The practice version
I’m a recent “farmer” and have absolutely no idea what I’m doing other than tossing a few leftover bits and bobs from my kitchen into the garden, adding water and promptly forgetting what I “planted” until the thing starts shooting up and makes itself known. It’s quite fun really and a bit of a surprise because half the time I don’t know what it actually looks like whist growing, thanks to our convenient trips to the supermarket where you don’t know how to identify fruit and vegetables, what with them being covered in plastic and all. Anyhow, I did have a vague recollection of planting carrot tops and I do actually know what carrots look like when they still have their green bits attached. So when these carrot tops started to look exceptionally flourishing, I had the perfect use for them.
A special friend had asked me to celebrate her birthday with a big piece of carrot cake and “a” G&T. She was travelling and would not be home, so we agreed I would enjoy a piece of cake and the G&T on her birthday in her absence. Her birthday was still over a month away and I was too excited to wait when I saw my carrots making their appearance. The week before she was about to leave, I decided I wanted to make her a small mini cake to enjoy anyway. I scurried about my kitchen, getting all the ingredients ready.
About 3 weeks before I’d been out shopping for stuff I could not successfully grow and I stumbled on a bunch of coconuts spilling abundantly out of the plastic crate. I have a thing for whole coconuts, no idea why, but I have to have one. Immediately I regret buying them when I get home, because they don’t make it easy for you to get to that beautiful nutty flesh. Brian rolled his eyes heavenward and asked me had I not learnt from ALL my previous experiences. Not defeated, I ignored him as I made my way to the garden tools in search of the panga. Returning to my hairy coconut, panga in hand, mysteriously Brian was quiet. I’m not the regular panga-wielding type, so I tentatively struck the coconut, making sure to avoid my hand that was holding it. That was pathetic, so I went at it a bit more enthusiastically until I had removed most of the coir. Ahhhh ha! I exclaimed, if nothing else we have kindling for our next fire. By this time Brian had lost interest and left the house to go to work, leaving me to my attempt at opening another coconut. I knew there where 3 little eyes that I had to find. Once I had managed to get into those I would be able to drink the coconut water inside. I used a metal skewer and placed this on the eyes. I tapped on the back of the skewer with a meat mallet and easily penetrated the shell. I lifted the coconut to my lips and enjoyed the delicious water inside. By now after all my previous failed attempts at opening coconuts I had started paying attention to how those guys on the beach did it. My memory recalled a guy at the Oranjezicht market in Cape Town, whom I’d watched in awe of as he effortlessly made a few panga cracks around the circumference of the nut and voilà it opened. So that’s what I intended to copy. Well, of course that’s not what happened, and of course I was determined to send a photo to Brian in record time of all the nutty flesh out of its hard shell. I had to get cracking!!!!! And that’s what I did. I clutched at the coconut and used the panga as per my memory video playing in my head. No luck. I placed it on the stone wall and lifted the panga higher and retuned with more force, looking nothing like the Oranjezicht market guy. Still no luck. My brain drained of all intelligence as I now replaced my panga for my meat mallet and brute force took over. Still no luck.
Google and YouTube are marvellous for speeding up your learning process, so that’s what I did. In no time at all I had a short and sweet video clip on how to open my coconut. Thanks to The King Of Random here’s how to crack open a coconut. I knew I had to find the eyes of the coconut and between those eyes there is a seam that runs up the back of the nut. Follow that seam and halfway around the centre that’s where you need to start cracking. It works! Mine was a bit more messy, but it was open and I was elated. Now that I had hacked in, I still had a challenge with prying the flesh off the shell. Again a quick search and the suggested technique was to use a cheese knife to slice the flesh off the shell and use the fork prong at the end of the knife to lift it out of the shell. I wasted no time in taking a photo and sending that off to Brian. Opening Coconuts for Dummies done!
Back to my carrot cake, ingredients lined up, all that was left to do now was the big harvest of the organically planted carrots. I raced into the garden, trowel in hand and kitchen scale in the other. I only needed 140g of grated carrots, which is roughly 2 carrots depending on their size. I grabbed the carrot tops and yanked. Oh dear, this one was the size of my pinky. That won’t do. I yanked again, gosh not only were they small, they had a rather unique look about them. I was now wondering if I had to go to the supermarket. Not a chance! These little guys were going into that cake regardless. Just because they weren’t perfect looking didn’t mean they weren’t going to serve the very purpose they were meant for. Undeterred, I pulled them all up and returned to my kitchen. I gave them a good scrub and then grated them. I managed to eke a meagre 98g. I topped them up with grated granny smith apple. Into the cake batter and into the oven they went along with roasted coconut and pecans. 22 minutes later I had 7 little carrot and coconut cylindrical cakes ready. I was too excited to wait for them to cool down. Jaclyn, my sister-in-law had popped in and we shared the first bites in the kitchen over a wonderful chat and some coffee. She knew I was making them for my friend’s birthday. They got her stamp of approval.
It’s definitely recommended to wait a day or two for the delicious spices in the cake to get to know each other and to come into full bloom. I wanted to deliver the little cake to my friend the night before she left on her journey. I also wanted to ice the cake with the right lemon and cream cheese icing. I needed to practice that before I delivered it to my friend. Brian was upstairs on a zoom call. He’ll be my guinea pig, I thought. I managed to whip up a really light and delicious icing. I went upstairs to deliver the cake only to realise that I did not want his zoom mates to see me in my gym kit, no makeup, and smears of icing in my hair. I crouched down on knees and one hand whilst the other held the prized cake and tucked my head under the view of his video camera to ensure invisibility. It might have been a bit weird for them to witness a hand, sans body delivering a cake. I was hoping that I could be quiet about it but I realised Brian had his earphones in and was oblivious to me on the carpet at his feet delivering his mid morning treat. I gently touched his knee and he acknowledge me with delight, or was that the cake that brought that big smile to his face. I reversed out the room the way I had come in with the help of an extra hand now that it was free. As I went down the stairs I overheard him say “ Oh look what I’ve got, the joys of working from home” as I imagined him holding up the cake to his mates to brag. I smiled! I was happy. A few moments later, the zoom called finished and Brian came into the kitchen full of praise for the carrot and coconut cake with lemon cream cheese icing. I was ready to make my delivery. But first I had to finish the bread I had started this morning.
Happy Birthday my dear special Friend, I’m here for you on your journey. I hope to make you another carrot cake as soon as you return. AND we will share it together with a nice big Gin and Tonic. Cheers
Louise’s Coconut Carrot Cake Practice version
- 156 g bread flour (all purpose flour) cake flour is too fine for the weight of these ingredients
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 3/4 ground ginger
- 1/4 nutmeg
- 1/4 ground cloves
Wet Ingredients – make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp coconut extract
- 2 Ex Large eggs free range
- 200 g brown sugar
- 75 g double cream plain yoghurt I love the one from Woolworths
- 120 ml light olive oil I use Bertolli Delicato
- 140 g carrots I used 98g and topped it up with grated apple
- 80 g desiccated coconut I used fresh coconut which was very moist and blitzed the chunks in the blender after I had toasted the chunks in a pan for about 7 minutes
- 80 g pecan nuts pan toasted and blitzed in a blender
Cream Cheese Icing – make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature
- 50 g unsalted butter
- 75 g cream cheese
- 250 g icing sugar
- pinch salt
- 1 tsp lemon juice use more if you prefer more tang
- Put oven on to 180ºC
- Sift all the dry ingredients into a bowl then whisk them all together to ensure they are evenly mixed and fully incorporated
- In a separate bowl add all the wet ingredients except the carrots, coconut and pecans. Beat with the hand mixer until well mixed for about 1-2 min on medium speed
- now fold in the carrots, apple (if using), pecans and coconut
- fold the dry ingredients into the wet ones in 3 batches ensuring they are evenly incorporated.
- pour batter into buttered muffin pan and bake for 18 – 20 minutes. Use a toothpick to check there is no sticky dough on the end. There should be loose crumbs on the end, thats when they are done
- Remove from oven and place pan on wire rack for 10 mins to cool before removing the pan. once cool place the cupcakes on the wire rack to continue to cool
Prepare Cream Cheese Icing
- Place the butter and the cream cheese in a bowl and beat until light and fluffy for about 2- 3 minutes
- Add the icing sugar and stir it in first before turning on the beater. This will stop the icing sugar from flying out the bowl. Obvious, I know but I've done this so, just a cautionary warning for beginners. Mix together until light and fluffy. Add the salt and lemon juice and continue to mix until you get the flavour you like. If you add too much lemon juice just add more icing sugar to get the desired consistency. Keep covered until ready to ice to ensure a crust doesn't form and make your frosting lumpy. I use cling film pressed against the frosting.
- Once the cupcakes have cooled completely ice them. Carrot cake definitely tastes better the day after baking so I recommend you ice them then. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Let them come to room temperature first before you ice them.