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.
24 thoughts on “the fine and practical art of procrastination and a carrot cake”
I too love carrot cake and am an accomplished procrastinator, I will often talk myself out of doing things after procrastinating for a long time. I tend to wait until the last minute if there is a deadline busying myself with other things but like you I always get it done.
Sounds like a really good carrot cake. love the addition of coconut, I would definitely leave out the cloves (hate cloves) interesting the eggs 1 whole, 1 yolk and 2 whites. I really love it when you whip the whites it does make for a lovely light cake. Must try this.
Suzanne – we’re like two peas in a pod! I don’t think I’ve ever owned cloves. And I found the eggs in this recipe perplexing too. I mean – why not add the third egg yolk? So I did. I forgot to add that bit. I’ll go back and make that note. I hemmed and hawed about it because I wanted, for once, to make a recipe exactly as it was supposed to be. But I couldn’t bring myself to waste an egg yolk and I didn’t want scrambled eggs so I chucked it in.
It is a really great cake. I might have to go crazy and buy one of Yotam O’s books!
I would do the same. What do you do with one yolk, come on now. I have two of his books and love them, it’s funny I own hundreds of cookbooks and love them all but use them rarely. Hmmmm…. I need to start making some of the recopes from Jerusalem which I intended to do months ago and never got around to doing it.
I’m exactly the same Suzanne (I guess that’s the thing about being peas in a pod!). I love cookbooks. I have two new (to me at least) books I’ve scarcely cracked the cover on – Joanne harris’s My French Kitchen and the Oh She Glows cookbook. Oh wait – three – also bought David Leibovitz’s new book.And now I’m already thinking I’ll get one or two of Yotam’s books. I need a dinner club where we cook from a book… wouldn’t that be an idea!?!
The procrastination that goes on here during a time of big projects is exactly the same. However, since a bout with arthritis I’ve also leaned to prioritize my procrastination so that is the structured part I guess .I find it is the the only way…do several things and the other important thing also gets done…I’ve been writing a morning daily journal page and that helps too…not everything gets done by a long shot but much more is accomplished if I just tried to manage the day without writing about it. ( So this week..income tax sorting and much ado about other things will get done…)
I once made a carrot cake with baby food puree and it was so good and moist! I think it was a Canadian Living Recipe from the 80’s or 90’s….I still remember that cake was a hit with the neighbours! I will try carrot cake and the nifty icing too maybe for the next party around here.
I just now used a sprinkling of whole cloves in my ramped up version of chicken curry. Cloves are also good in homemade tomato soup and farm style chili sauce,
So glad to know I’m not the only procrastinator. Also happy to hear that cloves have some use! Maybe when I get into the bulk barn someday – I’ll buy a small amount and try them out. Think you’ll love this cake. Would go very nicely after your curry! 😉
Hah, another pea in the pod! When procrastinating is often the time I come up with ideas. So it never bothers me too much. And I always write my blog summaries out food shopping. Well, in my head. Most of that inner dialogue doesn’t get included, thankfully. 🙂 As for carrot cake, that’s one of the many to bake things on my list. It’s something I would always have chosen over most cakes (except in Paris!). Even though I’m not keen on cooked carrots. I just love spices. Including cloves, that I all too often use to cope with my wretched wisdom teeth. This recipe is probably one of the better I’ve seen to date. But, I’m not keen on the coconut for its texture. And I’m especially non-keen on cooking anything by anyone that’s everywhere! Okay, that sounds like it should be followed with a snarl! I’ll keep looking…
LOL! You rebel Johnny! I don’t mind if everyone is doing something smart. It’s when 40 million people are doing something daft that I take a stand. Agree about the coconut. But as I love carrot cake of almost any description – I’m happy to try. So interesting about the cloves. Am going to go look that up now….;)
I love this carrot cake!! I think that sometimes when I procrastinate that I do better under pressure, if that makes any sense.
I agree! I really do think that the whole time one procrastinates – the brain is busy working away behind the scenes.
Oh Lindy, this looks so good. I love how you describe the cake as sophisticated as its creator. I totally agree with you and I am SO making this. As for procrastinating…i know a thing or two about that. Sometimes when a task seems so big it’s just hard to get started. But once i do I’m usually okay. It’s not a great feeling. What a wonderful post 🙂
Thanks Amanda. I bet with all you have on in your life you do know a thing or two about procrastination and how heavily it can weigh down. But it is part of every process, I think.
I suspect you’ll enjoy this cake if you make it. It reminds me of sitting on the terrace in Mexico, drinking coffee and eating cake for breakfast . Sunshine in cake format! xo
Delish! This cake saved my life yesterday. Love you muma xoxo
Lindy. I think you know me well enough to agree I am the queen of procrastination. I will stop procrastinating…. tomorrow….
Oh. Great cake recipe too! Cannot wait to try it, and I am sure it is as delicious as anything else I have tried here…
Still procrastinating Jen? xo
emmmmm,…..look so delicious,
Lindy, I can’t imagine making this cake any differently than you described. Especially wasting a beautiful pasture raised chicken egg yolk! And, I couldn’t agree with you more on your thoughts about procrastination. Actually, I never really thought about it like this. Had to chuckle you actually cleaned out the tracks on your under-the-sink mounted garbage container! Major procrastination, but I get it. You are forming your thought process while taking care of these often procrastinated chores. Makes perfect sense. I haven’t found one Yotam Ottolenghi recipes that hasn’t stopped me in my tracks and this cake is another example of his brilliance. Whipped egg whites in a carrot cake, of course! What a fabulous post. Love your writing. xx Seana
Seana – your comment here is the highlight of my day – probably of my week. Thank you. I’m indescribably happy to see you back up and blogging. You are such a source of inspiration for me in my kitchen and a joy to know. Hurray! xo
Lindy, I can’t say I have heard of this Yotam Ottolenghi person so I must be very un-hip. I do know I agree completely about productive procrastination and practice it myself quite regularly. I also know that carrot cake is my very favorite cake and Ginger’s too. I know this one sounds yummy and I will definitely make it for the cake, not the icing. I imagine I will love the icing too though. Good luck with the manuscript.
This looks terrific. I will be adding this carrot cake to my to do list.
The Old Fat Guy
Well hello Old Fat Guy! Absolutely fabulous. Best moniker I’ve seen in a long time.
I love carrot cake! Yours looks so delicious and pretty! Procrastination can be such a tough habit to break.
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