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The Time Traveler

Recently, I started thinking about time travel. No, I’m not getting all science-fiction on you, I’m thinking more along the fiction lines. But I have been wondering what kind of discussions I would have with my younger self. I ran upon this book yesterday that was a compilation of letters that Madeline Albright, Margaret Thatcher, Hilary Clinton, and Maya Angelou and loved the idea behind it. Even these wise, powerful women have some kind of vulnerability, and sharing these letters proves that we all have made some kind of mistakes, things we wish we could take back. But instead of erasing these mistakes and memories all together, these women write to help ease the pain, to offer some comfort. Don’t we all want that kind of insight? Surely I’d like to erase the painful memories from my childhood, but erasing them wouldn’t benefit me. Like the others, I’d rather ease the pain with words of comfort and advice. What would I say to that lonely little girl, sitting by herself at the dining room table waiting for her mom to come home from her hellish 14-hour work day.

Could I look at my kid-self and remain impartial, withholding information so as not to give away what lies ahead? I believe I’d offer little tips, like “Whatever you do, do NOT die your hair purple in 8th grade. Trust me, it will take forever for it to get out”, and “Don’t worry about those selfish blonde girls who claim to be your friends. Their behavior is no reflection of you, and in the end, you will find true friends who like your quirky humor and quiet demeanor”, and “Spend as much time as possible outside. Run around in that big backyard of yours and watch the clouds pass. You will feel more at peace in that moment than at any other time.”

The last thing I would tell myself is to not run away from carrot cake, that strangely orange-tinted cake that is present at all holiday buffet tables. I know it sounds like death (Carrots? In a cake?) but trust me, you will like it. The cake tastes like sugar and spice perfectly melded together. And don’t forget about that cream cheese frosting. Oh, heavens. I know you hate buttercream frosting, especially the chalky variety (and yes, you will get frowned upon when you peel off the frosting at birthday parties, but who cares). I promise, the cream cheese frosting will triumphant over any other buttercream frosting you have tasted.

When I made this carrot tea cake, I thought about all the times I shied away from carrot cake as a kid. It looked oily and grease, with carrot strings popping out and globs of white frosting piled high. This cake often ended up at all family potlucks, church gatherings, and baby showers. It was the universal cake, and was often let untouched. No wonder I ran from it. I tended to favor the fruit trifles or overbaked brownies (which were pretty good with a dollop of ice cream).

But this cake, this cake is definitely not the ones from my past. I originally used a Martha Stewart recipe and adapted it to fit my taste. Made from whole wheat and all purpose flour, it is balanced with just enough whole grains and sweetness to make it a favorite this fall. Because of it’s reduced sugar content, this tea cake would be a good dish to be served at brunch or a weekend breakfast. What makes this cake on of my favorites it the cream cheese frosting. Again, I kept the sugar content down because the last thing I want is for a sugar spike at 9am in the morning. Instead of the usual powdered sugar, I opted for my favorite sweetener, honey. I used 5 tablespoons, but you could increase/decrease according to your taste. I also used reduced fat cream cheese in an effort to help my heart work a little cleaner, but use the real stuff if you prefer.

If you are looking for that decadent slab of cake that sends your tastebuds in to a craze, you won’t find it here. Actually, if that is the type of cake you want, check my post regarding carrot cake. I’m sure that will work for you. Like the name suggests, this would be a nice cake for afternoon tea. Its subtle flavor and slightly nutty bite will keep you coming back for more.

Carrot Tea Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Printable recipe
Adapted from: Martha Stewart
Yield: Serves 8 to 10
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 40 to 45 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 10 minutes

● 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
● 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
● 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
● 1 tsp. baking powder
● 1/2 tsp. baking soda
● 1/2 tsp. salt
● 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
● 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
● 2 large eggs
● 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
● 1 cup packed grated carrots (from about 2 carrots)
● 1 bar (8 ounces) reduced fat cream cheese, room temperature
● 5 tbsp honey
● 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 5-by-9-inch (6-cup) loaf pan.

In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, until each one is combined. Add one teaspoon of vanilla. Beat in grated carrots.

With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture in thirds, wiping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Do not overmix. Transfer the cake batter in to the prepared pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in pan for 10 minutes. Carefully, turn cake out onto a wire rack, and let cool completely.

For the frosting:
Beat the cream cheese, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla for 5 minutes or until fluffy. Spread the frosting on top of the cooled cake, and serve at room temperature.

Wrapped in an airtight container, the cake can be kept for three to four days.

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September 8, 2009 - 7:24 am

Grapeful - Love the new site design!

September 8, 2009 - 10:03 am

Dolce - I never had carrot cake as a kid, and discovered it when I moved to the US. I fell in love with it…

I too, if I could, would want to say a lot to the former kid I was. Among other things, why didn’t I like tomatoes as a kid? I can never get enough now… !

September 8, 2009 - 10:16 am

nguyenxl - i LOVE carrot cake. and i LOVE that your recipe has reduced the sugar content. now i can feel less guilty when eating one of my favorite cakes. can’t wait to try this recipe!

September 8, 2009 - 1:11 pm

maya - i am dying over ur carrot cake. carrot cake was my birthday cake at my first birthday, ever since then it has been my aunt who is a pastry chef made magnificent carrot cupcakes :)

love your blog/and flickr u are amazing girly!


September 8, 2009 - 1:56 pm

carolyn - hi amanda — this post made me smile. i love the tone you take when talking to yourself. and i’m a recent carrot cake convert myself, so i can definitely relate to your feelings about gobs of icing and stringy carrot slivers poking out. good thing we wised up, right?!

September 8, 2009 - 4:08 pm

juju73 - What a wonderful post! I just loved it! I would tell my former self to be more outgoing…not to be so fearful of making new friends or living life to its fullest. And don’t be afraid of fire…it leads to great grilled steak.:)

Your carrot cake looks amazing! Where oh WHERE did you get that white and blue saucer????

September 8, 2009 - 10:54 pm

the projectivist - oh i’ve always loved carrot cake – dense and moist and teaming with spices, topped with a thick, THICK layer of cream cheese to give that tart kick.

absolutely beautiful images, Amanda
images which make me crave carrot cake RIGHT NOW!

September 9, 2009 - 5:27 am

Linda - Carrot cake is the best!! Yours with honey cream cheese frosting is brilliant. You amaze me Amanda x

September 9, 2009 - 7:21 am

Kristin at The Kitchen Sink - Amanda: This cake is really, really gorgeous. And the fact that it’s less-decadent-slab/more-afternoon-tea makes it even more perfect, in my book. Love that billowy frosting.

September 9, 2009 - 8:34 am

Tracy - this is a great post and you’ve inspired me to try my hand at a carrot cake. I’ve never made one and only recently realized how dee-licious they are! my husband thanks you in advance :)

September 9, 2009 - 6:47 pm

Amanda - Juju- I got the cup/saucer at an antique faire. It’s my favorite ;)

Linda- right back you girl!

Kristin- I think I made a little more frosting just to make up for the healthy cake part. what can I say, a girl needs balance, right?

Thanks everyone for the comments!

September 10, 2009 - 6:54 pm

Lecia/A Day that is Dessert - This looks delicious! Interesting and well written post.

September 11, 2009 - 4:43 am

alana - So happy to find you! I also had purple hair in eight grade and certainly ran from carrot cake. But I’m feeling inspired to tackle that bag of carrots in my fridge now…

September 11, 2009 - 7:37 am

purpley - I always ponder over time travelling. And Amanad, if you haven’t read Time Traveller’s Wife – do so immediately because it is exactly what you’re talking about.

And I believe that Cream Cheese Frosting should be the default frosting for everything. Right?!

September 11, 2009 - 7:31 pm

whitneyinchicago - Love the plate in the last picture. And the new (ish) blog layout!

September 13, 2009 - 5:51 pm

Jen @ MaplenCornbread - I have only heard rave reviews about the time travelers wife. Once done my current novel I plan to pick it up!

This cake looks amazing!!! I LOVE carrot cake!!

Great new blog look :) love it.

September 14, 2009 - 9:07 am

christine louise - My first memory of carrot cake was at my cousin’s wedding 16 years ago! Eating it makes me feel like being a flower girl with fuchsia mary janes again.

September 14, 2009 - 10:37 am

Elizabeth - Oh my, what a lovely cake and an equally wonderful story to go with it. Carrot cake, something I too detested as a kid, as become one of my favorite desserts (zucchini cake holds similar memories for me).

The Time Traveler’s Wife is amazing! One of my favorite contemporary novels. Did you really write this post without having read it?

I just stumbled upon your blog a few minutes ago, by the way, and like it a great deal. Nice work!

September 16, 2009 - 1:04 pm

justcooknyc - i love the cake photos… so casual and rustic

September 19, 2009 - 10:05 am

thebiggerhalf - So good to find a light version of my favourite cake to have with tea! Always been a fan of the classic carrot cake with its killer frosting (even as a child)but never tried it with the added honey. Great autumnal flavour.
Been reading your blog for awhile now and it’s really nice to read a food blog with such a personal touch.

October 3, 2009 - 11:20 am

Alya - Heads up: you forgot to add the honey in the directions of how to make the frosting :)

October 16, 2009 - 6:02 pm

Experiments in the Kitchen: Episode 2 « sarah pak presses words - [...] and I found a recipe that used mostly everything that we already had around the house. It’s a carrot tea cake. So I got out all the ingredients because we had some carrots, cinnamon, etc etc, and pretty much, [...]

March 30, 2010 - 5:43 am

Spring break + recipes « Slow Like Honey - [...] recipes: Blackberry Jam Cake Buttermilk Cookies Carrot Tea Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting Lemon Curd Tartlets Lemon Poppy Seed Cake Orange Berry Muffins Sour Cream Raspberry Swirl [...]

April 10, 2010 - 11:03 am

Pots & Pants + Friends « Sometimes I disagree with Karl Lagerfeld when it comes to food, but I do love fashion. - [...] baked a nice carrot tea cake (without the frosting) which I adapted from Slow Like Honey, a favourite baker-blogger of mine, and [...]

December 16, 2011 - 6:02 am

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