Carrot Cake and Mistakes

I actually wasn’t going to make this post. I messed up a part of the recipe and it didn’t exactly come out ‘picture perfect.’ I thought about it and realized that there was probably a lesson in this failure, which reminded me of how I even started baking in the first place.

In my senior year of high school, I decided I wanted to go to art school. Of all places I could possibly end up, I thought that was where I belonged. Despite not having a single artistic bone in my body, I wanted to go to art school to explore one of my favorite hobbies: filmmaking. I had never even made a film in the first place; the only thing I had really done with a camera was record kids’ birthday parties and graduations. Honestly, I wasn’t even really good at it. I still wanted to pursue it because it was something I liked and people always said; “do something you love and it’ll never feel like work.” I had always loved taking pictures but video was new to me. I fell in love with it in middle school, where I had a film class as an elective. That Christmas, I asked my dad for a video camera and was basically on cloud nine. I loved taping everything and felt that this could have been my future.

Carrot shreddies

I applied for the film program at the School of Visual Arts and actually got in. Surprised as I was, I really thought this felt right. I went to orientation and got this weird feeling in my chest. I ignored it. “I’m just nervous,” I said to myself. Then came the first day of school. I really was nervous but as I introduced myself in an exercise for my first class, and was laughed at by everyone there, the feeling came back. I wanted to die of embarrassment. The kids in my class already knew each other because they lived in the dorms. I commuted to school so I didn’t have that luxury. I was visibly an outcast. I didn’t look like these kids or share their hobbies. They were really into filmmaking and I was really just a dabbler (by definition, these kids were actually hipsters but apparently, I was too “mainstream” to fit in with them). After spending my years in high school trying to blend in, I stuck out like a sore thumb. I was uncomfortable and cried every chance I had. In class, I sat by myself. No one even wanted to sit next to me. I had never felt so unwanted in my life.

I lasted two days at SVA before I told my parents I wanted to leave. They all wanted me to stick it out but I couldn’t do it. I was unhappy. I cried all day, save for those times I was in class. I took bathroom breaks so I could cry and took advantage of those long breaks between classes to cry more. I lost my appetite and couldn’t even sleep. I only slept at night because my eyes were tired from all the crying. I stayed home from school and wrote my official withdrawal notice and sent it. I felt like a failure. My dad was disappointed in me. I felt ashamed and the ‘I told you so’ look from my dad just added insult to injury. I spent a couple of weeks sitting with this feeling and continued crying.

My parents tried to get me to take my mind off things by asking me to make something. I had always liked being in the kitchen but I had never made anything.  My dad was talking about carrot cakes one day and I took it upon myself to make one. I went to allrecipes.com, chose a recipe, and got started. I made several cakes in the four months I stayed home. I started making other things too, but this carrot cake was now my signature recipe. It felt good making something and having everything come out right.

Cake batter

Save for this weekend, where I messed up the recipe. Everything was going great until I was ready to pour the batter into the pan. I overfilled my poor 9″ round cake pan because I did not have a 9×13″ available. The cake’s edges were overbaked, sinking in towards the middle which was underbaked. I was disappointed because I knew better than to do that.

Cooling cake; obviously overfilled and overdone

Cooling cake; obviously overfilled and overdone

Thinking back to how I even got started and my baker’s mistake from this weekend made me realize that even though things may be going wrong, it’ll be alright in the end. I did fail at art school but it led me to a path where I did find something I genuinely have interest and success in. I ended up at the City College of New York; where I studied advertising and graduated this past May with honors. And while I did overfill and overbake this cake, it was still a delicious mistake.

YUM

Carrot Cake – adapted from allrecipes.com

Makes one 9×13″ cake or two 9″ round cakes

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
  • pinch of ground cloves (optional)
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9×13 inch pan or two 9″ round pans. Grate your carrots.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the oil with the white and brown sugar. When light in color, incorporate one egg at a time. Add vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ground cloves. Toss raisins and nuts, if using, in a small amount of the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.
  4. Add the dry mix into the wet mixture slowly until incorporated. Fold in the raisins and nuts with the remaining bit of dry mix just until incorporated. Fold in the grated carrots.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s). Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • You can sub half of the flour with whole wheat flour
  • I have also used margarine, and unsalted butter in place of vegetable oil. Either one works great
  • If you don’t have light brown sugar, all white sugar also works. You can also make your own with some white sugar and molasses. 
  • I tend to add a little more cinnamon than prescribed 😉 use as much as you’d like
  • Remember to mix your raisins and/or nuts in a little of the dry mix; this prevents them from sinking to the bottom of the cake
  • If using two 9″ round cake pans, fill them halfway
  • Cream cheese frosting is amazing with this cake! My folks are frosting adverse so I don’t frost it. 
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One thought on “Carrot Cake and Mistakes

  1. Pingback: Brownies | Lucy the Baker

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