you can't always get what you want

today, I tried and I failed. I attempted to make a black sesame carrot cake; it didn't work.  it was my first time using my fat daddio's cake pan, and i'm not sure where I went wrong.  possibly because I used sprouted spelt flour instead of all purpose (first time experimenting with sprouted spelt). also possibly because I didn't grease my pan well enough. maybe I overmixed the batter - there were no eggs, but maybe I overmixed my flour and water? I feel frustrated.

when I messed up molly yeh's peanut butter cake a week ago, I knew what went wrong (overmixed eggs).  and even though I spent the next few days obsessing about remaking the cake, it was reassuring to have an answer to my problem (overmixed eggs).  james' favorite new quote: you can't unbeat the eggs.

but today, I don't have an answer.  I don't know where I went wrong.  there are one too many variables I didn't control for.  I feel frustrated.

and that's life for ya, isn't it? we want answers to our questions.  i'm not a person who gets flustered when I try and don't succeed; in fact, I think there's a certain kind of beauty in falling short of our goals (it gives us an opportunity to stand up, shake it off, and try again).  but apparently i'm a person who gets flustered when I try and don't succeed... and don't have an explanation for my lack of success. 

writing this makes me smile because once I put words to my feelings, a bit of perspective slowly emerges through the fog.  this is why I bake.  I feel pretty comfortable and self-assured in the cooking world.  sure, my techniques could use refining and my knife skills are nothing to brag about.  but in the cooking world, I know flavors and I understand balance.  the baking world?  might as well be in a different galaxy.  it's starting over at square one.  it's learning an art that no amount of reading can help me understand.  the only way to learn how to properly knead bread is to knead bread, over and over again.  i'm not going to learn how much egg beating is too much egg beating until I collapse like seventeen more cakes.  I will only succeed after I continue to fail.  and how I respond to those failures is my choice.

I bake to understand all the intricacies of this science, sure.  but I really bake to learn about myself, and thus to learn about life.  

*for the recipe below, I excluded the light brown sugar and added a tablespoon of unsulphured molasses. I used organic sprouted spelt flour instead of AP.  but maybe don't heed my advice, since half my cake is still stuck to my cake pan :)

Bon Appetit's Black Sesame Carrot Cake


  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour

  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • ¾ cup granulated sugar

  • ⅓ cup (packed) light brown sugar

  • ½ cup vegetable oil

  • ⅓ cup applesauce

  • ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk or cow’s milk

  • 2 teaspoons finely grated peeled ginger

  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 3 medium carrots (about 8 oz.), peeled, coarsely grated

  • 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

Recipe Preparation


  • Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a 8x4” loaf pan with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.

  • Whisk granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, applesauce, almond milk, ginger, and vanilla in a large bowl. Gradually whisk in dry ingredients, then fold in carrots (be careful not to overmix). Scrape batter into prepared pan; smooth top and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

  • Bake cake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 75–85 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cake cool completely in pan before turning out.

  • DO AHEAD: Cake can be made 3 days ahead. Store wrapped tightly at room temperature.

Hannah Smith