Love is about the sweetest thing there is.
Food is love made edible; I think that’s why so many people write about it, think about it, photograph it, and commune with it three times a day. From an anthropological lens, eating together is an act of trust. Sharing a meal or cooking for another is a moment of mutual vulnerability. We hunger for love like we hunger for food.
When I spend time with my parents, I’m always struck by how in love they are.
My dad is a helpless romantic and a biochemist; to woo my mom, he once decorated her dorm room with wildflowers in little test tubes. Mimi is a fun, nurturing ex-doula with a killer knack for gardening. It was love at first sight, they say. They were on a college outdoors trip and Daddy made sure he was my mom’s canoe partner. It stuck and he’s been making this carrot cake recipe for her birthday ever since.
The recipe comes from The Silver Palate Cookbook, a family culinary bible that sits on the bookshelf between The Joy of Cooking and Molly Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook. My grandmother gave The Silver Palate to my parents when they got married and it’s been a kitchen inspiration for almost twenty-five years. The pages are dogeared and creased and ripple from split measuring cups of water or milk. My parents’ hand writing fills margins, describing past substitutions and telling stories. The spine smells like vanilla extract and glue.
In the name of spring and wildflowers, I want to bake some love to you, dear reader.
This carrot cake Silver Palate recipe is originally for a layered cake, but it adjusts well to cupcakes. Cupcakes are great for spring- you get a bite of sweetness and they’re great for sharing. The proportions of crushed pineapple and carrot puree make these cupcakes ridiculously moist, so don’t be afraid of the cakes drying out in the oven. Just be sure to shorten baking time in half (I’ve done it for you below.)
Don’t be afraid to actually eat spring, literally; finish your cupcakes with edible flowers. Here’s a few commonly found edible flowers:
(Before eating, consult The Home Cooking Guide by Amy Barclay and Peggy Trowbridge.)
- Day Lily
Makes 24 cupcakes. Adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook.
24 cupcake liners
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2-1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1-1/2 cups vegetable oil
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups shredded coconut, sweetened (if unsweetened, add 1/2 cup sugar)
1-1/3 cups pureed cooked carrots, very soft
3/4 cup drained, crushed pineapple
Cream Cheese Frosting (I like this recipe from Martha Stewart)
1. Preheat the oven to 350?F. Line 2 cake cupcake pans (for 4 cupcakes.)
2. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add the oil, eggs, and vanilla. Beat well. Fold in the coconut, carrots, and pineapple.
3. Pour the batter into cupcake liners, filling cups a little over 3/4 full. Set on the center rack of the oven and bake until risen and fully cooked in the center, about 20-25 minutes.
4. Cool on a cake rack for 3 hours. Fill a pastry bag with cream cheese frosting and decorate, topping with an edible flower from your garden (or frolic in a field and pick edible wildflowers!) Enjoy with tea and someone you love.