Truth Cake

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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.

Confession:

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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
4 eggs
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:

  1. Before assembling cake, wrap each cooled cake layer in plastic and freeze for at least an hour.
  2. Remove layers from the freezer one at a time and trim the top of the cake until level, using a serrated knife.
  3. 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.
  4. After stacking cake layers, use a serrated knife to trim the sides of the cake, making flat sides.
  5. 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.
  6. 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)
  7. Before piping any decorations onto the cake, practice a few times on a plate or board!
  8. Gently remove the scraps of wax paper and store the finished cake under a dome or in the refrigerator.

29 comments

  1. Oh I know what you mean. My blog also means a lot to me, not just for the cooking and photography part, but also for all the writing I put into it. I also hesitate before telling people I have a blog, and then many of my friends want to know how many followers I have, so as the number is nowhere near 4 million, they kind of look at me like, oh thats bad. I don’t worry about it too much because I’m certain that with all the millions of blogs around these days, yes sometimes it is because one is a good storyteller and great photographer etc. but other times it’s because that person has been able to invest with the time and money to make the right publicity to make their blog well known. To tell you the truth, with many of these “famous” blogs I have no care what they say because it’s all very commercial and focused on making their advertisers happy… Perhaps I’m being rude and harsh, but I would rather read sincere words like in your post. :)
    PS your cake looks delicious!

    1. Sofia, I know what you mean about getting the crestfallen, “Oh…” from friends! Haha, food blogger problems, huh? Thank you so much for your kind words though! The cake was great. It’s only a memory now…disappeared quickly. Keep writing! ;)

      1. Mind you, none of them have blogs so they don’t know all the effort, and above all what makes me the proudest, everything I’ve learnt through mine :) Keep writing too ;)

  2. Oh, CrandleCakes! I needed to hear your truths, thank you for writing this <3

  3. Thanks for stopping by and dropping a comment! And joining my little food blogging community. :)

  4. This cake is stunning Randle! I think you’re doing a great job, and since you’re enjoying what you’re doing please go ahead!

    1. Thanks so much! It makes the most giant slices.

  5. Wow, I really love the way you write and just speak out of your heart in such a sincere way! I am really afraid to tell m friends about my blog and I mean they are my friends, not some stranger at some party… I surely know they are going to look at me and start with that behaved ‘Oh….’ phrase…

    Anyway, the cake looks SO GOOD! I would give everything for a slice right now

    Have a nice day (:

    http://thefunkypath.blogspot.com.es

    1. Thanks Miriam! So glad you stopped by. I miss that cake too, lol. I might make it in sheet cake form next time so that the slices aren’t ten feet tall, haha!!

  6. huntfortheverybest · · Reply

    what a beautiful cake!

    1. Ahhh! Thank you!!

  7. I feel so happy that we’re all down here in the comments. Talking. Oh look at us, just down here commenting. Can you tell I’ve had a lot of coffee this morning?

  8. Wow! This is a beautiful post–cake, butter, cream cheese, pecans, and the thoughts behind it, especially. That’s almost exactly how I feel about food blogging. I’ve been trying to read this post all weekend, but as I started the first paragraph, something would come up and I’d have to put the phone down! Glad I finally had a chance to read it (at work!) I like the three six-inch cake option, too. It’s the same amount of cake, but just feels like something i’d like to share with a few good friends or my honeys. Thanks for posting. Keep posting.

    1. Thanks so much! So glad you got a chance to stop by and read the post, Dave! The 6-inch cakes do make it feel like more of an occasion, and it makes it easier to take a massive slice without feeling guilty about it! It’s perfect for slicing 6 or 8 ways at a small party.

      1. “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.”

        You hit the nail on the head there.

        “Because cream cheese. And because pecans.”

        You hit the nail there, too!

  9. Oh I adore this! I just stumbled across this because I thought the cake looked fantastic on Foodgawker, but this totally spoke to me. I feel the same way, I was recently at a get together and some girls said “So, what is this whole website thing your doing?” The tone and expression they had when asking the question was so very disheartening. It can be hard to put yourself out there, to express how much you want something or how invested you are in something before others see the potential.
    I once read a quote that said, “Decide what you want to be and go be it” for me, that was a changing point. I stopped being someone who wanted to be a recipe developer, a writer, a photographer, and started BEING those things.
    Good for you on deciding what you want and going for it!

    1. Thanks, Maebells, and thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a note! Do you have a link to your blog? When I click your name it disappears into confused Internet land. :)

      1. I am so glad you asked!
        It is http://www.maebells.com

  10. If I could bake and cook and blog all day, I probably would. Especially if I had your gorgeous kitchen… Maybe the crestfallen “Oh…” is less about you and more about the one responding. I might say it, but because I wish I had the guts to go after it, too. All that said, I want to bake this cake right now. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough time on my lunch to do that… because then, I have to get back to my office… So, Oh… ;)

    1. Hi Maggie! Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. If you want to start a food blog, I hope you do! I actually got inspired to learn something new way back ages ago in college when I saw something you put on Facebook about teaching yourself to draw using perspective. Was that you? Anyway, it made me realize that if I wanted to be a photographer (which was a secret dream I had), I would have to just try it.

      Thanks for saying our kitchen is gorgeous. When I started I blogging, I had a dark, yellow formica kitchen and was a full-time grad student. Even now I take my pics in a mudroom (that does admittedly have great lighting) and I do have a “real” job too, it’s just a working remotely type situation so I can still take photos in the morning. Sometimes I’m actually baking all night. It annoys my dogs. The torturous, taunting scent of sugar…

  11. […] cake, okay the cake is phenomenal. But if you are a fellow food blogger read the whole post. Loved it. […]

  12. Holy oh my goodness, I needed to hear this. I’ve just recently started my blog and the overwhelming need to succeed is daunting and exciting all at the same time. Thank you for some much needed perspective.

    1. Sara! So glad I could help you! I know what you mean about the overwhelming need to succeed. “Traffic” no longer refers to cars and roads for me!

  13. […] of. I tend to throw in personal details, flitting between humorous anecdotes and heavier accounts of what it’s like to live in Waco, be me, and love food. One week I might write about all the […]

  14. love this recipe and the photography!

    1. Thanks so much! :)

  15. […] decided that when it comes to cooking vegan food (which is actually fun – don’t tell all my cakes), sometimes it’s easier to get started if you stop thinking in terms of replacements, at […]

  16. […] it’s Monday, and you’re probably busy, and you shouldn’t be fooling around here looking at carrot cakes and 3-ingredient tomato sauces, I’ll get to the point […]

  17. […] is a veganized adaptation of my aunt Jeanne’s perfectly Canadian carrot cake recipe that I made here, and while this loaf version isn’t as beautiful, it’s less scandalous to eat for breakfast AND […]

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