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30 April 2007 @ 22:52
Carrot Cake  
I used to think that cake came in two varieties: white cake with thick, crunchy, sugary frosting, or chocolate. Every year my mother would ask what I wanted for my birthday cake, and although I preferred chocolate, I usually went for the white bakery cake. It came topped with sugary pink roses, swirly writing, and thick icing on the corner pieces. Sometimes I could even choose what colour flowers I wanted, and this made it worth the dry, flavourless cake that it surrounded.

Gradually, I learned other cakes were out there. My brothers loved ice cream cakes for their birthdays and while I didn't really care for the ice cream, the cookie base was a favourite. For several years I ate only cassata, an Italian cake made with ricotta cheese, candied peels, and chocolate. I didn't mind a lemon drizzle cake, provided there was plenty of drizzle, and I was always fond of cheesecake. Carrot cake, though, was an acquired taste.

I wasn't immediately fond of it, to say the least. My first experience must have been when I was quite young, and was given a chunk of brownish red cake, dripping with raisins and carrots, slightly dry and tasting of the applesauce that had been used to sweeten it. This was the stuff of playground food when I was young: homemade granola bars, carob cookies, and for the lucky ones - fruit roll-ups. Maybe it was just my school, or maybe parents were different then, but the children who had chocolate bars in their lunches were few and far between. Excited by the prospect that there was cake in my lunch box, I was simply set up for disappointment. They might have called it cake, but I knew that it was just vegetables disguised as dessert and even at age 5, I knew that was a bit wrong.

It wasn't until I had my first proper slice of carrot cake, dripping in cream cheese icing, oozing sugar and moist fudgy-ness, that I began to love it. Now, not only was it cake, it had the added benefit of being made from vegetables, which clearly meant that it was good for me. I was shocked to discover many years later that carrot cake is generally very bad for you indeed, full of oil, sugar, and cream cheese. I promptly chose to forget that piece of information. After all, carrot cake might not come with sugar roses and fluted icing, but it certainly tastes a lot better on the inside. And as they were always telling us on the schoolground, it's what's inside that counts.

We are finally old. It's official - it's Sunday afternoon and we have gone to the garden centre to buy plants to start our first garden. We've never done anything like this before, and we wander aimlessly through the car park, swerving trolleys of dirt and car-loads of seedlings. Once inside, a labyrinth of green greets us and we gaze blankly at the rows of roses, herbs and tomatoes. In the distance, though, we see a sign: Cafe. We're saved. Cafe's we do know.

We order lunch, and a slice of carrot cake. It's now 3:00 and we're starving but our food looks to take a while. It's not for nothing that we love being grown up: we promptly eat the cake, potentially spoiling our appetites, and not caring a bit.

It is possibly the best carrot cake I've ever had. The icing sits at least half an inch thick, not too sweet so that it still tastes slightly tart and sour. The cake is rich, damp in the middle, but firm. The proportions are perfect, and I quickly devour my half, washing it down with ginger beer. I may not know about gardens, but I do know a good crop of carrot cake.