Carrot Cake in the Saint John City Market

I wish that I had a penny for every time that I have baked a carrot cake.

In 1987, my best friend, Christie and I promoted our new catering company, Larkspur and Sage, by displaying our food on a bench in the Saint John City Market. The market is in the center of the uptown area which made it a great place to incubate a new business.  Lots of people living and working in close proximity gave us a captive audience.

We would start baking daily at 4 am to be ready to set up for 9 am. I was living with my uncle Joe at the time. He and his wife kindly allowed us to, completely,  take over their kitchen. It would be illegal today to sell food from a home kitchen. It might have been then…

We were working 18 hours a day. If anything could be done the night before, we would take advantage of the opportunity to save a little time in the morning.

In 1987, the market was not heated. We dressed in blue jeans, long johns, wool socks, several sweaters, gloves with exposed fingers and heavy coats. We would often finish our day, at the market, with frozen fingers and aching bones.

But we started every day ready and raring. Each morning, we would load cut glass cake pedestals, vintage bone china platters, Depression glassware, thrift shop silver serving treasures, lace tablecloths, bolts of heavy cotton, kraft paper shopping bags, white card board cake boxes, serving utensils and flowers on to our display bench. Once everything was set up, we brought in the treats.

Our intension had been to use the display to inspire catering bookings. Pete Luckett was selling produce one stall down from us. One morning he came by and asked if he could buy our display of individual creme brulees. There was a dozen custards! We could not resist the fun of selling ‘the goods’ – from that day on, we sold out every day!

Our display featured coconut cream pies, dark fruit cakes, plum puddings, lemon curd tartlets, intricately cut sugar cookies, chocolate buttercreams, war cakes, creme brulees,  fresh fruit tarts, apple galettes, tea biscuits, mile-high lemon meringue pies – yikes – no wonder we were tired.

Keep in mind, this was happening 25 years ago… The term ‘foodie’ had yet to be coined.

It was the holiday season. We were hoping to book cocktail parties so the food that we prepared was in miniature including the desserts. The largest cake that we baked was six inches in diameter.

This carrot cake recipe created one of our most popular sweets.

Desserts tend to be very trendy but carrot cake remains on everyone’s comfort food list.

Carrot Cake

adapted from  The Silver Palate Cook Book

preheat oven 350*F

Grease two 9″ layer cake pans lined with parchment paper.

3 cups all-purpose flour

3 cups white sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 1/2 cups corn oil

4 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup pecans, chopped

1 1/2 cups shredded coconut

1 2/3 cups pureed cooked carrots, drained

3/4 cup crushed pineapple, drained

Sift dry ingredients into a bowl.

Add oil, eggs and vanilla.

Beat well.

Fold in pecans, coconut, carrots and pineapple.

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 35 minutes.

Cool on a rack for at least 3 hours.

Frost and fill with Cream Cheese Icing.

Cream Cheese Icing

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup butter, softened

4 cups icing sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Beat together until light and fluffy.

Add more lemon juice, if icing is too stiff.

Our days were long and hard and wonderful. We loved working together, creating beautiful food.

Where has the time gone…

Thanks for reading.

  • June

    Morning Michelle – Is there a way I can print the daily recipe without printing the whole blog ?

    • Try copying and pasting into a Word doc? I think that might work.

  • Kaitie

    That looks sooo good!! I would love a piece of that for breakfast!

    • there happens to be one piece left!

  • Sounds delicious!! I’ve got to make this!

  • That was HARD work. But I also remember how exciting it was…and being interviewed for CBC Radio and TV. And the twins in their playpen while we cooked, cooked, cooked. Wow.

  • I’ve tasted carrot cake in most of the cities and countries I have travelled to and without a doubt the best carrot cake I have tasted has been baked by Michelle.
    The Uncle Joe

    • it’s the love!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • meggie

    I’ll have to make this for Theodore

  • Great post! Loved the story of the market “back in the day.” Jason J sent me here! I think I will be a new regular reader!! 🙂

    • Hi Penny,
      I hope you will subscribe!
      Thanks so much for reading.

  • Just found your blog…enjoying looking around.

  • shannon brown

    I made this cake over the weekend for a dinner party, it was a home run!! Thanks Michelle!

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  • yummmmmmmmmmmm that icing looks spectacular

  • Phyllis Cochrane

    Hi there. Just stumbled across your blog tonight while looking for chow chow recipes. When I started looking through your recipes, I saw a reference to Grandmother Ekstrom. I thought, not a common name, but I went to high school with a Randy Ekstrom. Then on your carrot cake recipe I saw reference to the Saint John City Market. It was at Saint John Vocational School that I went to high school with Randy, might he be a relative ????

    • What a small world. Randy is my uncle. Thanks so much for reading.

      • Phyllis Cochrane

        …..it prompted me to run downstairs and check one of the yearbooks I have, and there were some words of wisdom from Randy. Hope all is well with him. Love the blog !! Love the recipes !!

        • Where does the time go? I really appreciate your support!

  • Melanie LaPierre

    I loved reading about your entry into the world of catering and selling yor delights. I can relate. I started catering out of my kitchen also while working as a chef at a well known organic market. I’ve worked the line in restaurants where I was the only women. Was a self trained baker & dessert chef at 2 restaurants and a private chef on Nantucket, MA and for a family in a quaint, wealthy town in Massachusetts.
    You never know where that first baked good will take you in the world of food!! It is intense, stressful but at the end of the day you know you have done it!
    I hope you will continue to post about your adventure! !

    • Wow! It sounds like you have had quite a career. Thank you so much for reading my blog and taking the time to drop me a note.

      Happy Holidays!

  • I love your blog. I am a young baker and you have inspired me.

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