A Cake of Memories

Guest post by Faith Bahadurian

My family, all of us born in Princeton, has enjoyed many meals at the Nassau Inn over the years, including a couple of memorable late 1980s Christmas Eve dinners at the old Palmer’s restaurant that used to be upstairs.  One time, after dinner, my father’s London Fog coat, one of those really common tan ones with a warm lining, had gone missing from the coat rack near the entrance.  Someone – possibly a little too full of holiday “cheer”? – had apparently taken his by accident, because the similar coat that was still there was much too small for Dad.   We had a good laugh wondering how it was that whoever took it didn’t realize his coat was suddenly too big!   And that person didn’t return it, so the Inn shortly replaced my father’s coat.

Between Palmers and the more casual Green House restaurant that looked out on the Square (a must for out of town guests), I don’t remember having carrot cake at the Inn.  But that was the attribution on the well-worn recipe card I found in my father’s files after he died earlier this spring.  I suspect he came by the recipe during the years I lived in Colorado (I moved back to Princeton in 1985), and I just never heard the story. He loved that cake and made it often.

Original recipe card owned by Faith's father

It was a surprise to me that no one at the Inn remembered a signature carrot cake on the menu, either!  I just knew I wanted to write about this for my bi-weekly In The Kitchen recipe column for the Princeton Packet and of course suggested that the Inn try out the recipe.

Chef Nino proudly displaying his version of the carrot cake with Lori Rabon, Nassau Inn's General Manager

I love the photo they took of Executive Chef Nino LoCascio and General Manager Lori Rabon, with Nino proudly holding his cake (pictured right). Of course, being a pro, Nino did it up right, with two cake layers, cream cheese frosting, and chopped nuts pressed into the sides.  Gorgeous!

My own effort…well, I am not a professional chef, much less baker, so my cake definitely has that “loving hands at home” appearance!

I took the easy route and used a 9 x 13-inch pan.  I bought shredded carrots at the supermarket and used those. But I have a trick – those shreds are often long and rather thick, not like grated carrots.  So I emptied the bag into a bowl, and used my kitchen shears to chop, chop, chop at them until they were shorter lengths.  Perfect!

I didn’t have quite enough walnuts on hand, so mixed them with some pecans. The can of crushed pineapple is important, so I’d made a point of buying that.  I did cut back on the sugar about 1/3 cup from the 2 cups called for.  I used almost the full 1 1/2 cups of vegetable oil – I might cut that down a tad next time, too.

Faith's carrot cake creation

I baked the cake one morning, and couldn’t resist having a piece (or two) right out of the pan mid-afternoon.  Later on I went out to dinner, and when I came home I made the cream cheese frosting. I’d left the butter out to soften, so it was quickly blended with my Neufchatel (lower fat) cream cheese.  I only made a half batch of frosting, since I only had half a box of confectioners’ sugar.  But it’s been so long since I made cream cheese frosting that I completely forgot I should have sifted the sugar, so my “loving hands at home” frosting is dotted with tiny lumps you can plainly see here in the photo.  I carefully frosted the rest of my cake and promptly had a piece for dessert.  What can I say, don’t postpone joy!

Maybe next time, I’ll just go to the Inn for my carrot cake fix.  I wonder if they’ll be calling it “Sam’s Carrot Cake”?

Faith Bahadurian blogs at www.packetinsider.com/ blog/njspice (also www.twitter.com/njspice).

 

 

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