The thermostat in my apartment reads 83 degrees when I walk in the door on Monday evening. My feet ache from walking around the city in the heat all afternoon. I drop my bags, strip off my clothes, and toss them in the washing machine before going upstairs to shower. Outside, all the sidewalk cafes are bustling and packed, as if the population has swelled to twice its regular size overnight.
The air is warm and still. The late evening light filters duskily in through my windows as I sit cross-legged to meditate.
Editor’s note: Look, let me just level with you here, I am really into meditation and if that makes me sound…whatever you think it makes me sound…I am owning that! I will also own up to that fact that sometimes meditate means more like sit with my eyes closed looking zen but really thinking about such perplexing life questions as ‘who does do that graffiti in the middle of NYC subway tunnels’ and ‘why hasn’t anyone invented a non-stick peanut butter jar so you don’t waste the last bits’. But that’s all just between me and you.
Then I wander into the kitchen. I turn on “Don’t Save Me” by HAIM and pour coconut oil into a large skillet. Once it sizzles and pops, I add roughly chopped maitake mushrooms and cook them until they get golden and crispy around the frilly edges.
Just before the mushrooms are ready, I push them to the side and add some cooked quinoa (into which I stir a bit of miso paste) and a piece of salmon. Everything finishes at the same time: crispy mushrooms, toasted quinoa, and cooked salmon.
I sit down alone to eat just as it’s getting dark outside, and even more still and quiet. This is my favorite time of day I think, when the world is calm but still awake. (Perhaps a close contender are those moments in the morning after exercising but before breakfast when everything feels possible.)
After dinner, there are some options. Lately I’ve been making this Daily Harvest smoothie on repeat which tastes precisely like carrot cake. And it’s not one of those “oh this raw date ball tastes like a brownie!” situations, it really does taste like carrot cake. It’s got cashew milk and coconut and nutmeg and cinnamon and walnuts and sweet potato and carrots and dates. And it is good.
But you know, sometimes you actually want cake.
However, a towering carrot cake with cream cheese frosting in its traditional, classic form isn’t the most practical dessert to make if you aren’t feeding a huge crowd, and don’t want to eat it for days.
Plus, classic carrot cake is very firmly dessert-like, and I often prefer something a little less so at night.
The genius of today’s cake is that it lies somewhere in between carrot cake smoothie territory and actual carrot cake. It’s sort of a pound cake, and sort of a quick bread. Imagine banana bread, but more cake-like in flavor, plus with frosting!
It’s exceptionally moist, thanks to the sour cream and number of eggs. I like the spices as written, but you can always dial up some or dial down others depending on your own taste.
Carrot Cake Pound Cake
Makes two 9” x 5” loaves
For the cake
1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (148g) granulated sugar
1 cup (213g) dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups (360g) all-purpose flour
1 cup (227g) sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups (200g) grated carrots
1/2 cup (56g) chopped walnuts
For the glaze
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup (113g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons milk (more as needed)
pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and grease two 9” x 5” loaf pans (or line with parchment and grease).
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until very pale and fluffy (at least 3 minutes).
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each one.
Add the spices, salt, baking powder, and flour and mix until just combined.
Add the sour cream and vanilla and mix until the batter comes together and is smooth but don’t overmix.
Fold in the carrots and walnuts very gently, then divide the batter between the two pans and bake for 45 to 55 minutes. (Note: I find the baking time can really vary here for some reason, so start checking at 45 minutes. A tester inserted into the center should come out clean and the top should feel set.)
Remove from the oven and let cool in the pans for 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to finish cooling. Let the cakes cool fully before topping with the glaze.
To make the glaze, whisk together all the ingredients. Add more confectioners’ sugar or more milk, depending on how thick you want it to be (I like it thick and spreadable)! Spread/pour the glaze on top of the cooled cakes and slice and serve.