We’re Going Full Carrot Cake Mode

April 2, 2024
Dining & Wine
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On the subject of raisins in carrot cake, the food writer Allison Robicelli once wrote for Taste Cooking, “They don’t just get to show up in desserts, acting like they belong there when they have no business stepping outside of the world of trail mix.”

However you may feel on the matter — raisins or no raisins? — it’s safe to say that we are now in full Carrot Cake Mode, that time of year when spring is on the verge of all its Technicolor glory: blossoms, rainbow-stained eggs and floppy-eared bunnies. And what do bunnies love? Carrots, right?

Wrong. According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, rabbits don’t even “naturally eat root vegetables.” Bugs Bunny’s carrot spawned a generational myth.

But you know what’s not a myth? Our love for a slice of perfect carrot cake with cream cheese frosting (above). This one from Dorie Greenspan, a tenured professor of cake baking, is a lesson in you-can-have-it-all-ism: shredded coconut, chopped nuts AND raisins! In typical Dorie fashion, she even teaches you how to get the most out of those raisins; if they “are not moist and plump when you mix them into the batter,” she advised, “they’re not going to magically become moist and plump in the oven.”

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So make them moist and plump! Pour boiling water over any thin, desiccated dried fruit you have in your pantry (then drain), or simply run it under hot tap water. Be sure to pat the newly plumped fruit dry before incorporating it into the cake batter.

But remember, as my colleague Genevieve Ko said to me recently, the best carrot cake is the one you like — “fluffy or dense, stuffed with stuff or not.” (She prefers an all-carrot cake for the sponge, but does enjoy some crunch over the frosting; pecans or walnuts, please.) The baker and food editor Jesse Szewczyk also thinks you should “customize the batter to produce your ideal version of carrot cake.” (His comes in cupcake form.)

You’ll need dinner, too, this week, huh? When you’re not full on cake, make my colleague Yotam Ottolenghi’s halloumi chicken Parmesan with za’atar from his latest piece in The New York Times Magazine. (We write the “Eat” column in a monthly round with the soulful and singular Ligaya Mishan and Lisa Donovan.) Or maybe go the pasta route: Hetty Lui McKinnon’s new spinach and ricotta lasagna is a no-chop, no-boil dream of a weeknight wonder. I would make Colu Henry’s white beans with radishes, miso and greens as a bright, peppery side dish to go with — it’ll take just 10 minutes to prepare.

And for breakfast this weekend? Dealer’s choice. For the savory folks, I have this cheesy breakfast egg and polenta casserole from Sarah Copeland. “If you’ve had the pleasure of a cheesy polenta dinner, topped with a creamy-yolked egg,” she writes, “you can imagine how good that combination is at breakfast.”

For my sweet-leaning friends, I’d make one of my all-time favorite recipes on New York Times Cooking, Melissa Clark’s banana snacking cake with salted caramel glaze. It’s the purest distillation of sugar and banana. Just trust me.

Enjoy a slice of that with a cup of coffee or tea, and have a great Saturday.

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