Friday, May 13, 2011

The Secret of the Librarian's Carrot Cake


So there we were at a potluck for the Concerned Citizens of Scotland County (an anti CAFO - Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation - group). The food was abundant and delicious, as usual. Kurt came back from the dessert table with a slice of carrot cake and I thought to myself - "meh - carrot cake. It's good, but it's nothing special."

HA! I would soon eat my words AND some of the best cake I've ever had.

He took a bite. His eyes got wide, and he whispered "you've GOT to try this!" I could not imagine what the big deal was until I took a bite myself. Oh. My. Freaking. Goodness. Absolute heaven on a plate.

Everyone at the table tried it. Everyone was gobsmacked (one of my favorite British sayings). We began to shout "WHO BROUGHT THE CARROT CAKE???"

From the other room came a small voice. "I did." It was Janisse, our favorite librarian. When we begged her for the secret, she paused only because she knew we would be horrified by the butter and sugar in it. We could not be dissuaded.

The librarian's secret? A buttermilk glaze poured onto the hot-from-the-oven cake. And just to gild the lily, the traditional cream cheese frosting is slathered on top. Sigh.

Below is the Milkweed Mercantile version. Janisse's cake was a little different recipe - it has coconut and pineapple in it, which I encourage you to play with. I have substituted a recipe from the Farm Vegetarian Cookbook
because it is easy and vegan. It is also very tasty.

Carrot Cake

(Vegan, but you’d never know it!)

Preheat oven to 350
Grease and flour one 9x13” pan or two 9” round pans

In a great big bowl mix together (no electric mixer needed):
4 c. unbleached white flour
1 c. white sugar
1 c. brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp allspice

Stir in:
1 cup salad oil
1 ½ - 2 c water or soymilk

Stir in:
3 c. grated carrots
1 c. chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts)
½ c. raisins
  1. Bake in a 9x13” pan at 350 for 35-40 minutes.
  2. Remove from oven.
  3. Pour Buttermilk Glaze (recipe below) over cake while it is still hot from the oven and still in the cake pan.
  4. Let cool. Remove from pan.
  5. Frost with Cream Cheese frosting (recipe below).

Buttermilk Glaze (vegan option below)
Yield: 1 ½ cups

1 c. sugar
1 ½ tsp baking soda
½ c. buttermilk OR ½ cup milk + 1 Tb lemon juice or vinegar
½ c (1 stick) butter
1 Tb light corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. Bring first five ingredients to a boil over medium high heat.
  2. Boil, stirring often, four minutes
  3. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla.

Vegan “Buttermilk” Glaze
1 c. sugar
1 ½ tsp baking soda
½ cup unsweetened soy/almond/rice milk + 1 Tb lemon juice or vinegar
½ c (1 stick) vegan margarine
1 Tb light corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. Bring first five ingredients to a boil over medium high heat.
  2. Boil, stirring often, four minutes
  3. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla.


Classic Cream Cheese Frosting
(vegan option below)

12 ounces Cream Cheese
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter, softened
3 c. sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
  1. Beat together cream cheese and butter until fluffy, using stand mixer with whisk attachment. SIFT the powdered sugar.
  2. Add in ½ cup increments, beating between every addition. Add vanilla.
  3. Add more sugar if frosting is too wet, milk if it is too stiff.
NOTE: substituting 1/2 cup of coconut oil for 1/2 cup of the butter results in an amazingly coconut-ty flavor.

Vegan Cream “Cheese” Frosting

1 container Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
½ cube soy margarine OR 1/2 cup coconut oil
3 c. sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
  1. Beat together Cream Cheese and margarine/oil until fluffy, using stand mixer with whisk attachment.
  2. SIFT the powdered sugar.
  3. Add in ½ cup increments, beating between every addition.
  4. Add vanilla.
  5. Add more sugar if it is too wet, soy milk if it is too stiff.


Cake recipe inspired by The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook, Buttermilk Glaze courtesy of Janisse the Librarian. Vegan options created in the Milkweed Mercantile kitchen.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

We Heart Interns

We put the call out for interns - we got a ton of applications and accepted six. And then, out of the blue, came three more helpers - Danae, Elea and Katherine.

Danae, who is Kurt's niece, stayed with us for a month last summer. I have never before seen someone fit in so seamlessly and have so much fun doing it. When she said that she'd like to come back this summer "for as long as the weather holds" (she's a Florida girl, and considers any temperature below 70 an insult to human beings) we screamed "YES!" with as much dignity as we could muster. She totally "gets" it, intuits what needs to be done before we've even thought of it, laughs at our (very corny) jokes, is incredibly even tempered and just a joy to be around. How did we get so lucky?

Elea and Danae working their magic

The Cicela family has been visiting Dancing Rabbit for as long as Kurt and I have been here - 1999. When we first met Elea she was three years old and cute as a bug. Imagine our delight to be able to watch her grow into such an amazing (and beautiful and smart and kind and articulate...) young woman. A wiz at permaculture, and more specifically gardening, she's only been here two days and has already transformed the garden. Every time I walk by my jaw drops and I can't help but jump up and down with excitement (we don't have TV here, and for those of you who worry about me, please don't - I'm just very easily amused). Elea is home-schooled and already taking college classes - because of Iowa law she cannot test for her GED until she's 18. So from the myriad of offers on her plate she chose to join us for a month. We may just tie her to her tent poles when she tries to leave in three weeks...

Katherine mowing with our "solar" (aka electric powered by solar power) mower

And last but certainly not least, is Katherine. She appeared three weeks and two days ago with the first Dancing Rabbit Visitor Group of the season. With a dazzling smile, an effervescent can-do attitude and a laugh that's always ready to go, we couldn't help but offer her a Work Exchange (intern) spot the second she showed an inclination to stay at DR after the visitor session ended (which was about two days after she arrived).

So - big contented sigh from the Top Banana. Look for things to actually get done around here - from blog posts to website updates to dusting - yippee!