I was the oddball kid who grew to favour pseudo-healthy food for breakfast. I began with an oversized appetite for Eggo toaster waffles drenched in melted margarine, Nesquik cereal nuggets that doubled as chocolate milk-makers, and my mom’s doctored up Betty Crocker butter pecan cakes. But gradually, I developed an affinity for fibre-filled flax and bran flakes, steel cut oats simmered in cinnamon-infused milk, Greek yogurt with a rotation of seedy and nutty accoutrements, and, above all, carrot cake.
Sure, carrot cake hardly comes close to health food status. And it rarely makes an appearance at the breakfast table. But in my sugar-spun fantasy world, I would eat carrot cake for breakfast at least once weekly, if not more, without fear of turning orange. Moist (I have no qualms about using the word), gently spiced, springy slices of carrot cake, frosted white and ribboned with coconut, and studded with walnuts and fleshy fruit gems.
I became reacquainted with the charm of carrot cake three years ago while visiting New York. One August morning, I rose before the sun, loosened my belt and donned my Toms, and began a pilgrimage through the foodie Mecca aptly nicknamed “The Big Apple.” My hundred-some-block journey by foot took me down thoroughfares less touched by tourists, exposing me to the kaleidoscope of a city that New York is: ever-moving, ever-evolving, ever-multicoloured. For every surly man skulking in the alleyway, lighting up a cigar (or was it a joint?), there is an ebullient woman with unabashedly ruby lips swaying her hips and singing aloud to her music. The whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts.
Much the same could be said of Billy’s Bakery, where, in a city often condemned for being cold and impersonal, warm pastries and equally warm conversation awaited me. The cashier, who introduced himself as “Vlad,” poured me cup of milk (soon to be followed by a second with the “neighbourhood discount”) and sliced me a slab of carrot cake that one crossword, two Sudoku puzzles, and two cups of milk could not even help me to finish. The cake was enough to make me really mean it when I told Vlad to have a nice day. And it was enough to leave me perpetually dreaming about carrot cake for three years, inspiring cake and smoothie recipes all the while.
CARROT CAKE COLUMN WITH CITRUS-CHÈVRE GLAZE
(adapted from Cynthia’s mini-carrot cake recipe)
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp butter, room temperature
2 tbsp Greek yogurt
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp baking powder
⅛ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
A pinch of ground nutmeg
A pinch of ground ginger
A pinch of salt
⅓ cup grated carrots
2 tbsp chèvre, room temperature
4 tbsp cream cheese, room temperature
1 tbsp butter, room temperature
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tsp orange zest
2 tsp orange juice
Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease two ramekins. In a medium bowl, cream together sugar, butter, and Greek yogurt. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt . Add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing gently until incorporated. Finally, fold in the carrots, again until incorporated. Distribute evenly between the ramekins and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until tops have set and bounce back when touched, and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Run a knife around the edges of the cakes and invert. Set aside to cool.
To make the glaze, cream together chèvre, cream cheese, and butter until smooth. Mix in confectioner’s sugar ¼ cup at a time. Add citrus zest and citrus juice a bit at a time. Drizzle, or drown, carrot cake with glaze as desired, and serve.
CARROT CAKE REMIXED SMOOTHIE BOWL
Bring On the Blender
Blend milk, banana, carrots, cinnamon, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, chia seeds, and oats. Pour smoothie into your favourite bowl and top with nuts, fruits, seeds, and spices of your liking (I added coconut, pineapple, raisins, and hemp seeds. Put spoon to smile.