You might not know it, but a few years ago I went to work as a nurse in Nepal (which is where Ben and I met, but that is a story for another post).
Every day when I would walk to work in Kathmandu, I was affronted by a variety of smells. Primarily diesel with notes of burning plastic, rotting garbage, and a little excrement thrown in for good measure. Sometimes it would be so bad that I would be excited to see someone smoking in front of me because it meant not being able to smell anything but cigarettes for a few minutes.
I know you have probably never heard anyone exclaim how good a hospital smelled, but every day after 30 minutes of walking while trying to hold my breath, I would arrive at paradise… at least in the olfactory sense.
The really odd thing about the hospital I was working at is that it always smelled like carrot cake. The entire time I was there, I was never able to figure out what caused the smell. In the canteen , I never ate or drank anything remotely tasting of those spices…they didn’t even serve traditional Nepalese tea, which is similar to a chai.
But every day, no fail, when things got rough in the ICU, or I have having a bad day, I could stand in the hallway for a few minutes and inhale the scent of homemade carrot cake. It became somewhat of a reprieve for me.
I’ve always loved carrot cake. The first time I remember tasting it is when I was six years old at my mom and stepdad’s wedding. While everyone else was celebrating the union of their love, I was having a love affair with this cake. They had a giant tiered carrot cake as a wedding cake which was so dense that it collapsed on itself as the night went on. I remember pretending to go to the toilet or talk to someone, but actually sneaking over to eat pieces of it all night.
You can keep your fancy tiered cakes, your creme brûlées and your macarons. I’ll have the carrot cake, please. Dense, moist, spicy and not too sweet (and no raisins!), it’s heaven. And, at least for me, forever tied to the memory of polluted air and the International Friendship Children’s Hospital in Kathmandu.
- 1 cup (240ml) non-dairy milk (I used vanilla soy milk)
- 1 ½ tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 ¾ cups (210 g) whole wheat (wholemeal) flour
- ½ cup (62) all-purpose (plain) flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp cardamom
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 ½ cups (180 g) grated carrot
- ¾ cup (170 g) crushed canned pineapple, drained
- ½ cup (50 g) chopped walnuts (optional)
- ¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (125 ml) vegetable oil
- 2 TBSP molasses (treacle)
- 2 tsp good vanilla extract
- Preheat your oven to 160 C (325 F).
- In a small bowl, whisk together non-dairy milk and apple cider vinegar. Let sit for about 10 minutes so the non-dairy milk curdles like buttermilk .
- Whisk together both flours, baking soda, baking powder, spices, salt and walnuts (if using).
- In another large mixing bowl whisk together the sugar, vegetable oil, vanilla extract and add in the curdled non-dairy milk mixture.
- Add in grated carrots and crushed pineapple and mix well.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl containing the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. The less you mix muffin batter, the better.
- Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
- Pour the batter into the muffin pan making sure the dough is filled up to the top of the pan and domed.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.