What’s Up, Doc?!
Photography by Sarah Elliott
Every season offers exciting promise of change but there really is something about spring that makes me feel alive and anew. There is literally a newfound brightness to our lives as the days grow longer. With this shift, we find ourselves exploring the outdoors more. We see the abundance of veggies and greens at the markets and pastel blooms, so dainty and delicate, that make their way through the earth. I always love that Easter acts as the definitive marker of this swoony season.
As a child, the night before Easter my mom and I would ALWAYS make a bunny mold cake. I recall getting so excited about decorating the cake with candies — black licorice for the bunny whiskers and a red sugar-coated dot for the nose. It was our sweet tradition. I was the girliest of girls growing up. Yup, I was indeed the little girl who loved to play the little lady on Easter Sunday. There was the bonnet, the crisp white pair of gloves and a teeny rectangular wicker handbag that made me feel so grown up. I viewed Easter through rose-colored glasses, and besides, white and pink were my colors of choice. After the traditional Easter egg hunt I would stand in the garden at my parents’ home for the obligory family photos, posing with a big smile plastered across my face and loving every last minute of it. I can distinctly recall the newness of the season – cartwheeling and skipping about in the backyard, seeing the vibrant lavender and yellow crocuses push their way up through the dirt and hearing the bluebirds chirp overhead. My memories of this time are colored by a particularly girly, pastel palette.
Well, not much has changed since the days of yesteryear. I still love to play dress-up and I still always make a cake the night before Easter to bring to my cousin’s house. I do swoon for the nostalgia of tradition but for some odd reason, I never make the same desert twice for most major holidays. I suppose baking is still very much a creative outlet for me and part of the fun has always been the research — the hunt in finding the perfect recipe, taking bits and bobs from various recipes as inspiration to develop my own.
This year I was struck by a bunch of rainbow carrots showing off at the market with their Technicolor vibrancy and bushy, bright green tops. They were indeed calling to me. This sparked the idea for a carrot cake trifle, with layers of cake swirling with the subtle spiciness of ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon, all trapped between layers of creamy goodness. I am a stickler for a moist, airy cake — just not a fan of the dense variety. And while this one was mouthwatering on its own, I decided to drive home the ooze factor with a ginger-sherry syrup slathered on top. This is a great tip for any cake, as a matter of fact — a simple syrup, flavored or not, will always help it retain moisture. Finally, some mascarpone cheese whipped into the cream, together with a helping of candy-coated pecans, elevates the overall flavor profile to off-the-chains delish.
What I love most about this dessert is all the elements can be prepared in advance. Then to serve, you simply alternate layers of cream, pecans, and cake in a glass vessel or Mason jar.
Last but not least is the décor. I like to be holistic with my ingredients and crafty with my tablescape, so when a bushel of leftover carrot tops seemed destined for the dumpster, I opted to find a use for these clippings instead. It occurred to me that their greenery could be incorporated as a natural twine of sorts, to tie around the napkins. As for the florals on this springy tabletop, they are very much inspired by the hues of Easter memories from the tender age 10. So from then until now, it all comes full circle. And that’s what’s up, doc!