One of my closest and longest friends visited us this weekend, and we talked about believing that if you have a passion for something, you are meant to relish in it and use it to bring joy to other people, so that you have a sort of responsibility to live your dreams. That’s where my thoughts are hanging out this week; I’m cooking up ways to make baking cakes and talking about it something valuable outside my own experience.
Since starting my blog in 2012, I’ve had a tendency to make Crandlecakes into a side project. At parties, I would introduce myself as a restaurant co-owner or a grad student, and then maybe add halfheartedly, “Oh, and I have a food blog.”
Even though “food writer and cook” felt like part of my identity since I published my first feeble post, I was holding out, acting like I wasn’t that invested in the work I do here.
It’s because I was embarrassed and afraid. Embarrassed because I don’t have thousands of followers, and afraid that I never would. I was also afraid of what I imagined people would say: “All those degrees. Why are you playing Suzy homemaker?”
If I acted like my blog was as an afterthought to my real life, no one would know that I secretly wanted to spend hours every day adding to it. I wanted a community of readers to share my work with. I wanted people to try my recipes and be inspired by my photos, to connect with my stories and click “Like” and leave engaging comments. But I was afraid to admit it.
I think part of me thought that if I couldn’t write a few posts, master photography, and have 4 million followers and a book tour within a year, then my work didn’t amount to much. That trajectory does play out for some people I guess, but most of the time, that kind of screaming success takes a lot of hard work.
And it’s difficult to fully commit yourself to growing something when you’re in denial about how much it matters to you, when you’re waiting for someone to give you permission to care about it. I think that to write a really good blog post, you need to use your honest, personal voice so that readers connect with your experience. That’s a bit tricky when you’re busy pretending you don’t think about pageviews.
A while ago, I heard someone say that she thought people are either born with a voice or not. I guess the implication is that some people are natural storytellers and others are just trying too hard. At the time, I balked at the idea without being sure why. It wasn’t just the fact that a tiny little voice in the back of my head hinted that maybe I didn’t have a real voice and I might never be able to connect with readers–I was also rebelling in a larger sense at the thought that only some people can fully express themselves, that there are people out there who come into the world voiceless and will eventually leave it that way. That’s not something I want to accept.
Maybe it just takes some people a while to uncover their voices. Like peeling off layers of an onion, what you really want to say is sometimes buried beneath “what’s cool,” “what other people will think,” and “what’s expected.”
So here’s the truth. Cooking, writing about food, sharing food with others, eating, and capturing food with photography and styling is really important to me. I’m dreaming of a way to make this work here connect with people around the world, and I want to find a way to bring the passion and experience I have into other people’s kitchens and dining rooms and patios and cubicles. A year and a half in, I’m starting to know what I meant when I said I wanted to start a food blog.
Here’s another cake recipe from my aunt’s cookbook–a perfectly hearty Canadian-style carrot cake. Since we’re talking real talk, here’s some truth about carrot cake: Yes, it has carrots in it, but no, it’s just not that good for you if your goal is to shrink your thighs. If, however, you’re after a delicious half hour of soul-replenishing joy and satisfaction that can only come from consuming sugar and pineapple and carrots and pecans in the form of a tower coated in sweetened cream cheese and butter, it does the trick. Because cream cheese frosting. Because cream cheese. And because pecans.
Other bloggers out there, have you ever lingered on the question of why our little Internet spaces are special? Readers, what makes you keep coming back to your favorite blogs? Write on, my fellow bloggers, and for everyone else, eat up!
Canadian Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from “Ideal Home” Cooking by Paul and Jeanne Rankin
Makes 2 8-inch or 3 6-inch round cake layers
Note: You’ll need a scale for this!! I did warn you. See => 5 Professional Kitchen Tools You Need
255 grams all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
255 grams freshly grated carrots (use a food processor or cheese grater)
75 grams shredded unsweetened coconut
400 gram (14 oz.) can of chopped pineapple, drained
50 grams pecans, chopped roughly
350 grams sugar
100 mL coconut oil
100 mL grapeseed oil
225 grams (8 oz. package) cream cheese, room temperature
85 grams (3 oz.) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
560 grams (1 ¼ pound) powdered sugar
Pecan halves, to decorate
Beet powder, to decorate (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease 3 6-inch or 2 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper.
2. Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, combine grated carrots, pineapple, and pecans.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine eggs, sugar, coconut oil, and grapeseed oil, and beat with the paddle attachment until smooth. Fold in the flour mixture on low, followed by the carrot mixture, beating gently, just until combined.
5. Spoon batter into the cake pans and bake 30-40 minutes for 6-inch cakes and 40-50 minutes for 8-inch cakes. Cakes are ready when a knife or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes, then run a serrated knife along the edges of the pan and turn out onto a cooling rack.
6. Make the icing: In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse together cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract until combined. Add powdered sugar a few spoonfuls at a time until a smooth frosting forms. Set aside.
7. Assemble the cake, spreading about ½ cup of frosting between each layer and coating liberally. Decorate the top of the cake with pecans. With any remaining icing, mix in beet powder (or red food coloring) until desired pink shade is reached, about ½ teaspoon for every cup of icing. Use cake decorating tips to pipe decorations onto the top of the cake.
Note: This method will create a delicious cake, but if you’re going for a beautiful, photogenic cake, these are the steps you’ll want to take:
TIPS FOR ICING A LAYER CAKE:
- Before assembling cake, wrap each cooled cake layer in plastic and freeze for at least an hour.
- Remove layers from the freezer one at a time and trim the top of the cake until level, using a serrated knife.
- Slide scraps of wax paper underneath the edges of the cake before icing it to catch any crumbs or frosting you get around the sides.
- After stacking cake layers, use a serrated knife to trim the sides of the cake, making flat sides.
- Got crumbs? After stacking cake layers and shearing the sides of the cake, spread on a very thin layer of frosting, trapping the crumbs. Don’t worry about getting cake crumbs in this layer, just make sure that there are no “unstuck” crumbs when you’re finish. Refrigerate the cake for at least 30 minutes, trapping the crumbs in their crumby layer.
- Remove cake from refrigerator and ice entire cake with a final, generous layer of frosting, smoothing the top and sides with an icing spatula. (Here’s one I love: Wilton 409-7716 Angled Icing Spatula, 13-Inch, Black)
- Before piping any decorations onto the cake, practice a few times on a plate or board!
- Gently remove the scraps of wax paper and store the finished cake under a dome or in the refrigerator.