As most of you are aware, when it’s your birthday and you’re local, and you’re so inclined, I make you a cake.  Thursday was MM’s birthday (shown here with his awesome dog, Carp). To me, MM personifies old-school Sacramento. He’s classy, smart, quirky, and well, Velveteen rabbit real. Endearing personality traits aside, he’s a stunning source of information. If you need something fixed or are looking for something obscure, or just need five old windows with sashes and everything, you call MM.

Before his mom passed, she’d make him a rum-soaked cake for his birthday. Last year, I found a similar recipe and attempted to re-create it for him. Unknown to me, I’d knocked a few corn kernels onto the finished cake and everyone had to eat it very carefully. Not one of my finest baking moments.

For this year’s celebration his woman, the lovely E,  suggested a carrot cake. With a nod to his mom, I started working on a wintry version of the beloved carrot cake by adding rum, currants, and crystallized ginger. I’m developing the recipe for the bakery and have made a few versions, but it isn’t quite ready to share, so I’ll just give a few pointers:

Joy of Baking’s carrot cake recipe can be found here and it’s a good one to use. I use my southern great-grandmother’s recipe and do not grease or flour the sides. Why? I don’t know. That’s what her recipe says, so that’s what I do. I do line the pan bottoms with parchment and run a sharp knife around the edges as soon as they come out of the oven. I decrease the oven temperature from 350 to 300 and increase the baking time to 70 or 75 minutes, rotating them midway.

Carrot CakeIn 1/2 c. Gosling’s dark rum, I soaked the zest of two oranges, 1/2 c. currants, 1/2 c. of finely chopped crystallized ginger, and 1 TBSP of fresh grated ginger with a cinnamon stick tossed in for good measure. After straining, I added this mixture to the batter.

The key to a good cream cheese frosting, I think, is to whip the room-temperature cream cheese first, then add a few pinches of spice—whatever suits your fancy. I’m inclined to toss in a teaspoon of fresh-grated nutmeg and allspice and then a pinch of cloves and mace. With that whipped well, I pour in a TBSP of cream and begin adding the powdered sugar, 2 TBSP at a time. Dumping it all in at once makes for a frosting that tastes too powder-sugary. It’s topped with toasted crushed almonds, currants, and ground cloves sprinkled here and there.

Hopefully I’ve redeemed myself for last year’s tooth-crunching offering. Happy Birthday, MM. By far, you are a shoulder above the rest.