Caron et le gâteau aux carottes

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.

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4 Responses to “Caron et le gâteau aux carottes”

  1. halenancy said

    At our Napa farmers’ market I was buying feta from a new creamery. Their stall was across from the strawberry seller. We said we should buy some too, and was overheard. The woman said, may I suggest if you are buying strawberries that you try them with our fromage blanc. Oh yes, I exclaimed, because Michael had really enjoyed that for dessert in Paris. Well, this fromage blanc was fantastic– like the best cream cheese in the world. It was super good with the strawberries. So, I suggest, the next time you make carrot cake, try making the frosting with fromage blanc, and report back how it went. I hate to turn you on to this, as it may turn into an addiction, but then again, you show much more restraint these days then you did as a teen.

    • I’ve avoided fromage blanc since ordering it for dessert probably the first time we were in France. I guess I imagined it would be like cheesecake, but it was instead very very bland and meanwhile there was Madeleine across from me quickly devouring a chocolate something amazing. I’d be willing to try it again–maybe this was a poor specimen or my taste has changed. As I recall, it’s pretty soft. Would probably need to get some confectioner’s sugar to make a successful frosting.

  2. Michal Farrell said

    Great writing Jemma. What a wonderful time in your life. I was whale watching in San Francisco today with Mac, Mo gets seasick, but we met her after and had a fabulous Indian dinner. Got a text from your mom today too. Life is grand!! Much love. Have fun. Xomichal

  3. halenancy said

    The fromage blanc here in Northern California was quite firm. We will experiment when you are here for Christmas.
    Had sushi with Michal and Mo last night. Much fun.
    You may be interested in the following: http://www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/emily-dickinson-poet-kitchen-cooking/?utm_source=foodnewsletter&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_term=main3&utm_content=historykitchen&utm_campaign=historykitchen
    much love,
    mama

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