Monday 21 April 2014

Carrot Cake and a Lesson in Trusting Your Instincts

Recently I learnt the harsh lesson of trusting my baking instincts. Carrot cake is one of my all time favourite cakes and yet I rarely make the time to bake it. Things have been a little hectic and stressful of late and I wanted something indulgent and comforting to cheer myself up and decided to bake carrot cake. I also thought it was be good for an alternative Easter cake – Easter bunny, carrots = carrot cake. (A bit of a stretch I know, but go with it).

After a little search I came across a few recipes for carrot cupcakes by Babycakes NYC. They are a gluten free and vegan friendly bakery in America. I’ve had the good fortune to taste some of their products a few years ago on a trip to America. They were some of the most delicious bought gluten free treats I’ve ever tasted, so was more than happy to use their recipe – or so I thought!

I wanted to bake a cake instead of cupcake and so hunted for a recipe where someone had done just that. I came across one on a blog, printed it off and set to work. When it got to the part about adding the spices I was a little surprised at the quantity required. 1 tbsp of cinnamon and 3 tbsp of ground ginger. I paused slightly, this sounded like a lot of spice, but the cakes I had seen online did look darkly coloured and highly spiced (there is no brown sugar used to add additional colour) and so I decided to go with it. I did however reduce the ginger to 2 tbsp, instead of the 3 stated.

The cake baked well, quite firm and dense, but also wonderfully moist and very aromatic. Being vegan and gluten free meant no butter, eggs or refined sugar were used. Instead it relied on almond milk, oil and agave nectar for sweetness and moisture. I added some chopped walnuts, pecans and a few sultanas as I feel these are a must in any good carrot cake.

I didn’t need the recipe to be fully vegan and so made a lemon Quark frosting for filling and decorating my cake. Quark is a lesser well known curd cheese with a texture in-between cream cheese and ricotta. After a few photos I eagerly I cut a slice and tasted some.

My first thought was ‘ohhh that’s a bit strong’ followed by ‘urgh that’s horrible!’ The spices – ginger in particular completely overwhelmed the entire cake. It was so strong, raw, harsh, bitter and astringent that it made my mouth feel as though I’d stripped the top layer of skin off my tongue. Ginger is a very strong spice and I love my spices, but this was completely inedible. I bravely ate a few more mouthfuls, hoping the frosting would mellow out the flavour but it was not pleasant. I was so upset. I dare you go and eat a small spoonful of raw ground ginger and see what’s it’s like – not good.

This has to be one of the very few occasions that I have actually thrown a baked product away. Usually I can find some way to save a dish, adding extra sauce or turning it into something else but this cake was beyond help. I went back to the recipe and checked I had read it correctly – yes I had. Then I went and looked again at other recipes online only to discover that the 3 tablespoons ginger listed in the recipe I had printed should actually be 2-3 TEASPOONS! So I ended up adding about 3 times the amount of ginger I should have done – no wonder it tasted horrible!

I’m not too angry at the recipe for stating 3 tbsp instead of tsp – that accidental ‘b’ in the spoons was probably a typo and an easy mistake to make – but it’s shown me to trust my baking instincts – if it sounds too much, it probably is!

I have decided not to give you the recipe I used or a link to the blog site I copied the recipe from, as I don’t want to be mean. I still haven’t had my carrot cake, but I am determined to try the recipe again (from a more reliable source), as the texture seemed good. I think I’ll double and triple check the recipe next time though!


Gluten Free Alchemist said...

Oh Katie. That's so sad! Carrot cake is usually so delicious, you must have been so p'd off! Looks pretty though..............

Joyce said...

We should be able to sue careless bloggers for damages when they carelessly inflict pain and suffering on unsuspecting members of the public. Or at least get reimbursed for the wasted ingredients. Hmmmm... here's an area those claims companies haven't exploited yet! ;-)

Johanna GGG said...

Oh that is a sad story - I regret to say that I have found typos in my blog on occasion (and fixed them asap when I have) but I agree with you that instincts are important. I also find that American recipes often use far more cinnamon than I usually do so I sometimes reduce it anyway (and I often reduce vanilla as I am not so keen on it as some seem to be)

I rarely throw away food I cook but I did thow away a dessert that had some ingredients I didn't like this year and it felt so wrong to throw it out but I couldn't eat it. Hope you get your carrot cake

Anonymous said...

pretty nice blog, following :)

Beli Katsuobushi said...

It really looks delicious and tempting for me. Carrots are my favorite food

The Caked Crusader said...

What a shame that such a beautiful cake didn't match in flavour. I know what you mean; there have been occasions when I'm cooking when I think, 'that can't be right' but do it anyway and then get cross!