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.