Challenge Cécile: The Carrot Cake

All French children are trained in the subtle art of making cakes, especially chocolate cake. Each year, we are given examinations, and if we fail, we are not allowed to smoke cigarettes or have affairs. Needless to say, I make an amazing chocolate cake. So when I asked Nick, my fiancé, what kind of cake he wanted for his upcoming 30th birthday party and he replied, “Carrot cake with cream cheese icing”, I was astonished.

Carrot cake is not exactly a French specialty. The first time I had one, I thought: “Huh? Carrot in a cake? Weird!” I liked the cake but it wasn’t something I would ever trade for chocolate cake. Nick comes from New Zealand though, where putting carrots in cakes is as normal as shaving smiley faces onto sheep.

“I’ll do it!” I said without hesitation, even though I had no idea how to make this cake. I decided to take it as a challenge, like when I bravely tried to jog every day for 21 days.

“Really? Awesome! The party’s gonna be great!” Nick was already excited about it.

“I need a recipe though…” I said, already stressing about it. Had I bitten off more than I could chew?

“No problem,” he said, “I’ll ask my mum, she’s the carrot cake magician. She’s like the Wizard of Oz. But from New Zealand.”

Standards were high, pressure was at its maximum but I like a tough challenge so I said: “Okay.”

The day after, Nick forwarded his mum’s email with the famous recipe. Her email basically said:

“A carrot cake recipe? I don’t have any because I can do carrot cake with eyes closed! Once I woke up in the morning and there was a freshly baked carrot cake waiting in the kitchen. I had no recollection of making it… I must have done it while asleep. But I’ve tried to type the recipe from memory. I am happy to help Cecile through the difficult process. Suggest she remembers not to over-mix the cake as it will be tough otherwise but if you have yummy icing it tastes good anyway. So she shouldn’t fret.”

It wasn’t a basic cake where you mix everything together. You had to be super cautious mixing the ingredients, otherwise the cake would be tough. Nick read me the recipe aloud later in the evening. It went like this:

Nick: “So the ingredients are: 2 cups sugar…”

Me: “What? TWO cups of sugar? That’s way too much sugar, I’ll only put one cup.”

Nick: “Sigh. Just listen to the recipe! Then we have 1/4 cups rice bran oil or any other light cooking oil such as sunflower – not olive oil…”

Me: “I’ll just use olive oil to prove the recipe wrong.”

Nick: “Why would you do that?! Just follow the recipe! Then you also need crushed pineapple…”

Me: “Is it a carrot cake or a freaking carrot and pineapple cake?!”

Nick: “Relax, we can find pineapple in cans. Next comes walnuts, roughly chopped. Mum says roast them in a pan for better taste.”

Me: “Sure, I have nothing better to do than roast walnuts in a pan.”

Nick: (Smile slowly fading.) “Well, I guess you don’t need to roast them, it’s optional. Then you have 2 cups plain flour and 2 teaspoons of baking powder.”

Me: “Huh? What is baking powder? Where can I buy it?” (Panic attack followed)

Nick: “I’ll call my friend Andy H, he’s a good cook, he‘ll know.” (Andy H is ENGLISH, so I felt quite insulted to need an English man’s advice on cooking! However, he knew exactly what it was and where to find it.) “Then, we have 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, 1 teaspoons of salt and 2 cups of grated carrots…”

Me: “Grating carrots is boring! You can do that part.”

Nick: “You won’t get the rewards of your challenge if I do everything! Next is the icing. You need 250 grams of cream cheese, 100 g butter and…”

Me: “Oh my god! So much fat! My mum would kill me if she knew I was about to commit such a cake atrocity!”

Of course, I was mostly joking but Nick doesn’t really trust me, so he kind of took my comments seriously. “Why don’t you just follow the damn recipe? You can trust my mum, I’ve had her cake several times and it was fantastic!” He finally exploded.

“I’ll do it MY way!” I insisted. Nick sighed and left the kitchen. Of course, I nervously followed the recipe after all- I even roasted the walnuts. But to punish Nick’s mistrust, I kept on shouting stuff like “this olive oil smells funny!” as I was baking. The only real change I made  was to put only one cup of sugar instead of two. I really couldn’t put so much sugar in a cake. I just couldn’t do it.

When the difficult moment of “FOLDING” the ingredients together- not mixing, folding- arrived, Nick came into the kitchen to watch my every move. He didn’t seem happy with the result and said, with a sad face: “You’ve over-mixed it! It’s too late now, the cake is going to be tough.”

I wish I could write that I totally ruined the cake and that it was a total disaster- it would make this post funnier. But the cake was fantastic, not tough at all and everybody liked it, even though there was only one cup of sugar in it instead of two. Nick was very happy as well, he said: “It tastes like my mum’s cake. But less sweet.”

You might also like:

Ten Terrible Reasons to Get Married

Should I Listen to My Mum?

20 thoughts on “Challenge Cécile: The Carrot Cake

  1. My brother is the one who makes the cakes in the family (we’re tragically American, so I have not had quite the experience you did), but he’s never accepted the Carrot Cake Challenge. I think I might have to try it sometime, just to say I did. I’ll keep your hilarious experience in mind when I do!

  2. So glad that Truth and Cake connected us! I LOVE this post, you made me laugh out loud (and crave carrot cake…) Cheers!

    • oh, thanks Amb! I love it when my posts make people laugh out loud :-D
      Looking forward to following your lovely blog, new blogger friend.

    • I’m pretty sure there was raisins in my recipe from New Zealand, forgot to mention it :-)
      Re-reading this post made me want to bake this carrot-cake again, yum!

  3. “All French children are trained in the subtle art of making cakes, especially chocolate cake. Each year, we are given examinations, and if we fail, we are not allowed to smoke cigarettes or have affairs.” WHAT???? I’ll just say I’m half Italian….. :p

    • I must admit that this is one of Andrew’s jokes :). He’s been helping me with my English and sometimes he comes up with a funny line which ends up on the blog.

  4. J’adore les gâteaux à la carotte et surtout avec ces magnifiques glaçages dessus qu’on trouve que dans les pays anglo-saxons et qui m’ont toujours fascinée! c’est vraiment le “icing on the cake”,la cerise sur le gâteau qui a toujours représenté un mystère pour moi. J’attends ce moment avec impatience, je vais enfin découvrir le secret!
    “Baking powder”? n’est ce pas tout simplement de la poudre à lever? j’en achète de la bio aussi.

  5. You did brilliantly Cecile. The best baking is organic — that is it changes just a wee bit with every baking. The best test is if those eating it like it and it looks as if it worked. You could bake one for your Mum:)

    • Thanks Wendy. Actually, my mum loves carrot cake. I don’t think she ever tried it with cream-cheese icing so I will definitely bake one for her while in Nice. She’ll love it as long as she is not aware of how much butter and cream and oil and sugar there is in it :-)

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