My 13-year-old son, Jack, has always loved my chocolate carrot cake. It’s stuffed with just as many carrots as a typical carrot loaf, but I add melted, unsweetened chocolate and cocoa powder, so it looks (and tastes) about a trillion times better. For most of his life, however, Jack had no idea that there were carrots in the batter.
I’m not even sure exactly why I chose to keep this “secret” ingredient from him, as he is by no means anti-carrot, or really even anti-vegetable (the kid eats a bowl of raw baby spinach with fruity olive oil and flaky sea salt on the regular). Honestly, I think it was one of those obtuse, but frequent, decisions made in the initial throes of motherhood—when consulting a parenting “expert” (read: the internet) trumps common sense at every turn. Sneaking veggies into your kid’s diet was all the rage, and, truth be told, in those early days of mom-ing, I was nothing if not a follower.
Now, my cake recipe always included carrots. The question I “researched” was only whether Jack should be told about them or live out his blissful first decade unawares. The “experts” unanimously agreed that he should be kept in the dark, and so in the dark I kept him.
Until recently, when he helped me make the cake for the first time and I decided the day of reckoning had finally come. While we were setting out the ingredients—commonly known as mise-en-place—I asked him to grab the carrots from the refrigerator, handed him the peeler and Microplane, and held my breath, not at all sure how he’d respond.
The “experts” unanimously agreed that he should be kept in the dark, and so in the dark I kept him.
And you know, he hardly balked. Was he a little surprised that his coveted sweet treat included carrots? Sure. But he already knew he loved the cake and the concealed “healthy” ingredient hardly phased him. Note to self: Kids are often way more chill than we anticipate. Also, he thinks peeling carrots is fun. Using a Microplane to grate carrots (the finer texture of carrots grated with a Microplane provides this cake with an excellent crumb) also has some bizarre tween-appeal.
The moral of the story is two-fold: Even a cake filled with veggies can garner massive mom-points. And that following your mom-gut—even an inexperienced one—really is the path to those points, despite what the experts might say.
Find out how to make this kid-tested cake here.
Jessie Sheehan is a cookbook author, food writer, recipe developer, and baker. She is the author of The Vintage Baker and the co-author of Icebox Cakes (both published by Chronicle Books). She has developed recipes for many cookbooks, besides her own, and has contributed recipes/and or written for Epicurious, Food52, Fine Cooking, TASTE, and Main Street Magazine, among others.
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