Ever since I started this blog I have been debating whether or not to include the family recipe for The Ultimate Carrot Cake. There are pros and cons to consider. If I share it, how would my family feel? If I share it, will credit be given where credit is due? If I share it, it won't be a secret anymore. If I share it, it might lose its specialness.
On the other hand, if I don't share it, people won't get to experience the moist perfection of the eggless (yes, eggless!) cake, and the creamiest possible cream cheese icing. If I don't share it people may possibly continue to think that their own carrot cake is The Ultimate Carrot Cake. If I don't share it, I would be keeping secret one of the recipes I am known for. If I don't share it, well, the list goes on.
As long as I can remember, my Auntie Martine has made this cake for most special occasions. Growing up in Newfoundland, this cake was even more special because Auntie Martine lives in Montreal, so we would only get the cake when we traveled to visit the family. My Mom never tried to bake this cake - she had her own specialties. This cake was truly Auntie Martine's. We knew that we could rely on getting to have this cake on every visit we made to the house on Elmwood Drive in Pointe Claire. Whether it was a birthday, an anniversary, Christmas, or after a long, humid summer day spent playing Marco Polo in the backyard pool, there would be carrot cake for dessert.
We'd sit at the counter in the kitchen, where the four cousins (now there are 11) always sat, polishing off whatever dinner or lunch we had been served, keeping an eye on the confection on the corner of the kitchen counter. It would call to us. On other days we might sneak our hands into the cupboard above where the cake was sitting, reach into the cookie jar that lived inside, and come out with an Oreo, or better yet, a Fudgeo. Or we might run down the basement stairs to the big freezer and move the frozen hamburger meat around looking for a popsicle. But when the carrot cake was on the counter, all other options were off the table.
Even if we finished eating before the grownups, who were sitting at the table behind us in the bright kitchen wallpapered with yellow gingham, we had to wait for the cake. Dessert was eaten together, as a family. And perhaps that is one of the reasons we all love it so much - because it reminds us of family, of love, and of carefree days gone by.
I can picture her now, Auntie Martine, taking the plate that the cake was on and carrying it over to the counter. "Du lait, s'il vous plait" we would cry, pounding our little fists on the counter, "du lait s'il vous plait!" We got our milk, and our cake. Then all would be silent for some time while children and grownups alike took bite after precious bite of the cake.
I keep the tradition alive, as do my cousins. My kids' first taste of cake was the carrot cake. I continue to make it for every birthday in the family - whether I bake it as cupcakes, a bundt cake, a double (or once a triple) layered round cake, or the standard square cake. For Noah's first birthday I made it in the shape of an ark, and placed little plastic animals all over the pillowy clouds of cream cheese icing. It has become the favourite cake of my father in law, Joseph, and I recently made it for his birthday as per his request. My brother Joel's wife, Maureen and her daughter Rebecca have discovered myriad of uses for the extra icing - spread it on ginger snaps, sandwich it between chocolate cookies, eat it off a spoon.
At Joseph's recent birthday party, I talked about the cake with my sister in law Bryony's boyfriend Micah, who happens to be an actual writer (not a wannabe like me). We discussed the internal struggle I was having with myself as to whether or not I should share the recipe. He suggested that I just write about it, and see what happens. I took that to mean that I would know at the end of the piece if I should share the recipe or not. And I do.
For now, it's staying in the vault. Later, who knows?