And since I’ve long been a Cake Girl (as opposed to a Pie Girl or Cookie Girl, desserts that are both yummy, but nope, don’t hold a candle to cake), I’ve had more than a few decades to reach this conclusion. This means that I’ve sampled thousands of slices of two and three-layer cakes, with a lot of frosting or just a little; sheet and Bundt versions, and even a few mixed together in a cast iron skillet.
I also bake from scratch. So, when I talk about my most-loved cake, my point of view is of someone who knows that the finest ones never involve a mix and never skimp on ingredients.
One terrific chocolate cake in my repertoire calls for a cup of strong coffee. I’m also partial to my red velvet cake, a birthday favorite whose deep color goes hand-in-hand next to a perfect round scoop of vanilla ice cream. A few years ago I baked half a dozen classic white cakes in a row, including a Lady Baltimore, which has chopped nuts and raisins in the frosting. But the Hubster’s tastes are more basic: a simple yellow cake with chocolate frosting is his choice.
These are the kind of cakes in my mother’s cookbooks.
But when I think about a carrot cake, I don’t remember ever seeing one in any book, much less on our kitchen cake plate.
The Ohio-born Hubster swears his mom made them, but I don’t think the cake became popular in California, where I grew up, until the early 1970s. Even then, they appeared exclusively at health food stores, although I also recall making my first one a few years later in college, baked in a rectangular Pyrex pan with just a bit of icing on top.
But after my cousin make a birthday carrot cake for my daughter, I knew I had found The Best Cake Ever.
Her recipe, which instantly became mine, features two cups of freshly grated carrots and a small can of
crushed pineapple, which makes the cake super moist. And like my red velvet cake, there’s no skimping on the
cream cheese frosting.
Best of all, it’s a “dump cake.” This means only a single bowl is required to make it, with each ingredient dumped one by one into the mixture until the batter is complete. Wash the bowl while the cake is baking and voila, assembling the cream cheese frosting is done in the same bowl.
Then, a few weeks ago, my head and taste buds made an unexpected carrot cake turnaround.
I’d gone to an event at a park, and sitting on a picnic table was the biggest sheet cake I’d ever seen. I assumed it was from a bakery, but in fact, it was from WinCo Foods, the largest supermarket around here and one I’m especially partial to because all of its 126 stores, located mostly on the West Coast, are employee owned.
Still, I kept the bar low.
I assumed this was going to be like any other supermarket cake I’d ever had, which is to say, dry and tasteless. And when I saw it was a carrot cake, I knew, for sure, that compared to my dump cake I’d be underwhelmed.
Then I tried a slice.
Not only was the cake very fresh, there was a lot of visible grated carrot, chopped walnuts and even raisins. It was also very dark and moist, which made me think that this recipe must also have pineapple.
I later found out that unlike other markets whose cakes are assembled off site, WinCo cakes are made in-house with a 24-hour notice. I also learned that I didn’t need to purchase a giant cake; I could order a quarter size sheet cake that measured nine by 13 inches. And because it was a carrot cake, I also knew that I’d be able to divide it into individual servings that were going to freeze well.
Hubster picked up one about a week later and this one was just as yummy as the one I’d had in the park. Plus, there was a lot of cream cheese frosting, which made the cake even higher than what is usually in a Pyrex dish the same size.
I don’t expect to start buying cakes from WinCo on a regular basis.
After all, I love to bake and I love to try new dessert recipes.
But if I’m in the mood for carrot cake, there won’t be any need to trot out my turquoise stand mixer or metal grater or glass measuring cups anymore.
I’ll just call WinCo.