Our life has changed and I guess that the only way to keep showing up here is to keep it simple, just like this carrot cake.
On August, the 28th our baby girl arrived into this world after what seemed an interminable labour.
I was exhausted, amazed. A moment before it was a loud, deep scream of pain, then it burst into overjoyed tears, as a new human being suddenly appeared in that hospital room. That was our baby girl, Livia.
In less than two months we flushed down the toilet all the theories we had meticulously collected during the nine months of pregnancy, reading books and stitching together the advice we received from family and friends. It was so liberating when I began to behave like it felt natural, and not like I was supposed to behave to avoid spoiling her, confusing her, giving her a bad habit… you name it.
At the moment, we’re trying to find our own path, in a haze of gummy smiles, midnight silly songs, late mornings in bed, walks in the autumn colours with our off-road stroller, dogs and babies, diapers, pacifiers and bottles.
In this new life we’re drawing together, cooking is still vital for me.
I value half an hour spent cooking, or baking, just like having a hot shower, washing my hair or closing my eyes the time of a brief nap.
Everyone has been telling me that the mother has to sleep when the baby sleeps. Reasonable, but I turned this advice into bake when the baby is asleep. And it has been equally rejuvenating.
This is when I realised I had to keep things simple.
At the moment, I’m cooking and baking in my upstairs kitchen, not in the studio. Here I have less counter space to crowd with bowls and kitchen appliances, I don’t have a stand mixer and, surprise, I have far less time than I used to have.
Pictures are essential, too. They are taken on the fly on the kitchen table: I can finally show you this yellow marble top that I love so much. It has been part of our family since the end of the Second World War. Sooner or later I will tell you its story.
I had been craving carrot cake since we got back home from the hospital. Well, it took me three weeks to bake it, and just as much to write this post.
I was equally rewarded by the pleasure of slicing a home-made cake for breakfast and the joy of writing a new blog post after weeks, chiselling the words while balancing a sleeping baby on my lap.
So, the carrot cake…
A very simple carrot cake
I took an old recipe from the blog archive and made it simpler. You know why.
If you have time to spare, try the original cake. It has a soft crumb enriched with chopped almonds, candied orange peel, nutmeg and orange zest. If, instead, you feel like you don’t even have time to brush your teeth, try this simpler version, that you can easily make in a bowl, with a whisk. Even though it has a shorter ingredient list and far less steps to make it, it certainly doesn’t lack flavour. With this an unpretentious look, this is the carrot cake you would gladly find on your breakfast table, along with a mug of dark coffee. A much-coveted coffee.
- 4 eggs
- 150 g (2/3 cup, packed) brown sugar
- 250 g (2 1/4 cups) carrots, peeled and finely grated
- 100 ml (1/2 cup) sunflower seed oil
- 150 g (1 1/4 cups) all-purpose flour
- 50 g (5 tablespoons) almond flour
- 15 g (1 tablespoon) baking powder
- ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
- Icing sugar to dust the cake
- Preheat oven to 180°C.
- Beat the eggs with the sugar until frothy, pale and doubled in volume.
- Add the finely grated carrots and the sunflower seed oil and mix thoroughly.
- Now add the flour, almond flour, baking powder, grated nutmeg and salt and fold into the beaten eggs.
- Line with parchment paper, or grease and dust with flour, a 28-cm round cake pan. Scrape the batter into the pan and bake for about 35 minutes until golden.
- Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool down completely on a wire rack. Once cold, dust with icing sugar.
More simple cakes for breakfast
- Marbled ciambellone. A marbled ciambellone – the classic Italian bundt cake – is the perfect start of the day: traditional, homemade, reassuring. You can slice it thinly and spread it with a generous layer of homemade jam or rather, and this is my preferred option, cut it into thick slices and soak it in milk, hot, warm or cold, in a caffellatte or cappuccino, black or green tea.
- Butternut squash cake. I baked the cake several times, fascinated by the moist texture given by the butternut squash pureed with yogurt. Just like a carrot cake, it conceals a good deal of vegetables and stays fresh for a few days, making it the perfect breakfast cake. The butternut squash is warmed by a teaspoon of grated nutmeg, a spice that goes perfectly with a cup of milk or black tea.
- Bread and apple pudding cake. Bread and milk, two basic and soothing ingredients on its own. Then add a touch of vanilla, the moisture of apples, the richness of raisins and dried figs, the deep flavour of prunes. Imagine the comfort of simmering the milk in a saucepan with an open vanilla pod. That smell will permeate your kitchen and welcome you in the morning for breakfast.
- Coffee and vanilla pound cake. Then I marbled the cake with coffee, to frame the dessert right at breakfast time. I simply added two spoonfuls of espresso and a spoonful of unsweetened cocoa powder to a third of the batter. To make it even more tempting, something to really wake you up in the morning, as soon as I took the cake out of the oven I brushed it with a vanilla syrup.
Some of the things I’ve been reading, watching and listening to while breastfeeding at night, or during the day, walking outside in the autumn shades or driving my car for the first time after months.
- The science behind how to make fall soups taste so much better, according to Nik Sharma. According to Sharma, there are six basic elements that constitute the all-important flavour of a dish: emotion, sight (how a dish looks), sound (how it sounds when you eat it), mouthfeel (texture), aroma, and taste. This is a book I’ve already added into my wish list.
- The 300th episode of Radio Cherry Bombe, Nancy Silverton spills the beans. One of my favourite podcasts with one of my food heroes. Chef Nancy Silverton talks, among many things like cooking the perfect pot of beans or designing the best bread knife, about her new cookbook, Chi spacca, inspired by her acclaimed, meat-oriented Los Angeles restaurant.
- In the 1st episode of the second season of Motherfood, Alissa Timoshkina interviews Sheila Dillon, food journalist, activist and broadcaster, host of BBC Radio 4 The Food Programme.
- Somebody feed Phil. In the late afternoon, collapsed into my mustard yellow armchair while I’m breastfeeding Livia, or pumping the milk, I’m watching episode after episode of this Netflix series. The result? I’m getting incredibly hungry, and I miss travelling. I especially loved the Dublin episode.