This is the first carrot cake I’ve ever baked, so whether it’s really the ‘ultimate’ one, I couldn’t say. Delia claims it is though, so ultimate it is. Now I have a little secret to confess: I’m not a big Delia fan. Ever watched one of her programmes on tv? She’s got such an enthusiasm for life (feel the irony here) and I find her annoyingly pedantic – telling people how to boil eggs or peel tomatoes. But maybe British people need to be told these things, I don’t know. The woman knows how to cook though, I have to admit that, and over the years I have become a huge fan of her recipes.
mise en place
A few years ago, someone at work who had just met me – and quickly figured out I liked cooking and baking – gave me Delia’s Vegetarian Collection as a christmas gift. This quickly became one of my favourite cookbooks and I, in turn, have given copies to quite a few friends, who all love the book as well. Every single thing I make from it just works, whether I follow the recipe to the letter, or muck around with it. I now trust Ms D to such an extent, I would even risk trying a new recipe from this book for a dinner party, since I know it will turn out well. Well, I wouldn’t actually, because I’m a Virgo and hence a perfectionist and a bit of a control freak, but you catch my drift.
Back to the carrot cake now. When I was a child, we used to have a ‘carrot cake joke’, which goes as follows: a rabbit enters a bakery and asks the baker: ‘Do you sell carrot cake?’ (this bit has to be said in a rabbit-like voice, of course). Baker says no, he has never even heard of carrot cake, rabbit leaves. This scenario repeats itself daily, until the baker one day decides to make a carrot cake, because the rabbit might be on to something there – after all, rabbits know their carrots. So the next day, when the rabbit enters the bakery and asks: ‘Do you have carrot cake?’, the baker proudly replies yes. To which the rabbit says ‘It’s disgusting, don’t you think?’. Silly, I know, but it seemed hilarious when I was young(er). When I told my brother on the phone I was making carrot cake, his initial reaction was something similar. Until I told him what goes in it. Not that much carrot. And it doesn’t taste the slightest bit of carrots. I wonder why it’s even called carrot cake at all. But I guess that must be a British thing.
I tweaked the original recipe a bit – I left out the orange zest (yuk) and dessicated coconut (yuk again), added some dried apricot, forgot to add the goji berries I had planned to throw in as well, substituted walnuts for pecans, added some oats, and used molasses alongside the soft dark brown sugar. I threw the whole lot into the oven, and an hour later a mountain of moist, yet crumbly deliciousness emerged, which I brushed with a lemon-orange syrup to moisten it even more. One word of advice, when Ms D says to line the cake tin with baking paper, there’s a very good reason to do exactly what she says. Otherwise, after you’ve doused the cake with the syrup, it will stick to the tin. And fall to pieces when you try to exact the cake from the tin. How do I know that? Hmm, let’s not go there. And no, the fact I wrapped my cake in paper for the pictures has nothing to do with this piece of advice whatsoever …