When I have a really pressing task – especially if it’s also a HUGE, pressing task – I’m unbelievably industrious. Except that I’m not necessarily working on what I’m supposed to be working on.
In fact, I’m rarely working on what I’m supposed to be working on if there is a big and urgent deadline. I’ve been like this for as long as I can remember. When I was a university student and supposed to be studying for exams or writing an essay – you could count on the fact that my apartment would be gleaming and I’d be in the kitchen baking some incredibly complicated cake – preferably with alternate layers of cake and meringue.
Now that I’m well past my university years, I’m still a master of procrastination-productivity. Any kind of deadline and you can find me cooking and cleaning. Or organizing the linen cupboard. Or putting my books into alphabetical order. I may be madly turning down all possible social events but I will be filling the bird feeders. Ironing. Walking the dog. Re-potting pot-bound plants. Creating files of interesting and far-flung places to travel to. Paying the bills. Learning about dangling participles. Reading about bonsai. And baking. Always with the baking.
This morning while I’m supposed to be working on edits to my manuscript, I’ve completed a number of long-ignored jobs around the house. I cleaned out the tracks on my under-the-sink mounted garbage container. I de-scaled my kettle and coffee machine. I wiped down all the stainless appliances. I’ve done a little quick research on Prince Edward County wineries. And now, I’m blogging. Because, of course, I’ve also been baking.
The thing that I’ve come to realize is that procrastination is a hugely necessary part of the process because the whole time I’m diverting, I’m actually letting the thoughts percolate and allowing my brain to organize things for me. Don’t laugh. There’s some pretty compelling evidence that people who are ‘structured procrastinators’ get more done.
Author and Stanford University professor, John Perry, believes that active procrastination is about using the subconscious and leads to higher productivity. For me – I’d have to say this is true. Follow the link here if you’re interested in reading more about the fine art of active procrastination.
And just in case anyone from the publishing company is reading this – I have been working on my manuscript. Daily. It’s just that I have to take a break and do something else. And rest assured, I will meet my deadline. And everything will be fine; better, even, for this bout of productive procrastination. In the meantime, I’ve made Yotam Ottolenghi’s fabulous carrot cake.
Yotam Ottolenghi is everywhere – front and central in bookstores, in the library, in the Guardian, the New York Times, the Vancouver Sun, etc., and of course on zillions of food blogs. I’ve resisted. I know he’s hip and fabulous and all that but until I saw this cake on Pinterest and then in quick succession again on this beautiful blog, Lick and Spoon, I wasn’t that bothered.
Carrot cake is one of my favourite cakes. This one is a bit different. I’m not sure it’s actually my favourite carrot cake but it is really, really good and well worth making. The major difference between this version and the carrot cake I usually make, is that the egg whites are beaten separately which gives this cake an incredible lightness of being. 😉 And the addition of coconut also makes this cake a little different. I’d say this cake is a bit like Yotam himself – a little different – sophisticated. It gets better with age so make it at least a day ahead of needing it. It was a little dry at first but gets better every successive day (today being day #3 and I had it for breakfast with coffee). Unfortunately it’s not likely to last until day #4.
I made the recipe exactly as is – except for the fact that I didn’t have any cloves – so I skipped them. Oh and I added the yolk from the third egg – even though Ottolenghi apparently didn’t. I didn’t want one yolk leftover and wasn’t about to scrap one when I buy beautiful free range brown eggs. One change I would make in future is to use a bit more cinnamon. And if I didn’t have desiccated coconut on hand – I wouldn’t worry about it. Oh and I’d cut back on the sugar slightly. So several changes I might make in the future.
One last thing – the honey cream cheese icing is divine. Make the cake for the icing alone. It’s the best cream cheese icing I’ve ever had – and uses very little sugar. You can find the original recipe here.
Yotam Ottolenghi's Carrot Cake
160g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon (I’d use 2 tsp. in the future)
¼ tsp ground cloves (I skipped this)
1 large free range egg
1 free range egg yolk
200g organic sunflower oil
270g caster sugar (I’d cut back to 250)
50g walnuts, chopped
50g desiccated coconut
135g carrot, grated (this was about four medium-sized carrots – I used organic)
2 free range egg whites
a pinch of salt
The best cream cheese icing
175g cream cheese (at room temperature)
70g soft unsalted butter
35g icing sugar
30g walnuts, chopped and lightly toasted
- Preheat the oven to 170C or about 340F. Grease a 20cm spring-form cake tin or in my case – my old round bundt cake pan from Australia.
- Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices together.
- In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the egg with the egg yolk (or in my case – with the two egg yolks)
- Put the sunflower oil and sugar in a large bowl and beat for about a minute on a medium speed. On a low-speed, slowly add the beaten egg. Mix in the walnuts, coconut and carrot and then the sifted dry ingredients. Don’t over mix.
- In a clean bowl, and using clean beaters, beat the egg whites on high-speed with a pinch of salt until firm peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites to the cake mixture being careful not to over mix. A few white streaks in the mixture will be okay.
- Spoon the cake mixture into the cake tin and bake for approx 1 hour; start checking at about 45-50 minutes. Nobody wants a dried out carrot cake. The top should bounce back quickly when you test it with your thumb. Do the whole skewer thing if you feel it necessary. I didn’t. Cover the cake with foil if the top starts to brown before it is cooked through and turn your oven down. Let the cake cool completely before removing from the cake pan.
- To make the icing, beat the cream cheese until light and smooth. In a separate bowl, beat the butter, icing sugar and honey until light and airy. Fold together the cream cheese and butter mixture. Spread over top of cake and decorate with chopped walnuts.