Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting and Edible "Chocolate Soil"
The birthday of my good friend's husband Matt was coming up and she commissioned me to make him a cake. This was my second order ever and I was so grateful that she came to me.
Every time I receive an order, I try to get to know the sender and receiver before designing the cake. I am not talking about the obvious of finding out their palette's preferences, but to learn about their personalities, their likes and dislikes and the special stories that they share. Whatever feelings I felt during these conversations, I want to translate them in the cake. Gifting a cake is like sending a handwritten letter. It should reflect the personality of both the sender and the receiver. What makes a cake great is not only does it taste divine and look beautiful (not to mention that it should always be moist and packed with flavour), it should show the thoughts that were put into choosing it and hopefully each bite sparks the special memories that the two people shared.
My friend is a very down-to-earth, simple and warm person who has a great sense of humour. Although I have not met her husband, I felt that he shares the same qualities from what my friend described and from the photos that I saw.
I wanted them to have a cake that is not pretentious, straightforward and had a bit of fun element in it. I wanted them to feel the warmth that I felt when I am in my friend's presence. My friend told me that he looooveeeees carrot cakes and she didn't want something too sweet. I liked the idea of carrot cake so I double checked if her kids were okay with carrots (I sort of assumed all kids hate veggies even if hidden in a cake). She said they were fine so sure, carrot cake it is :)
I have had this carrot cake recipe for a loooong time. Back in the days when I was working in a bakery, I used to make this cake for my colleagues and we would eat it together leaning against the kitchen counter. They always raved about it and asked me to remake it. The cake is packed with loads of carrots. It is made with brown sugar and different spices which add depth to the flavor of the cake. The cream cheese frosting is sweetened with AAA grade maple syrup which makes it mildly sweet and the tanginess of cream cheese helps cut into the sweetness of the carrot sponge.
My friend mentioned that Matt loves chocolate. So I decided to make some crystalized dark chocolate to sprinkle on top of the cake like soil and made these cute little fondant carrots peeking out from it. I surrounded the cake with a wreath made out of rosemary and sage which gave a pop of colour and created a sense of garden with its earthy aroma. Last but not least, I made a little banner from craft paper and letter stamps to show the birthday message. Originally, I wanted to write "Happy Birthday Matt! Thank you for being the best father and husband :)". But my friend said "OK, but he will know that it is NOT from me LOL". So we decided to go with "Happy Birthday Matt! Have a great one!" (which I agree is more my friend).
When she picked up the cake the next day, her face lit up with eyebrows raised to her hairline. She said "Oh myyyyy god, it is SO beautiful!!!" After I ranted on for what felt like an hour "Please be careful with driving!! Drive slowly, avoid all road bumps OK? No sudden braking OK?" She drove away happily while I nervously waved goodbye.
The next day I received a message from her (I had been staring at my phone like a hawk, counting on my watch, waiting for them to eat the cake. Honestly, I felt like a stalker). She happily told me that her husband lovvvvved the cake and that it was the perfect amount of sweetness. She said it was SO light and moist despite being in the fridge for a whole day. "You are really good at making cakes!" she said.
Her words really encouraged me.
During the early days of this little cake adventure, when I wasn't so sure about myself and my ability to make great cakes, it was my friends who kept reminding me that "I CAN do it", that I am good at what I do and I shouldn't hesitate to share my talent with the world.
Thank you to all of you who stood by me and volunteered to be my guinea pig all these years. Thank you for helping me realising my dream at the ripe age of 33.