Hand me downs

I must have been about sixteen when my mother happened upon The Carrot Cake recipe. I have no idea where the recipe came from—probably one of the “Gourmet” parties she and my father attended with the other university faculty and their spouses. Or one of the many other celebrations she frequented, along with her group of forty and fabulous friends at the time. Regardless of its origin, it was, and remains to this day, the most perfect representation of carrot cake in which I have ever overindulged. The almost savory combination of spice, carrot, coconut, and pulpy walnuts combined with dissolve-on-the-tongue cream cheese frosting that would be too sweet if it weren’t for its partner in culinary crime. It’s one of the few recipes I learned how to make after I flew the parental nest because I just couldn’t live without it.

Since then, I’ve had to switch to a gluten free diet. Though at first, gluten free meant cake-free, I eventually came to terms with the options, just in time to realize that I hadn’t partaken of The Carrot Cake in far too long. After trialing and erroring with a gluten free variety, I came out with a product that, to me, tasted similar enough to pass. The recipe I used—the one I still use—is my mother’s original, copied onto a worn piece of college ruled notebook paper from all those years ago. The page this recipe is hand-written on is worn and wrinkled and spattered with crust that was once a batter-y goo. At the top is the title “Mom’s famous carrot cake.”

I guess I was surprised when the subject of The Carrot Cake came up over lunch with my parents a few weeks ago, considering that neither my mother nor I have made The Carrot Cake in so many years. I suppose I was the last one to make it, and, at the time, I supposed that had more to do with my need to experiment with the gluten free variety than anything else.

That day at lunch, when the words “…the next time you make your carrot cake …” emerged from my mother’s mouth, I was somewhat taken aback. Whose carrot cake, I thought? Did I hear her correctly, or was it a slip of the tongue? Looking back, I’m certain my mother knew exactly what she was saying. We all know The Carrot Cake is a legacy. Apparently she feels she’s passed it down.

Tags: , , ,

6 Responses to “Hand me downs”

  1. dave says:

    I hope the rest of your mom’s sentence, “…make sure to take some in to work for Mary and Dave” didn’t go completely unnoticed because of your surprise at the bequeathing. I was somewhere recently and they had gluten free carrot cake bars, and now I can’t remember where it was. That sort of thing makes me think of you and your plight. Carrot cake is such a wonderful invention; my mother never made it. I can’t imagine having it- then being forced to never eat it again.

    • tmcaimi says:

      Haha! Ok Dave, that inspires me to make The Carrot Cake again, and this time you can be the judge of the gluten free variety.

  2. Mary says:

    What an enjoyable read to start my week. I love the way you describe the cake and also the paper with the recipe. Over the last year, I collected and sorted all my lifetime collection of recipe slips and put them in a binder. When Mom last visited, I made lasagna from my recipe “Mother’s Lasagna,” which I’d copied down from her when I was in high school. When she was here, she said she didn’t think she had the recipe anymore, so she copied it down and entitled it “My Lasagna”! I guess she didn’t feel she’d passed it down yet. Oh, and ditto on taking some of The Carrot Cake in for Mary and Dave!

    • tmcaimi says:

      See, the thing is Mary, I think the mother has to give up cooking altogether in order for the passing of the proverbial torch to occur ;-)

  3. fj says:

    Yes!! carrot cake is “yum” but Grammie’s GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE is it’s taste delite equal and my taste buds tell me that I’ve eaten gluten-free GCC in your home and it comes darn close.

    Also, Tara, you’re writing is taking on a certain descriptive power…a fullness so to speak, but in a good though scary way, I think. I mean just reading your foody blogs! makes me gain weight!!!!! TOO<TOO GOOD!

    • tmcaimi says:

      True, Grammie’s German chocolate cake was unmatched. But my friends all know the fiasco that ensued the last couple times I tried my hand at baking one of those–enter the perfect German chocolate cake’s illegitimate step-monster, the DRUNKEN German chocolate cake. A cake so unnatural in appearance, texture, and density that it can only be eaten after having imbibed on several perception-alterinig beverages. Ah the gluten free baking experience. Perhaps someday I’ll try again.

Leave a Reply