking results.
First, following the recommendation of British baker extraordinaire, Mary Berry, “Coarsely grate the carrots. If they are finely grated, too much water comes out of them during cooking and results in a wet cake.” Miss NiNi uses a food processor for this task.
Bigger is not better in the carrot world. Choose carrots that are less than eight inches long and relatively uniform in shape and size with a smooth, no-crack surface. Healthy carrots make for a healthy cake, so to speak! Yum!
Dear Readers, you might walk, run, or skip to find your favorite piece of carrot cake. You might travel by bicycle under your own power or use a motorized vehicle to your favorite carrot-cake destination. Like General George, you could even travel by horseback! Or, you just might even find that there is a jewel of a freshly baked carrot cake sitting on a cooling rack within the walls of your own home. Wherever you find it, enjoy the journey! The end reward is worth it!
Oh yes, did my metro neighbor find sensuous satisfaction with Miss NiNi’s Heavenly Carrot Cake? Just before he left the desserterie, these words came forth, “I don’t need to travel two-and-one-half hours anymore.” …happy taste buds!!