If what you need is a not-too-indulgent work-horse of carrot cake (refined sugar free, gluten free, etc etc) that’s perfect to serve for afternoon tea, or an easy dessert at the end of a civilised lunch, skip to the recipe at the bottom. If you want a little prattling about life and finding truth bombs in unexpected places, read on.
Navel gazing insight: I don’t often think of myself as someone who is ‘in’ my body. Sure, I’m grateful for the things it’s done (I can walk and hop and managed to birth a child etc). I try and pay it cursory attention a few times a week in a yoga or pilates class, or by sitting on a stationary bike for a spell while watching an old episode of Top Chef . In my 35 odd years I’ve learned if I don’t remember to stretch my hamstrings, my back will start to hurt. I’ve learned the hard way that I should really not shirk my shoulders up to my ears when I’m stressed, unless I want to pay $90 three weeks later for someone to pummel my shoulders until they release a slow simmering headache. But traditionally it’s in my head and heart that my energy comes to the boil.
Which is why when your body refuses to cooperate with something that your head (and your heart) really wants, it can lead to tense times. Truth bomb one, from my body to your eyes; Project Sibling is still floundering. This is personal stuff, but what the heck. This is my blog and this is what’s colouring most things in my life. We now have specialists involved. We have an unpleasant secondary scan on the cards next week that involves saline being injected to slosh around in places that aren’t its natural habitat so they can have an even closer look.
Sunday was not a good day. Once again there was the glimmer of hope that was then pulled away. It’s like being the repeated target of a practical joke performed by a cheap clown with blank eyes. We have chromosomal blood tests to complete, on a morning when I can bear to hold out until 8 am until I have a cup of tea. Truth bomb two, from my specialist’s mouth to my ears. ‘I know you already have a son, but he may have just been a complete genetic fluke. Perhaps you and your husband’s chromosomes just don’t mesh well’.
Truth bomb three; if you want to see the greatest concentration of tiny babies and pregnant bellies, you could either go to a) a maternity ward, or b) spend the weekend at toddler birthday parties.
Truth bomb four; if I’m alone for too long, I become a little skittish. The Hungry One is away again and I’ve been leaning hard on podcasts to fill the house with adult voices. Beyond the usual suspects there have been two I’ve praised out loud in the past week. The first is a fantastic hour long Ezra Klein interview (on The Ezra Klein Show) with David Chang. For anyone interested in food politics, it’s a great listen, particularly if you’re also scrubbing bathrooms and washing dishes- that time will fly by. The second is an episode of ‘The Moment with Brian Koppelman’ with Gabrielle Hamilton – chef of Prune in New York and author of one of my favourite food memoirs ‘Blood, Bones and Butter’.
In it she talks about the importance of doing the work. About how after doing a pretty brutal self assessment of your own skills and talents, one thing that isn’t always counted is the impact of graft. This here, was my real truth bomb for the week, possibly for this decade.
“I would love to talk about doing the work. I mean the actual work….I don’t know if we’re talking about self knowledge work or cooking work or cleaning work or the writing work… You have to do the fucking work. You can’t phone it in, or pretend or read your daily inspiration book that tells you ‘you’re so great however you are’ or ‘life is hard but it gets better at the end’. You have to do the bloody, ugly, difficult, humiliating work. But then, only then, can you emerge pretty clean.”
With that in mind, I’m head down. There are days when I’m frustrated; with the lack of social recognition that comes with doing largely domestic (read- often women’s) work. With the awkward marriage between the slow grind and incessant hustle of entrepreneurial endeavors. With the (insert laugh track) irony of promoting an app about the process of growing a human from a poppyseed to a pumpkin, when your body is repeatedly refusing to shelter anything beyond a sesame seed. With the challenges of nurturing a small person as they find their feet in the world.
Yet I’m getting comfortable with that frustration. I’m stretching through it and reminding myself that what I can do, what I have always been good at, is getting on with things. In my brutal self assessment of skills and abilities, I know how to do the work. So I’m steaming ahead with a new project, with one of my oldest friends. It’s inspiring and challenging and will involve a great deal of grist before we can birth it (but we hope it will makes a difference to people’s lives).
So with all of that in mind, here is a cake that also pulls its weight. It’s strapping and solid, yet full of good optimism.
It’s an easy thing to make with a toddler underfoot (or while on a conference call with headphones in and your phone tucked into your pocket), or distracted- or heavens, even potentially drunk.
There are other carrot cakes on this site- and indeed some with oats as well. What this one offers in spades is earnestness. The sugar is vastly reduced (and indeed you could easily substitute the honey with rice malt syrup if you needed a fructose free version), but the natural sweetness of the carrot and aroma of the spices more than compensates. The oat flour and desiccated coconut provide hearty density, while the cream cheese frosting is essentially two skinny cheesecakes that have been conscripted for hours of additional service. If you were hosting someone with a dairy allergy you could substitute the frosting for whipped and chilled coconut cream, or drained coconut yoghurt. But otherwise this will happily feed most dietary complications. This will happily keep in the fridge for a few days to be carved off whenever you need a morale boost- or something to fuel you while you just keep on keeping on.
Double Decker Oat Flour Carrot Cake
3 cups of grated carrot (approx 460 g)
1/4 cup oil (mild olive oil or liquid coconut oil)
1/2 cup/40 g desiccated coconut
5 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup/ 175 g honey/ rice malt syrup
3 cups/300 g oat flour (rolled oats blitzed into the consistency of flour in a food processor)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
Cream cheese frosting
500 g full fat cream cheese, beaten together with 3 tbsp brown sugar, honey or rice malt syrup (more to taste if you like things sweeter)
Here’s how we roll
1 Preheat the oven to 160C/320 F and grease and line 2x 22 cm round baking pans (if you grease them first it will make it easier for the paper to stick).
2) Mix together the wet ingredients.
3) Fold in the dry ingredients.
4) Stir to combine.
5) Divide the mixture evenly between the two lined pans.
6) Bake for 35- 40 minutes, until they are firm to touch and a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in tins then refrigerate until it’s time to ice.
7) To make the frosting whip together 500 g of cream cheese with 3 tbsp of sweetener of your choice (add more or less to taste). Use 1/3 of the frosting in the centre of the cakes and then use the rest on the top, and if you like, around the sides. Festoon the cake with pumpkin seeds/pepitas or coconut shards, then serve.