October 5, 2012
Growing up, my favorite cake was the carrot kind.
This had something to do with having a late March birthday (which occasionally fell on Easter) and something to do with an affinity toward vegetables and something to do with a love love love of cream cheese.
I hardly ever eat cream cheese anymore. Maybe on a bagel once every few months. Perhaps in the rare cheesecake or in frosting form. But in high school, oh my goodness, it’s a wonder I didn’t weigh a ton because I put cream cheese on EVERYTHING. And by everything I mean all manner of unhealthy snacks including tortilla chips with salsa, inside out oreos, and other cheeses. It’s kind of gross to recount, although it was amazing at the time.
Apparently, I was not the only one to live and die by a blue cardboard package. Once in Germany I had a very amusing conversation with an Italian girl whose mother made the best dessert with blackberries and feel-a-del-fee-a.
In Paris, too, they have Philadelphia, and that is indeed what I used here.
While cream cheese enjoys a favorable international reputation, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting is decidedly Anglo-Saxon. It is supposed to contain baking soda (which is available from the pharmacy–I substituted baking powder), some sort of flavorless oil (once made carrot cake with sunflower seed oil, also in Germany, and it came out tasting a bit too much like that), and powdered sugar. I’ll attribute the lack of powdered sugar to the difficult frosting experience.
I made this cake on the Boulevard de Beaumarchais. It would have been entirely inappropriate to not share it with him.
This post is somewhat of a compliment to my first post on croissants and Thomas Jefferson because not only did Thomas and Pierre-Augustin share the same hairdo (perhaps they went to the same guy?) and both Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (1732–1799), support the American and French Revolutions, and enjoy the attentions of ladies out of wedlock, but also there I was in America (continentally speaking) making French fare and here I am in France making American treats.
Very wise it was too, to invite the self-named man over for dessert and provide an opportunity to practice French.
Since I am at most an advanced beginner, I was more than happy to simply eat while C de B carried on the conversation single-handedly (the other hand held the spoon). Sincerely lost after we exchanged Bonjours, I only managed to pick out a few words here and there: opéra, guerre, argent, poison. I imagine it was quite a story.
Having moved to a different street, Beaumarchais and I no longer cross paths with much frequency. However, in my current apartment, one of the doorbells is marked “Caron” and a former spy can turn up in unexpected places.