For my mother’s birthday party last month, my dad specially ordered a carrot cake from a famous Las Vegas pâtissier. It was gorgeously decorated, but inedible. Two cake layers had been halved to create four, and between each one was a thick layer of cream cheese frosting. The guests couldn’t eat it, much less agree to take any leftovers home. My dad felt so let down after his special effort.
Carrot cake was one of our family’s celebratory favorites, and was always homemade. I enjoyed the creamy tartness of cream cheese in the sweet frosting, and the attractive, moist cake dotted with beta-carotene-rich grated vegetable. After introducing it to my own children, it became one of my son’s requested birthday desserts as well.
However, between football, baseball, basketball soccer and a long commute, my enthusiasm for baking waned. After helping my kids bake treats for their classroom celebrations (which I gladly turned into a math project by doubling or tripling recipes) firing up the oven a second time for the family get-together was out of the question.
This leads me to one of the many things I love about Santa Cruz, the myriad of wonderful bakeries. Established almost three decades ago, The Buttery is renowned for its bread and pastries, and employs a talented cake consultant for designing wedding and special event cakes.
Their carrot cake is decorated with bright orange frosting carrots. Two sizes are available, serving either six to eight ($22) or 10 to 12 ($30). I was delighted to find that there is a cupcake version ($3.25) as well, which is perfect for portion control or small families.The finely textured cake contains sweet strips of coconut, and the swirl of creamy frosting on top bears a layer of chopped walnuts.
The Buttery, 702 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 458-3020. Open daily from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Visit butterybakery.com.