A bunch of years ago, about 10, I think, I was a regular in a news and travel website about the Dominican Republic. Through the forum I got in touch with somebody who also lived in Santo Domingo and who, coincidentally, picked up her groceries every week at a business very close to where I was living at the time. We decided to get in touch and have coffee, and we hit it off right away.
That’s how I met “Aunt” Ilana.
A couple of coffees later, and we realized that despite a world of differences in our upbringing, culture, etc., we had a lot in common. We were both mostly-vegetarian, tree-huggers, had similar ideas on social issues and, most importantly, we both loved food.
Soon, along with our friend Himilce – also a food writer, we became “the ladies who lunch”, and got together often just to shoot the breeze.
I invited Ilana to join me as Aunt Clara’s Kitchen editor, and she surprised me by saying “yes”. I guess she was tired of cringing at my grammar.
Not surprisingly, my pregnancy a couple of years later revealed that we had a lot of ideas in common about child-rearing. Ilana was often my go-to source on how to navigate the perils of motherhood. She gave me a bunch of books on children’s health, food, and she was the most supportive person around me when my husband and I resolved that we would raise a multilingual child. We both laughed at the naysayers, and those who predicted that all kinds of bad things would befall my child because of this.
She understood where I was going when I refused to attach gender roles to my then-baby: Pink was just another color, girls can play with toy fire engines, and I am not dooming my child by not piercing her ears. Luckily my mom and sister were very supportive too, although probably a bit baffled.
This weekend Ilana came over for tea and carrot cake. Now we talk about other things (like how we seem to be getting old for no reason whatsoever). And while my husband complained that this cake needed more sugar, Ilana agreed with me that it was just fine. We are in-tune like that.
Am I ever lucky that — in this adventure of blog-making — I found the perfect partner: friend, mentor, neighbor, fellow cake-lover. One who has taught me so much.
I think that by now we could finish each other’s sentences… if Ilana wasn’t so painfully polite as to never interrupt somebody.
Anything can be made better with coconut and ginger, two of my favorite ingredients. Try them in this re-invention of the classic carrot cake.
- 1 1/2 cup of grated carrot (see notes)
- 1 cup of flour
- 2 tablespoon of ginger powder
- 1 cup of coarsely-grated coconut
- 1/4 cup of neutral-flavored vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup of brown cane sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
- 1/3 cup of powdered sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
- Oil spray for mold
- 1/3 cup of grated coconut for decoration
- 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon of coconut milk
- Heat oven to 300 ºF (150 ºC).
- Place the coconut for decoration in a baking tray and bake until it turns golden brown. Remove from the oven and let it cool down to room temperature. Reserve.
- Whisk together flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Reserve.
- Beat eggs and brown sugar over medium speed until the mixture is a paler color.
- Pour the oil into the mixture while still beating.
- Add the flour mixture and whisk until mixed well.
- Fold in coconut and carrot using a spatula.
- Spray with oil a small (4-6 cups) bundt cake mold.
- Pour the batter into the mold and bake for 25 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Mix the powdered sugar with the vanilla extract and coconut milk. It should be very thick but pourable. Add a few more drops of coconut milk if needed.
- Pour this mix on the cake and top with the toasted coconut.
- Serve at room temperature.
How finely your carrot is grated will change the texture of the cake. Finely-grated carrot will produce a denser, chewier cake, a coarsely-grated carrot will yield a looser cake.