Glorious Morning Cake

Thursday, March 18, 2021

I am not a particularly competitive person, at least not in the traditional sense. I like to do well but don’t see why my success has to come at the cost of another person’s, and vice versa. Once, after my friend’s favorite team lost the Super Bowl, I had the naïve audacity to say, “Well, at least the other team will be happy!” His disgust confirmed my suspicions: I do not understand football.

That being said, I am a bit of a people pleaser, so when someone says, “You should…” something not unlike competitive fervor starts to flutter in my chest. I may not know the difference between a quarterback and a kicker, but I don’t like to leave a challenge unaddressed.

This brings us to the other day when I was telling my dad about all the recipes I was planning to try out in the coming week.

“Why don’t you make up your own recipe?”

Ridiculously taken aback, I set about spluttering — “ridiculous,” “I don’t know what I’m doing, I just read and tweak little things!” “I’m a beginner, how dare you” — like he’d suggested, I perform open-heart surgery on myself without a scalpel instead of bake a cake.

The thing is, I do consider myself a novice in the kitchen, very much so. Sometimes I’ll change up the spices or make substitutions, but for the most part, I follow recipes. I adore and admire chefs and restauranteur, and cookbook authors but generally consider their skills, confidence, and creativity to be so far beyond my own that it would be absurdly hubristic to even play at recipe creation myself.

Still, I found my dad’s simple suggestion kept nagging at the back of my mind. I couldn’t get rid of it.

Challenge accepted.

Still, baking is a science, and ratios are important. So I decided that, yes, I would attempt my own creation, but I would consult trustworthy sources to make sure I didn’t go completely wild with it. I decided I would make a play on one of my favorite empty-your-pantry muffins — the Morning Glory Muffin — but as a cake, drawing inspiration from other versions of Morning Glory bakes. Then, I set aside these recipes and sketched out my own, starting with an ingredient list and then a very simple protocol, which I then modified and marked up as I made my way through my little experiment:

The result?

A cake. It is decidedly a cake.

One of my friends from college turned me onto The Try Guys’ “Without a Recipe” YouTube series, in which four dudes attempt to bake brownies or churn ice cream without a recipe (or much experience). It’s charming and funny and often surprisingly heart-warming, but the judges always have four basic criteria:

  1. Taste.
  2. Creativity.
  3. Presentation.
  4. Is it a cake? (or pie or whatever the challenge was)

Guys.

I made a cake.

Lifting it tenderly from the oven, I was embarrassingly pleased with myself. I became Colette from Disney’s Ratatouille — just hovering over my cake, breathing in that sweet, golden aroma of baked carrot and cinnamon, listening to the gentle crackling of the warm, muffin-like crust as it came into contact with the cool air.

I essentially made a big, square muffin, and I couldn’t have been more pleased.

Then I tasted it.

Perhaps my roommate was blinded by the kindness and I by motherly pride, but y’all: it’s DELICIOUS. My raisin-hating roommate was seduced enough by the perfectly moist texture and warm blend of spices to even have a second piece — without picking out any raisins!

Like a cross between carrot cake and zucchini bread, studded with the aforementioned sweet raisins and just enough warming spice, this cake is beautifully moist and wonderfully tender, with a cake-like crumb and muffin-like top that makes it perfect for breakfast, a snack, or dessert.

Glorious Morning Cake (a mash-up inspired by similar bakes from Yossy Arefi’s Snacking Cakes, Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen, and Kathryne Taylor’s Cookie and Kate, among others)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (100 g, or 1 medium) grated apple, gently squeezed of excess water*
  • 1 cup (100 g, or 1 medium-small) grated zucchini, gently squeezed of excess water*
  • 1/2 cup (50 g, or 1 medium-large) grated carrot, gently squeezed of excess water*
  • 1/4 cup (40 g) raisins
  • 1/2 cup (120 mL) maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup (120 mL) coconut oil, melted and cooled
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 + 1/4 cups (160 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (40 g) unsweetened, shredded coconut
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 + 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

*Note: I grated my apple, zucchini, and carrot on the largest holes of a box grater over a clean tea towel, then lightly wrung out the bundle of fruit or veggie shreds over the sink to remove some excess water; it was at this point I weighed the grated fruit/veggies. No need to peel the apple or zucchini first.

Protocol:

  1. Position a rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 350 F. Butter/grease an 8-inch square baking pan, then line the pan with a strip of parchment paper that hangs over two of the edges.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine your dry ingredients: flour, coconut, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon. Mix with a fork to combine. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine coconut oil and maple syrup and beat with a fork until well-blended and homogenous, about 1 minute.
  4. Add eggs to the oil-syrup mixture and beat until very well-mixed, about another minute.
  5. Add the grated apple, grated zucchini, grated carrots, and raisins to your wet mixture. Switching to a rubber spatula, mix thoroughly until all the mix-ins are evenly dispersed throughout the batter.
  6. Add the dry mixture to the wet, mixing with the rubber spatula just until all the flour disappears. The batter will be thick. Pour batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top.
  7. Bake until the cake is puffed and golden, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 to 45 minutes.
  8. Set the pan on a rack to cool for about 15 minutes, then use the parchment paper to lift the cake out of the pan and set it on the rack to cool completely, having carefully removed the parchment paper.
  9. Store the cake, well-wrapped, at room temperate for a couple of days or even longer in the fridge.

Happy snacking!

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