adventures at the end of the world


the best thing about us is the people we know.

How To // make Papa Jim's carrot cake

I know there's not a good way to lose someone you love.

carrot cake, bloomington, illinois

But the way Jamie lost her dad really sucks the most: within hours of being told he was on the mend.

papa jim's birthday card

It happened five years ago, back when I knew her only as the down-to-earth former gymnast with three kickass kids, who was so nice to me when I was recovering from teenage foolishness.

When we lived together, at the end of last year, I got the full story, as an exchange of comfort for the foolishness of my late 20s.

papa jim's birthday, bloomington illinois

This year, while living with them in their new home in Illinois, I was let in on the final piece that keeps the story alive:

Every year since his death, she has celebrated Papa Jim's birthday by baking his favorite cake and sending a knot of balloons up into the sky, trailing a collection of hand-drawn cards from each of her kids.


I'm so grateful to be a beneficiary of...well, of what she learned from his passing. Sure. But that doesn't make it a good enough reason for it to have happened the way it did. 

More what I mean is that the tragedy made her into the kind of person perfectly suited to be the kind of friend that I needed. The kind of friend who makes you wonder, after the dust settles, how you can truly be friends with anyone who hasn't suffered something like that, and learned what it's like to shake down heaven for a justification, and refused to be crushed by the emptiness they encountered.

Papa Jim's birthday, bloomington, illinois

Was that too gloomy? I didn't mean it that way.

I meant it to be a celebration, in the way that a sad event can be. An occasion to look at each other and say,

"If things have to suck this badly, I guess being comforted by you is as good a reason for it as any."

papa jim's birthday, bloomington, il

On this occasion, as on any other that offers itself, Jamie makes the greatest carrot cake. It's her mom's recipe, tailored for food allergies.

I know it's fashionable to be gluten-intolerant, or to hate on those who claim themselves as such.

This cake would do much, I believe, to reconcile these quibbling factions.

Make cake, not war.

Jamie's GF Carrot Cake

licking 1

  • 2 C. Gluten Free Flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup coconut oil, melted
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • 1 cup honey
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 2 cups freshly grated carrots
  • 1 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple, with the juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 13x9 pan by coating the bottom with oil and dusting it with some GF flour.

In a large mixing bowl, add eggs and coconut oil and beat until light and airy.

Add the honey and molasses and mix well.

Separately, in a medium size bowl, add the GF flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and mix until combined.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat (if using an electric mixer) for a couple of minutes until all the ingredients are incorporated.  Then add the carrots, walnuts, coconut and pineapple and mix well.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and then place in the oven for about 40 minutes.  The cake will look quite brown, but will be moist on the inside.  Place a toothpick in the center to check for doneness.  Note:  This cake is hard to overcook, but EASY to undercook. Don’t be too concerned about the dark brown color, it will still be moist! I often cook mine for 45 minutes and its still fabulous!  Once the cake has cooled, you can frost it with...


Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 pkg. cream cheese
  • ½ - ¾ c. powdered sugar (depending   on how sweet you like it)
  • 1 tsp vanilla

With an electric blender, whip the frosting until it is light and airy.

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