It’s Good to Be Three

04 . 11 . 11

During times of inordinate stress, pressure, or change, I find that more than any amount of yoga or breathing, the best meditative practice is simply the act of remembering. Remembering is an act of the heart. It gathers the images and energy of the people we associate with the past experience, and we cannot help to feel a pang of gratitude that we were there to share that specific moment in time together. It’s a practice we can do anywhere, anytime. Driving home from work, checking out books from the library, making the bed… you get the idea. We bring these memories into focus and suddenly the many worries and preoccupations of our day fade to the background. The wisdom of friends, family, and strangers who occupy these memories should remind us that the love and admiration we feel for them is reciprocal – they love and believe in us just the same.

Some of the most powerful memories we can access, especially during times of self-doubt or criticism, are the ones of our younger and enthusiastic selves. As children, we were not buried deep in worry, restraint, or stress. Our full time jobs were to explore a world in its limitless intricacies. We were constantly seeking, questioning, creating, laughing, and enjoying.

When I think of myself at three or four years old I see a little girl who was uninhibited, and free. She beamed with light and exuberance, and felt blissfully content to be who she was. The words “you can’t” were not in her vocabulary yet and she was assured that the entire world was at her fingertips.

I remember that girl. She was amazing. I remember her smile, her confidence, and certainty. But then I realize… hey, that girl is me! That same spirit and lightheartedness still lives inside of me. I can still be free like her; and so can you. We should remember the energy and lightness of our childhood and give ourselves permission to cultivate it in our seemingly constrained lives. Conjuring the memory of such a lightness and warmth can even be enough to push you up the hill on a hard day.

Carrot cake is a dessert that brings together the best memories of my both my childhood and of my mother. All twenty-one of my birthdays  (which is actually in December) have been celebrated with an original carrot cake recipe that she has saved from the 80s. When I emailed her asking for the recipe last week I think she was probably expecting me to completely transform it into a fat-free sugar-free relative. But I couldn’t – memories associated with this keepsake are of an auspicious nature, and I needed to (mostly) maintain its integrity if for no ones sake but my own. A few tweaks to the icing and oils, but otherwise pretty darn accurate. For me, carrot cake celebrates life, love, remembrance, and the many more memories to be made in the future. May it bring you a moment of lightness and tenderness in the way it did for me this weekend.

For the cake:

  • 3/4 cups turbinado sugar
  • 2 cups pastry flour (gluten free optional)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 heaping cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 1/2 heaping cups crushed pineapple, strained
  • (optional) 1 cup of raisins

glaze: (adapted from Roost blog)

cream cheese frosting (like mom made it)

  • 2 cups cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350′. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside. In a larger bowl, beat the eggs and add the sugar. Slowly beat in the coconut oil, vanilla, and pineapple. Add the flower mixture and stir gently with a rubber spatula until just incorporated. Finally, stir in the carrots and walnuts. I decided to make these in mini loaf molds, but it would also work in large loaf or round pans. Depending on your preference, grease your pan(s) and fill to 3/4 full with cake batter. Bake for 25-30 minutes.Remove from oven and let cool before drizzling with coconut glaze

For the cream cheese frosting, beat together ingredients in a stand mixer until completely combined. Test for taste. You might prefer it sweeter or with more acid, add sugar and lemon and vanilla accordingly.

  • You are a beautiful writer — I really enjoyed this post and the cute video!

    I too love carrot cake and yours looks fantastic. I especially like the glaze — great idea.

  • Goodness, you were a cute three year old! How neat that you have a digital copy of that sweet video. I think I’m going to make carrot cupcakes for my best friend’s upcoming baby shower. Your recipe looks perfect!

  • Love the nostalgic post. Isn’t it cool how memories are reflected in food?? Great pics as usual!

  • Thank you for this recipe! I saw a carrot cake muffin recently, but was bummed that I didn’t know how to make it gluten-free. You solved that one for me. :)

  • “It’s good to be three.” Very wise words. :)

    I think adults have a lot to learn from our younger selves about being carefree, unselfconscious, big dreamers, full of joy. Great post!

  • First place winner of the 2001 South Placer Heritage Foundation Celebrity Chef
    fund raiser to “save the fruit sheds”! Great memories of icing dripping down the sides as the temps hovered at 90 degrees that fine summer night. Your new tweaks to this 30yr. old recipe is simply divine! Still special, still healthy and still very inspiring!

  • Adorable post! I love when we tie what we are cooking into memories! I just loved your little 3 year old self. Thinking of carrot cake, this sounds yummy for the dessert I promised for my sons’s competition on Saturday. I might make carrot cake muffins… Thanks!

  • Love it!
    Oh to be three again…or at least have the free spirit of a three year-old!

    The recipe looks awesome–thanks so much for sharing :)

  • Beautifully written! Your cake looks absolutely beautiful :)

  • What beautiful cake! Thanks for sharing your memories with us. I love that you posted a video of your birthday…you really were – and are! – a beautiful girl. Happy carrot cake!

  • I really love the ingredients in this carrot cake! Very cute individual cakes!!!

    You really are a phenomenal writer…Your posts make me stop and reflect in ways I normally wouldn’t…Taking a moment to remember can be the most therapeutic thing I could possibly do some days…

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Reading these words left me with a lump in my throat—and that was before I watched the film! What a poignant message, and such sweet videographic moments that really reinforce it. Sometimes our souls just crave these kinds of cake-for-dinner moments, don’t they?

  • Love the post, look forward to reading more.

  • Heidrun Perez

    Beautiful post. Thank you.

  • Julianne

    watching your video just made my day!!! Thank you for sharing! You were adorable and sweet at 3 and I’m sure you still are!!! I’m excited to make this wonderful carrot cake!!!!

  • KC

    hello,

    this is a beautiful recipe. would love to try this!

    just wondering are you referring to fresh/canned/dried pineapple?

    warmest, kc

  • Candice

    Your videos have inspired me :) my sister and I have to watch your video everyday. Somehow it just made us happy. More videos,please! :)

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