Shhh! It’s a Surprise!

Two Writing Teachers Today

Oh, my! I am really inexperienced with throwing surprise parties. Especially on Zoom.

Carrot cake, with its spicy and sweet aromas wafting throughout our flat and hallway, ensures that I can’t bake his surprise birthday cake here at home.

However, I figured I would be able to mix the batter here, but even that got a little complicated. My husband works in the same building where we live, so he is known to pop in during the day to retrieve something or take a quick break. There is only one fail-proof safe time when he is in a meeting and that is 7:30-7:50 a.m.

Seven to 7:30 is also pretty good, but if he gets to his office and has forgotten something, even that 30-minute period is at risk. I stayed up late the night before and woke at 7:00, so I jumped into action.

I got out 8 eggs, hid them in a pan with a lid on it. Broke them one by one into a big rectangular Tupperware. Then poured in two cups of oil. I was always a bit nervous and concocting a believable lie should he pop in. Relief. I was safe so far. I took a quick shower and got dressed.

At 7:30, I was finally safe for 20 minutes. I got out the food processor, quickly peeled some carrots, grated them and measured out 6 cups into the tub with oil and eggs. Then I buried it in the fridge among all the other similar tubs.

Next was clean-up! Oh, the ubiquitous carrot gratings! I kept wiping and cleaning, picking them up off the floor. The orange spots of carrot juice and tiny orange shavings screamed, “See me in all my fluorescent glory!” I was supposed to be getting ready for Zoom school not finding another shred of carrot. “Why in the world are you grating carrots?” I heard my husband ask in my imagination where he was coming home for coffee and saw carrot remains.

As I watched the clock, and kept finding more evidence, I felt like a nervous criminal trying to clean up a crime scene. Finally, I thought I had it all picked up. I even went into the bathroom and checked my smile to make sure all the end pieces I’d been munching on were not wedged anywhere conspicuous. I grabbed my bag of carrot cake trash–eggs shells, empty oil bottle, carrot residue–and went down to the dumpster.

There when I returned back to my flat was my husband in the clean kitchen, thankfully with absolutely no question about carrots. I began to make myself a cup of tea, and he said, “Wow, thanks for emptying the trash…” (It had been sitting by the front door since last evening.) “…and before your tea even!”

This adventure happened twice this week–double recipes of carrot cake mixed up surreptitiously and then taken to a friend’s on the way to school to bake and freeze at their home.

Finally, on Sunday evening we had the successful and sweet party! Several times over the last 24 hours, he has said, “Thank you for last night.”

I waited until yesterday, his official birthday to deliver the small cakes I had baked. Between school and time with my husband, I hadn’t had enough free time to bake, thaw, frost and delivery before the party.

I wrote about this party and carrot cake in my Sunday poem for #Verselove and below:

Carrot cake:
our family recipe for 
births, weddings,
baptisms of
Shredded carrots
freckling the kitchen
So many fluorescent flecks
threatening to spoil the
into the meeting at 7:00 p.m.
Bahrain time,
9:00 a.m. Pacific,
for this
pandemic party
Carrot cakes
stealthily baked
with love
in tiny
aluminum pans
delivered to
to celebrate
the anniversary of
the birth of my beloved–
this man,
so good
and kind
and passionate–
with carrot caky goodness

My Carrot Cake Memories

Inspired by yesterday’s Slice by Erika Victor, I will write about carrot cake memories today.

It seems like I grew up eating this recipe of carrot cake, but I’m not sure when my mom’s cousin Lorraine first found the recipe. It might have been when I was a teen, possibly somewhere in the 1970’s.

Here is my recipe card that I copied from the family cookbook sometime in the 80’s.

This is the only picture I have of the recipe card. I took a blurry image when I digitized my recipe collection before moving overseas. Oops, should have focused better.

This recipe holds so many memories. Too many to name, but a few include enjoying it with my family as a young person, introducing it to my future husband, and then helping my mom bake it for our wedding cake in 1983. We baked it for our daughters’ first birthday cakes, their baptism celebrations, my husband’s 40th birthday, graduations, and so many more that we have lost track.

When I told my husband about this post, he reminded me of the time we were at a fifth grade track meet with my youngest daughter on his birthday. My oldest daughter stayed home and baked him a surprise carrot cake. It was her first attempt, and although a bit crooked, it was delicious and full of love.

We’ll be making more memories when it comes time for my daughter’s wedding in May. The tentative plan is they will have a variety of cupcakes, and surely this will be one of them.

Over the last 40 years, we’ve made some 21st century adaptations, and we like it just as well. The adapted recipe below with reduced fat and sugar is by no means a healthy cake now, but it’s a little better than it used to be.

I hope you will take either the recipe above or below and adapt it for your purposes, making it even better.

Carrot Cake

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch pan.

Sift together:

  •         2 cups flour
  •         1 t. baking soda
  •         ½ t. salt
  •         1 ½ t. baking powder
  •         2 t. cinnamon
  •         1 ½ cups sugar

Add and beat well:

  •         1 cup oil
  •         4 eggs

Add and beat again:

  •         3 cups grated raw carrots

Optional, fold in 1 cup walnut pieces

Pour into a 9 x 13 inch pan.

Bake at 180 degrees C for 25-30 minutes (convection oven) or maybe 30-40 minutes in a regular oven. Check it at 25 minutes to see if a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Cream together 250 grams of cream cheese and 50 grams of butter.

Add 1 t. vanilla and a pinch of salt.

Gradually add about 500 grams of powdered sugar and beat until creamy.

Thank you, Erika, for your memories, which sparked my memories.

What recipe holds special memories for you?