My beautiful friend Daisy Church did me the honor of inviting me to cater her "If Wishes Were Horses" art show at Silverlake's The Living Room last night. Over email, we decided that I would make caprese bites, smoked salmon tartare on bok choy leaves, double chocolate-chip cookies (minus the spices), and carrot cupcakes.
The best part about it? I got to have her and her husband Damon over for dinner to do a carrot cupcake taste test a couple nights before the show.
I couldn't believe that I hadn't made a carrot cake before. I burned up the Google looking for recipes, and in the end, pulled a couple from trusted blogs. When I got home, Matty and I decided that we haven't ever really had any carrot cakes that had anything but carrot in them, so we decided to weed out the recipes that contained pineapple, orange, etc.
Then I decided to get all OCD and break out the only thing from my business degree that I still use on a daily basis - Microsoft Excel. Oh yes. Four years of private education has left me with no other daily application than a spreadsheet program. At least our football team is good.
Anyway, I digress. So I created an Excel sheet to break down the differences between all of the carrot cakes that I thought looked so interesting. Sources went along the top, ingredients went down the side, and the required amounts filled in the grid. I broke everything down per egg to make it extra clear. And you know what? There, um, weren't really any differences at all.
It just goes to show you how powerful great writing and beautiful photography is when it comes to food. I mean, I could have sworn all of these were extremely different and profound in their own right. Here I was thinking I was going to be up all night making 9 different kinds of carrot cakes. I ended up narrowing it down to a 4-star Epicurious recipe that about 300 people had said they'd make again and Amy of Nook & Pantry's recipe that had a very similarly proportioned ingredient list, but used a fascinating emulsion technique for incorporating the oil.
But the...then! What of the frosting? Would orange or coconut or even pineapple be okay to include in the frosting even though we had banned them from the actual cake? How different is marmalade frosting from orange frosting, or should I just use a lemon frosting? And then, just as I was about to be ill at my own obsessiveness, I spied IT. White chocolate cream cheese frosting. Except the recipe I found sounded a little fussy, so I decided to use Nicole's.
The unanimous winner turned out to be the Epicurious recipe. I actually think it would be a really great madeleine as well - the edges crisped up really nicely. The flavor was great, the cakes were moist but not greasy, and I'm glad I have leftovers. The whole recipe made about 75 mini cupcakes.
And here's a taste of Daisy's art, and the spread: