I had my first piece of carrot cake in 1974, or maybe it was 1973. We were at my uncle Denby’s wedding, and the cake they served was this oddly wonderful concoction of flavors I had never tasted. Being one of the munchkins in the crowd, I did what smart munchkins did back then: I eavesdropped on the adults who were talking about the cake.
They called it carrot cake, but this cake was a lot more than carrots, and it was awesome!
I don’t remember having carrot cake again until college. I may have had it before then, but those memories are lost in a din of other information like the capital of North Dakota, the difference between an adverb and an adjective, why the earth rotates around the sun and not the other way around, and who shot J.R (we watched that episode with a huge crowd of Hilltoppers in a hotel bar in Rosarito Beach, but that’s another story).
Whenever I see carrot cake as a dessert option at a restaurant, I order it. Carrot cake muffin? Gotta have it. I’ve sampled carrot cake recipes across the US, and even a couple in foreign countries. Some are decent. Claim Jumper’s is probably the best, especially with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (everything is good with a scoop of ice cream).
When the time came to choose our wedding cake, Janet and I chose carrot cake. Actually, I think Janet knew I’d love it, and it was her small wedding gift to me. The only bite of that cake I got that day was in the cake-cutting ceremony. We were too busy with all the other wedding stuff to actually eat any of the awesome cake we’d chosen.
As good as everyone else’s carrot cake is, none come close to mom’s. Mom’s is the only carrot cake that captures the awesomeness of my first carrot cake experience in the ‘70s. It’s simply the best.
Unfortunately, my love affair with all things carrot cake came to a screeching halt a little over a year ago when I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance. Someone asked me recently what I miss the most now that I basically can’t eat anything made with wheat, or containing gluten as an additive (it’s hidden in tons of sauces, dressings, and of course, beer).
The first thing that popped into my head was carrot cake. It’s not that I miss the taste of carrot cake so much (but, really I do). It’s the freedom to try everyone’s attempt at carrot cake…knowing that none will compare to mom’s. I miss getting to have a huge slice of carrot cake at mom’s, and then getting to take about half of the cake home (since it’s not everyone else’s favorite) to enjoy every night for a week. There’s nothing like a slice of carrot cake and a tall glass of milk after a hard day of whatever I did that day.
Thanks to gluten intolerance, I thought those days were gone. Not so fast!
Turns out there’s an excellent gluten-free “all-purpose flour” available at Trader Joe’s. What’s the first thing I thought of when I saw it? You guessed it! I need to get mom a couple pounds of this stuff so she can make some of her carrot cake with it, just in time for my 49th birthday!
We are about t-minus one hour from heading over to mom and dad’s to celebrate the September birthdays in our family (there are a bunch of them). We’ll eat some barbecued steaks with all the trimmings. But, more importantly, we’ll be trying the gluten-free carrot cake that she and my niece baked. I’ve heard that it’s pretty good.
I know it will be awesome. Why? Mom (and my niece) made it, and that’s all that matters.