After making a vegetable stir-fry for dinner the other night, I found I still had lots of carrots and lots of fresh ginger root left over. My solution? Bake them into something, of course!
I did a search for “ginger carrot cake” and was surprised to find a huge number of recipes. I hadn’t known it was such a time-tested and well-loved flavor combination. It took me a long time to settle on one recipe, but I finally chose this one from cooks.com. I picked it for a few reasons: I had all the necessary ingredients; it called for freshly grated ginger, not powdered; it called for lots of interesting spices I don’t use very often; and it featured a cute picture of a bunny.
Instead of preparing the recipe as a cake, as called for, I opted to make muffins. You may have noticed that I keep making cupcakes instead of cakes, and while I’ll admit that I do have a soft spot for mini-cakes, the main reason for this is more embarrassing: I still don’t own a cake pan. My only cake-appropriate pan is the heart-shaped one I used on Valentine’s Day–which will hardly do on any of the other 364 days of the year, I think. Don’t worry, I’m about to place an order for a new cake pan or two! My only concern is…what type do I get? The number of options out there is staggering. If you have any insight into what type/brand of cake pan is best, I’d love to hear it. Otherwise, I’ll just close my eyes, point to one, and order it. (I’m only slightly kidding.)
The recipe I’d chosen looked very simple and quick, and it was–except for one very long detour. Did you know that it takes freakin’ forever to grate one and a half pounds of carrots by hand? It’s also a hell of an arm workout. Still, it was kinda fun. And I ended up with a glorious heap of carrot shreds.
It also didn’t take long for me to discover that grating fresh ginger is much easier said than done. My attempts to grate it over the finest holes on my grater left me with a mushy wet mess. Then I remembered reading that ginger becomes easier to grate if it’s slightly frozen, so I stuck it in the freezer and left it there until I’d prepared everything else.
My batter looked pretty disgusting–brown and gooey and full of carrots. But it tasted good, so I figured I was on-track. I became a little worried halfway through when I found that the recipe was less specific about the order in which to mix the ingredients than the other recipes I’ve used recently; for instance, I wasn’t sure if I should thoroughly mix the wet ingredients separately before adding them to the dry ones, and I ended up kind of improvising.
While mixing everything together, I discovered that I love Jamaican allspice and I really, really love ginger. It’s got such a fresh, lively taste. I’ve decided to start finding ways to work it into other things I cook and bake. Oh, and the trick about freezing it did help a little–but I still had to use a grater with bigger holes before I got anywhere with it.
Into the oven they went, and 25 minutes later, out of the oven they came:
They weren’t the prettiest things ever, and I was a little worried when I first peeked into the oven and saw them rising a lot more in the center than on the sides. But they evened out slightly once they’d cooled, and they smelled lovely. And then I took a bite.
I’m not kidding when I say it was one of the best things I’d ever tasted. It was fragrant with ginger and nutmeg, and perfectly moist. I actually scarfed three of them, I think, before they’d even cooled off. My family swooped down upon them and managed to make six more disappear in the blink of an eye. Even my mother, who tries to avoid all pastries and sweets, ate one without hesitating.
Now I’m not tooting my own horn here–I give full credit to the author of the recipe. Still, it felt amazing to have made something on my own, from scratch, that tasted so damn great.
A few quick notes to anyone who might like to try out this recipe: I used canola oil, and I think it really helped make these muffins especially moist. Also, I’m pretty sure that if I made these again–okay, when I make these again–I’d add almost twice as much fresh ginger. I could definitely taste it when I took that first bite, but the flavor kind of faded after they cooled off.
When I first planned to make these muffins, I decided I would make a thin white glaze, drizzle it over the muffins, and top them all off with handmade crystallized carrots and crystallized ginger. I even studied up on how to make an icing with the right consistency and how to crystallize things, and I was looking forward to trying it all out. But when I tasted the muffins, I realized that they truly wouldn’t benefit from any toppings, as sweet or pretty as they may be. I think that an important part of being a baker or a decorator is knowing when to quit–so I did. I left them plain and more than a little homely.
…But damn, if they didn’t taste amazing!