It’s no secret that most of my life and fondest memories revolve around food. There are some memories that are so inextricably linked to food that the mere mention of a certain food takes you back to that moment. This cake is just one of those food memories. I got my latest issue of Bon Appetit magazine the other day and as I was flipping through it I came across a recipe for Carrot cake. I knew that I had to make it in honor of my sister.
I know I have related this story before but it is one of the strongest food memories I have and to this day I can’t even hear about carrot cake without thinking of my sister and being instantly transported back to the day I turned 16. My 16th birthday will forever be linked in my mind to my sister, carrot cake and Three Dog Night.
I was born right after Christmas in January. This could be a blessing or a curse, when I was younger it was a curse. There was always that one special thing that I wanted for Christmas more than anything else and when I didn’t get it I would always hold on to the hope that it would arrive on my birthday a few weeks later. There was however, that few weeks of waiting and hoping that the family was indeed holding out for my birthday and it didn’t really mean that I wasn’t getting the treasured item.
The year I turned 16 (a major milestone in the mind of a teenager), I was really into Three Dog Night. They were my favorite band for a few years running back then but that year they were at their zenith and had just released the song One Man Band (which to this day is my favorite song by the group) and followed it up with the album “Naturally”. All my friends had already gotten this album and I was of course green with envy and jealous of all of them and spent the months leading up to Christmas dropping all sorts of not so subtle hints about how my life would totally come to an end if I didn’t lay my hands on this record.
Christmas came and went with no sign of the coveted record and I was waiting with baited breath for the arrival of my birthday and hopefully laying my hot little hands on that record. I didn’t care that I was turning 16 and would be getting my drivers license, all that mattered was that record.
The big day that year fell on a Sunday which was always pasta day at our house. My mom had already made me my always requested birthday dinner of Creamed Chicken on biscuits earlier in the week and being that it was my big day, I got to pick the pasta for that Sunday which meant we had Perciatelli. (We rotated who got to pick the pasta each week, my sister always picked Rigatoni which we called sewer pipes and I always picked Perciatelli).
My sister and her family arrived for dinner and I could hardly get through my favorite pasta in anticipation of whether the longed for album was going to be among the presents. Dinner was finally over and I could hold out no longer. Being the greedy, totally self absorbed teenager that I was, I put my foot down and insisted that I had to be given my presents before all the cake and singing nonsense. The gifts were piled on the table in front of me and there at the bottom of the pile I spotted it, that familiar 12 x 12 flat square that any self respecting teenager could spot a mile away and I knew that someone had come through. I shoved the other gifts out of the way and grabbed for it. Looking at the tag I saw that it was from my beloved sister, I knew it, she had never failed me before (and never has since) and here she was coming to my rescue yet again. I tore open the package and there before me was the golden ticket, Three Dog Night – Naturally. I was finally the proud owner of this wonderful record. Immediately I made a mad dash for the living room and on to the stereo it went before I could get on with anything else. I honestly don’t remember a single other gift I got that year because this was the only one that really mattered. I told you, greedy and self absorbed.
Now that all was right with the world again I could relax and a get down to the serious business of cake. My beloved sister made my birthday cake that year. It was brought to the table, a huge two layer cake piled with white frosting. My eyes got wide as I anticipated chowing down (I have always been a huge fan of cake). As I cut into it I realized that it was a bit denser than the usual chocolate cake I was used to getting on my birthday. I took the first slice, looked at it and it was some odd looking cake. ” What the hell is this?” I thought. My shock must have been obvious as my sister then related how it was this new cake she had discovered, carrot cake. I looked at her as if she had totally gone off the deep end. Who wants to eat a cake made out of carrots? Certainly not me. Well, she had made my dreams come true by springing for the cherished and much wanted record so I shrugged and forked into the strange cake. As soon as it hit my palate I knew it was a marvel. Rich, dense, moist and loaded with flavor and not the slightest hint that you were actually eating a cake made out of carrots. And that cream cheese frosting. It literally made you swoon. (Of course I never let on to anyone at the table that I adtually really liked this cake, what kind of a greedy, self absorbed teenager would I have been if I did that). My wonderful sister had done it again. How could I have ever doubted her for even those few brief moments. It was heaven on a plate. As if I needed any more reason she had now given me two more reasons for totally loving her to the moon. And that is why the year I turned 16 will forever be linked in my mind to my sister, carrot cake and Three Dog Night. So now as I sit here writing this long winded homage to my favorite sister, I am eating carrot cake in her honor and listening to Three Dog Night – Naturally.