I've just started the process of testing recipes to use for the birthday cake of my first child. The midwives recommend that we have some activity to distract us during the early stages of labor, and suggested baking a cake to celebrate the birth.

I started with carrot cake, since my quilting instructor said that's what she made for her son, and I thought it would be appropriate given the likely odds that the birth will be right around Easter. Carrots, rabbits, you know. Odds are actually better that I'll have the baby before Easter, during Lent. Maybe I can look into traditional Lenten cakes.

Whenever I make a recipe for the first time (actually, I doubt this is my first carrot cake from scratch, but it's the first in over 10 years so it might as well be the first) I first look in my binder of cooking-school recipes, and if it's not in there, I turn to my copy of the old faithful Joy of Cooking. It's got everything.

Sure enough, there was a recipe for carrot cake. Now, my review must start with a disclaimer that I didn't bake it exactly to the recipe. The baking soda I used was very old so I'm unsure of it's effectiveness. I used medium size eggs instead of large. I didn't have allspice, so I substituted "pumpkin pie spice" because it at least had some allspice in it. But because of this substitution my version will be a little heavier on the cinnamon and nutmeg flavors, a little light on allspice. I used pecans instead of walnuts, and regular raisins instead of golden raisins. I left out the optional pineapple. In retrospect, I guess I subbed out everything except the most basic staples, flour, sugar, carrots, baking powder, and vegetable oil. And I also used silicone cupcake cups instead of the cake pans in sizes recommended by the cookbook.

So, with those changes to the recipe noted, I think the result is dee-licious. My cupcakes came out moist and flavorful. The texture is more like banana bread than like most layer cake boxed mixes. I love the texture of the crunchy nuts and juicy bites of raisin. This beats the stuffing out of any boxed carrot cake mix I've tried. And since I ran the carrots through the grating blade on my food processor, it was still very easy to bake. I think I only needed four or five carrots to get 1.5 cups grated carrot, but I'm glad that I chose to pull out the food processor instead of grating them by hand. Especially since the food processor parts can go in the dishwasher, dragging the appliance out of the cabinet still probably saved more time than the alternative.

I'm glad I didn't bother making frosting-- these cupcakes have enough sweetness and flavor on their own, frosting would make them too rich for my taste (I wouldn't frost banana bread, either).

I'll definitely keep this recipe as one of my options for the birthday cake, although I'm going to test out other recipes since I think the time it takes to frost a cake is part of the distraction. I made these things from scratch in less than an hour, including 20 minutes baking time. While it's great to know how quickly these can be whipped up as a snack, it might not be the best thing to distract me during early labor, unless I progress really quickly, which from what I've read is unlikely with a first child.