Happy Birthday, Mama: Carrot Snack Cake with Secret Icing

June 20, 2016

Hey, everybody. This week is going to be a bit of a challenge.

Okay, I lied. It’s going to suck pretty hard, but we are digging our heels in the quicksand and wrestling out of the muck.

That’s the story I’m telling, anyways.

This Friday, June 24, is Mama’s birthday.

It’s unbelievable and wrenching to know that she won’t be here to celebrate it. I still can’t believe she’s gone.



My only solace is that I know she wouldn’t have wanted to spend it in a wheelchair, or hooked up to an oxygen tank, in need of constant medication/assisted care, which would have been her reality had she survived the trauma she suffered in April. Mama was adamant that quality of life, not quantity, was what mattered. She lived–and died–in accordance with that wish, on her terms. It was the last gift Daddy and I were able to give her. It hurt greatly to give it, but we owed her that.


glamor mama


The girls and I will make the trip to Golden on Friday, and spend the day with Daddy. We will tell stories of her and laugh (and probably cry a little, too) and scatter some of her ashes in her beloved rose garden on the side of the house. She loved those roses and cut huge armfuls throughout the entire summer. They perfumed the whole house and made everything beautiful. I like to think this would make her happy, to be there with them. The rest of her ashes will be scattered into the Pacific when we make our family trip to Hawaii over Thanksgiving, and I think she’d be happy to be there, too.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a birthday without cake, and this year, I’m making this one. I chose it a little selfishly, because it’s my favorite cake, and it’s a cinch to make–perfect for me, the baking-challenged. Mama’s favorite cake was this one, but she loved this carrot cake, too. She made it often, knowing it would put a smile on my face.


mama dana bonnet


The secret frosting isn’t really “secret.” It’s special because of the surprise addition of fresh lemon zest and the use of just the barest amount of honey to sweeten the deal, unlike the gobs of powdered sugar you see in most recipes. The honey adds a lovely floral note and the lemon zest brightens things up and brings out the flavor of cinnamon and cardamon in the cake. I predict that once you try it, this will become your go-to recipe whenever cream cheese frosting is required.

Mama livened up the icing by adding plump bits of dried apricot and some toasted pecans, and if I weren’t making this for the girls to consume, I’d toss them in, too. I think they add nice character to the cake, but the girls would rather get a tetanus shot than consume dried fruit of any kind.

If you’re so inclined, I’d love it if you’d think of Mama on Friday, and give big hugs to the people you love. Maybe make something sweet for them, or have a silent toast, or make a phone call to let someone know they matter to you.

It will be a beautiful day. Of that I am certain.



mama side view


Carrot Snack Cake

makes one 9×9 cake


1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

3/4 cup vegetable oil (or melted coconut oil)

2 eggs, beaten

2 cups grated fresh carrots


Preheat oven to 350.

Mix together flour, sugar, salt, soda, and cinnamon. Whisk in vegetable oil, sour cream and eggs, whisking until well combined. Stir in the grated carrot and mix well.

Pour into a greased and floured 9×9-inch pan and bake for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool and frost with the following:




Secret Frosting*


12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest


1/2 cup finely chopped dried apricots

1/4 cup toasted chopped pecans


Beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in the honey until well blended. Stir in the lemon zest and the apricots and toasted nuts, if using. This frosting is also very good on a traditional spice cake.

*unless you like a lot of icing on your cake, you will have extra

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Annie June 21, 2016 at 4:07 am

I adore a good carrot cake and love the idea of honey in the icing. We will be thinking of all of you on Friday. Glad you can spend it with your Dad. Hugs!


Ayala June 21, 2016 at 4:10 am

Hugs, big big hugs. My dad’s birthday is coming up on the 23rd. I feel you! Thinking of you. Xo


Biz June 21, 2016 at 9:44 am

Yep, Tony’s first birthday without him was a bit surreal. I’d scour recipes for weeks ahead of time wondering what special dinner I could make for him. His last birthday meal a mere three months before he died? Lamb chops with mint jelly. I’d never made lamb chops before, and I think he only ate 3/4 of one chop, but I’ll never forget the look on his face with that first bite.

Sending big hugs your way!


alexandra June 21, 2016 at 4:02 pm

You look so much like her. So much.

I love you, Dana.


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri June 22, 2016 at 10:28 am

Will be thinking of you, Kitch. These firsts are always the hardest. xo


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