The summer months are pretty slow for our little bakery. Recently, a co-worker suggested making our cakes a little more cost-effective until business picks up in the fall by baking them in larger sheet pans instead of 8” rounds. It makes sense, and besides, who among the trickle of customers coming in is going to want a huge, fussy piece of cake covered in heavy frosting when it’s 100 degrees out? But there’s a challenge here, too: how do you make a sheet of cake sold by the square look as good as it tastes? How do you make it look elegant and just a little bit out of the ordinary?
That’s what I had in mind when making today’s cake. It’s just your basic single-layer carrot cake, frosted with traditional cream cheese icing. I piped additional icing around the edges using a medium-sized French star tip, covered the rest of the surface with chopped walnuts, and finished it all with a sprinkle of cinnamon and powdered sugar.
Most of the time when I decorate carrot cakes, I keep it pretty standard, tinting some icing with bright food coloring in order to pipe little carrots onto each slice. While the result is cute, and instantly lets people know what type of cake they’re looking at, the bright green and orange dye never looks too appealing to me. I decided to try something that, in my opinion, ends up being slightly easier on the eyes: the natural colors, scalloped edges and rough texture of the walnuts remind me of shells and pebbles on the beach. This is exactly the kind of thing I like to make — simple ingredients, with a personal and homemade — not artificial or mass-produced — aesthetic.