Field Notes: Happy Birthday, Taste Tester

I won't bore you with the details, but my Tarot reader* intuited that I should carve out more time for cooking and this blog. How she does it, I don't know, but I couldn't argue with her. It's true; I've been dying to work on more kitchen projects. To me, there are few things in life more satisfying than creating a dish with my hands and feeding them to my loved ones. 

The reading was especially timely, since it was only a few days before my boyfriend's birthday. He had planned a BBQ/pool party at his apartment, and I decided to bring a homemade cake. My boyfriend has been a very enthusiastic taste tester since the beginning, so baking a cake only makes sense. After a very easy investigative work (e.g. I asked him what kind of desserts he likes and I like to think that he didn't suspect a thing), I settled on the carrot cake. Bon Appetit's April 2016 issue featured its Best Carrot Cake recipe, and this was the perfect time to break it out. 

One of my best qualities in the kitchen is also one of my worst downfalls: blind overestimation of my own skills. I hardly test out a recipe before serving it to people. This birthday cake represents a lot of first. It was my first layer cake, my first carrot cake, and my first ever attempt at cake decorating all rolled into one. How hard could it be? I foolishly thought. Cut to 11:45 PM on a Friday night, and I'm desperately trying to make my cake look minimalistic and cool without trying too hard. Whatever that means. 

Okay yes, maybe I need to be more calculating with my cooking experiments--like maybe not use someones' birthday as an excuse--but the cake actually turned out super good! 

 

I learned some very important things from this whole process:

  1. Follow this recipe to a T. Online comments suggested that the recipe leads to a dry and flavorless cake, but that couldn't be further from the truth. If you do exactly as the recipe says, you will be fine.
     
  2. Use a food processor to grate the carrots. Your biceps will thank you. Your food processor should come with a grater attachment. That thing will be your best friend.
     
  3. A rotating cake stand is useful, but only if you're a gunner. Having one would have made frosting 10x easier, but I don't know when I will make another cake, so it didn't make sense to buy one. You can totally DIY a cake stand using a lazy susan. OR, if you want to really MacGyver one, you can prop your cake round on top of a can of tomato sauce and rotate by hand. Careful not to spin your cake off the can, though. Which definitely happened to me, and definitely gave me a mini heart attack. 
     
  4. An offset spatula is your other best friend! Theoretically, you could frost this cake using a butter knife, but an offset spatula will be much kinder to your wrists and give you more control over the frosting. Plus, it would get you one step closer to being a more legit cake decorator. A small one from Sur La Table will set you back $6. 

* I'm close to reaching peak LA now that I have a Tarot reader whom I regularly visit. Not sorry not sorry.