publication date: Nov. 6, 2020
A slice of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting will not make the turmoil go away, but it can’t hurt
By Chase Sloan
Author of “Cakes for Cancer Cookbook”
Tensions are running high, the soul of the country is at stake, the pandemic is afoot, the Thanksgiving dinner is in doubt, and winter is on its way to Cleveland, where I live.
Isn’t this the perfect time for a nice slice of classic carrot cake with cream cheese frosting?
What follows is a recipe for this fall favorite and a story of how one 15-year-old—yours truly—put his extra time to the benefit of cancer research.
This past summer, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, with all my plans cancelled, I was faced with the question that billions of people worldwide were asking themselves:
What do I do now?
Why not do something bigger than myself?
There are many worthy causes out there, and since both my parents are cancer researchers, cancer came to mind. Unfortunately, at age 15, there are a lot of things you can’t really do too easily, and getting money to donate, or earning money at all are among them. Yet, if there’s anything that the sports I participate in—Jiu Jitsu and bodybuilding—have taught me, it’s that giving up is never the answer.
I thought of my mom’s friend Anne Duli, who died of cancer. Anne, a long-time administrator at Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, became almost like a grandmother to me. I thought of her love for all things sweet, especially anything chocolate-flavored and her passion for using food to bring people together to show she cared.
I happen to be into baking and cooking and have been writing my own recipes, especially for cakes. Anne and I always bonded over cooking and I would often bounce recipe ideas off of her. This is when it hit me, I thought to myself, “I have all these recipes just sitting around, waiting to be used…I should write a cookbook!”
The goal was daunting, but I figured that if my father, a neurosurgeon, can save lives on the daily basis and my mother, a medical researcher, can publish dozens of papers a year, I can surely write one book and use the profits to raise money for cancer research.
If there’s anything Anne taught me, it’s that personal connection to food is what makes it special.
So, I spent the summer developing and editing recipes and personal vignettes that accompany them.
The book, Cakes for Cancer Cookbook, is available on Amazon as a Kindle e-book and also as a paperback. I am donating 75% of the proceeds to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the American Association for Cancer Research. It has received local and national media attention, enabling me to send sizable checks to St. Jude and AACR at the end of each month.
Whether you are baking for a big gathering, the nuclear family, or just yourself on this COVID-marred Thanksgiving, here is a recipe and a story:
Classic Carrot Cake
Carrot cake will always have a special place in my heart. The reason being that the recipe here is basically just an amped-up and even more moist version of a carrot cake recipe from my great grandma, which has been the staple at my family’s Thanksgiving dinners for as long as I remember. For the longest time, it was something that we only made for Thanksgiving, which just made me look forward to it like crazy and crave it more. Now, this cake has become so popular among our family and close friends that it is requested year-round, and I gladly make it without thinking twice. Of course, we still make it every Thanksgiving as well, and I am honored to have my cake at a spot on the dessert table.
2 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ cup light brown sugar
½ cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
2 ¼ tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 ¾ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp molasses
½ tsp ground ginger
1 1/3 cup vegetable oil
½ cup milk
2 ½ cups grated carrots
Put the eggs, oil, molasses and sugars in a large bowl and mix until the color lightens and the mixture is smooth.
Add in the spices and 1 ½ cups of flour and mix until combined.
Pour in the milk and mix until combined.
Fold in the last 1 cup of flour.
Divide the cake batter between 2 greased 9 inch round pans and bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit until a toothpick comes out clean (about 40 minutes).
Cream Cheese Frosting
This one may only be five ingredients, but what a magical combination of five things it is. A frosting good and flavorful enough to eat on its own, this cream-cheese-heavy version of a classic Southern frosting tastes to me like a sweeter, thinner cheesecake batter and that is for sure not a bad thing. It was a no brainer for me to make this recipe more cream cheese-centric than most other recipes you’ll find, but that gives it a prominent tang and impeccable richness that even my dog, Duke, loves. He may not be the toughest food critic, but he clearly loves this stuff, because he once broke a record two-month streak of not stealing food off the counter to lick this frosting off a cake’s sides. Of course, I was too busy laughing to be mad, and I hold no grudges on him. Just a warning though, if you have a dog around, you may want to watch this frosting closely.
24 oz cream cheese
1 cup softened salted butter
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ tsp vanilla paste
5 ½ cups powdered sugar
In a bowl, combine the butter and cream cheese until a cohesive mixture is formed.
Add in the vanilla and mix until incorporated.
Add the powdered sugar cup by cup and mix until smooth, adding milk as needed.