Tag Archives: carrot cake

Botanical Gardens–a Winter Salvation!

The Palm House at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

I moved to New York in 1993, just in time for the biggest (at the time) snowfall on record.  That winter was so relentless that I would have  been willing to shovel off a large patch of snow jsut so I could see something green and walk on it.  Instead, I discovered there was a wonderful place called the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, where they had tow warm conservatories full of green plants.

I jumped on a train for the long trip (2.5 hour) trip, and arrived at the Gardens to see a huge expanse of more snow and bare trees. Then coming around the corner from the sundial, the three conservatories came into view. They were giant domes of glass barely held together by arches made of metal.  The first building was clearly a glass enclosed event hall, but the second conservatory was labeled “Tropical”.  Walking through the glass doors, suddenly I was surrounded by warmth,  and standing in full sunlight, surrounded by tropical plants–some in bloom).  I wandered around incredulously, saying over and over, “ooooh”, “Oh my God”.   I’m sure the guards thought I’d lost my mind.

The next section was a desert, and I was stunned to realize that I recognized many plants from my home state of Kansas. I’d always heard that Kansas was actually a desert, but until that moment I’d never believed it, because as a city dweller, I’d seldom been out on the open plains.  As part of high school freshman class initiation, the seniors took us out to the prairie on a field trip, to whitewash the 20 foot high cement letter “J” (for Junction City), that had been set into a very steep hillside overlooking the city.  Of course, they also warned us to look out for the different varieties of rattle snake known to hide in the low grass.  Of course they were just trying to scare us, but I found out later that they were right, as well…..Walking through the desert conservatory was like going home…it had all the grasses, prickly plants–including a variety of flat cactus that’s almost invisible in the grass until you step on it–and yucca plants…..

I stayed until it started to get dark outside drinking in the heat and light.  I must have been a plant in another life….

Now, whenever I get a “green craving”  I know where to go.  I jump on a train and head to the gardens….Bonus point: they had great carrot cake with coconut chocolate chip icing, and chili dogs…..



carrot cake

Let others eat their chocolate cake, brownies, and candy, but


How bad?  I prefer to eat it slowly, with a shrimp fork, and  an entire pot of tea.

I blame graduate school.  When traveled out of state to attend graduate school, I encountered Entemann’s Carrot Cake at a restaurant, and fell madly in Lust with Carrot Cake.  Before then, I had neither heard of nor eaten Carrot cake, nor cream cheese icing. It was so amazing that I had to stop myself from licking the plate.

After grad school I moved to Philadelphia, where I accidentally rented an apartment a block away from a shop called The Carrot Cake Man, run by a man with his sister, and a cousin.  it wasn’t fancy but, the three of them worked all day in the store from Monday thru Saturday, 11AM-7PM, making NOTHING BUT CARROT CAKE.  Literally.  The place sat 12, and they didn’t provide any drinks or anything else. They made 28 varieties and combinations but only in  carrot cake–with blueberries, strawberries,peanuts, walnuts, you name it.  Sizes ranged from cupcakes, and mini-loaves to enormous sheet cakes.  It was Heavenly.  To get you hooked, they offered free samples of the plain cake, but that was all it took.

Just so you don’t think it was only me, I once took a date there for dessert, since he had paid for dinner.  While I was choosing my cupcakes, my date was given a sample.  When I looked up at him a few minutes later, he had a loaf in each hand and said, “So what are you buying?”.  I took him back to my place to get coffee to eat the cakes, and when I came into the living room carrying the drinks, he had peeled back the plastic on one of his loaves and was half-finished–no plate, no napkin, nothing.  When I made my usual Saturday run to Carrot Cake man the next weekend, the owner said, “You know your friend  you brought here last week?  He was pacing in front of our doors before we opened on Monday morning.”  {Note:  Carrot Cake man closed around 2000, and the last I heard he had developed a twitter following that received daily tweets about where they could find him as he traveled from store to store…..}

Moving to NYC a few years later, I assumed I’d be able to find killer carrot cake in the gastronomic center of the US.  Nope.  There were many pretenders–spice cakes with a carrot made of icing on top, and a few carrots inside–which were sweet but tasted like nothing in particular.  I quickly learned that if the cake had a light color inside, don’t bother buying it; it wouldn’t be worth my time. I will walk into delis and ask them to turn the carrot cake around so I can see the color of the cake, and I’m sure they think I’m crazy when I say, no not dark enough.  I’ve eaten in restaurants and if they present me with a light-colored cake on their dessert tray, I just skip dessert.  I’ve been known to mutter, “That’s not real carrot cake”.   I am searching for good cake in Harlem–there are various shops there that have been recommended, but I have hit a major snag.  I had to change to a gluten-free diet this past year. Now my options for a good cake are even smaller.

Most gluten free dessert options are chocolate, which hides the different taste and consistency of the flours used to replace wheat. I found a gluten-free carrot cake in a health-food store, but it wasn’t great; only better than nothing.  Maybe my best option is to make one, but I don’t want to be alone in my apartment with  a cake that feeds 10!

Has anyone out there found a really good gluten-free carrot cake in a store?  Or maybe a simple recipe; preferably one using molasses?