Let Me Eat Cake

I’m a good baker, sometimes a great baker. I make ice cream, I’ve made pannetone and cannoli from scratch, I’ve spun those crazy lovely caramel cages just as Julia showed me.  I’m proud of my pastry, straight-up pie and puff as well. I’m not diabetic, not fat, and I’m married to a man who loves sweets, heavy on the cinnamon rolls.

So why do I never make dessert, unless there’s a dinner party or a holiday coming up? Martha Stewart swears she serves dessert every night. My mother certainly did, even if it was nothing more complicated than a serving of canned apricots and a cookie. My father still does, and when I was in Ottawa I got into the swing, made pies on three occasions and loved it. So why have I meandered through the last thirty years thinking: “Life is short: have another slice of Shepherd’s Pie and forget dessert?”

My favorite food group is Potatoes Any Style, followed closely by Braised Bits of Meat (with lots of onions.) Add vegetables and anything with forty cloves of garlic and I’m happy at the table. But those two recent weeks when I ate a dab of dessert has changed my mind. What have I been thinking? Why have I deprived myself of the cheerful sweet  ending of a day at the table, especially when, in the scale of luxuries, it’s so cheap?

Over the course of three evenings we’ve split a pint of Ben and Jerry’s this week, which may not sound too self-indulgent except for the hot caramel sauce Lou made Friday night. Yesterday I got serious and made carrot cake from the Larousse  Treasury of Country Cooking. (Crown, 1975. If you can find a copy, snap it up.) I’ve made this recipe so many times that the pages stick together — I had a short career as a carrot cake venture capitalist back in the ‘8Os. It never, ever fails, contains oil rather than the more expensive butter, lasts for almost a week and can be put together with no more batterie de cuisine than measuring cups, a paring knife, a grater and a whisk. I didn’t even peel the carrots — those pre-peeled so-called “baby” carrots were on sale and I put them through the grater disk of my Cuisinart. The cream cheese maple-syrup infused icing was not exactly a test of anyone’s pastry chef chops.

It makes a huge cake, and I’ll probably give some away.


I’m a carrot cake Calvinist : No crushed pineapple, please.

I fell off the pie wagon in Ottawa, so I’m buying some apples tomorrow, and a can of apricots. I have the ingredients in the house for Dorie Greenspan’s World Peace Cookies. I may just fool around with salted caramels! But I’m heading into a new epoch of my life, the one where I give myself another thing to look forward to, which might just be the secret to being cheerful.




Filed under Books, Five bucks or fewer, Food, Home

4 responses to “Let Me Eat Cake

  1. Alessandra

    Dessert is the best part of the meal! I just made a fat free peanut butter chocolate cheesecake this weekend! Awesome!! We make desserts around here entirely too much, I think my boys occasionaly eat dinner just because Mom or Dad made dessert! Keep it up. Pumpkin is great these days. I regret disliking pumpkin for the first 27 years of my life!

  2. You know, I’m pondering, and thinking that perhaps after “Call me Ishmael” and “It was the best of times . . .” — “I fell off the pie wagon” may well join the ranks of memorable lines in Literature.

    Could you hear the big HeeHaw from way down here?

    And I’m inspired to make that cheesecake, or possibly the old standby.

    Caro and I were just teasing Chris tonight about his love for having dessert with every meal. I said, “We don’t have anything for dessert besides leftover cake and the Halloween candy.”

    He replied, “You know I don’t care much about dessert.”

    And we both told him that “What’s for dessert” is still spoken with his mouth full of his last bite of dinner, in the same tones of “It’s dewihuh.”

  3. Carrot cake. Carrot cake. It was late, and I was not in full faculty.

  4. Kim Shook

    “My favorite food group is Potatoes Any Style, followed closely by Braised Bits of Meat (with lots of onions.)” This is VERY me! I would have to add bread on the side for sopping up the braising sauce. Growing up we almost never had dessert. Momma and I almost always would opt for a second roll! But when she married my (English) stepdad, he began asking wistfully about ‘afters’ every night. Momma is decidedly NOT a baker – I am, but I was only 9 at the time. So dessert became canned fruit with cream poured over, an occasional blintz or bakery pastry.

    Your cake looks delicious and is one of my favorites. I never had it as a kid because the carrot part put me off. Just like the idea of zucchini bread still does. My MIL is coming for dinner next week and dessert is an homage to fall – Fig/Apple mascarpone tart w/ apple cider caramel and green apple sorbet. The tart recipe is from Lisa2K at eGullet and I made it last year for the first time. I think it will become an annual fall event!

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