photo by Michelle Yulo
I looove carrot cake and it’s hard to believe that I never went near the stuff till college. I just had to get over the strange idea of gulay (vegetable) as dessert. That I got over it, is an understatement! No surprise then, when I volunteered to do a feature on Mirielle Gaza’s Carrot Walnut Bars at the Pastry Exchange.
Incredibly, Mirielle started baking this carrot-walnut treat when she was just 13! It’s a cake recipe of her Mom’s but she adapted it so well that an Aunt began asking her to bake and sell the treats every Christmas.
Confession time. I’m not a fan of walnuts, and didn’t know the bars had walnuts in them when I volunteered. However, since I was wrong about carrots-in-cake in the first place, I thought I’d give the combination a chance.
Mirielle’s carrot bars were refreshingly lighter than the other heavy and compact carrot desserts I’d encountered before. The bar was on the ‘cakey’ yet moist side -- and surprise -- the walnuts fit right in! The cake alone (no mention of frosting yet) was delicious! I think the reason I didn’t mind the walnuts this time was that they were chopped just the right size. I hate getting a mouthful of nuts and very little cake. The walnuts gave a wonderful crunch that meddled (in a good way) with the smoothness of the cake. Another thing I watch out for in carrot cake -- I couldn’t actually taste any carrot on its own, which suited me just fine!
photo by Camille Bautista
Now, Mirielle’s frosting deserves a paragraph of its own. I adored the tangy cream cheese icing that topped her bars. It provided the perfect lift to the chunkiness of the carrot-walnut base. A meticulously formed little carrot adorned the center of each bar. I found out these were made of royal icing and were delightfully sweeter than the rest of the frosting. My husband (thanks to the loot-box) appreciated how the frosting was piped into swiveling stripes. The swiveled frosting afforded those strange-folk (like my hubby) who didn’t like too much icing some plain cake space here and there. My daughters thought the frosting design was ‘pretty’, so points for aesthetic appeal as well!
photo by Kit Langit
Mirielle’s love affair with baking actually started simply enough, at the age of nine, with just helping her mom around in the kitchen. Like an apprentice, she’d turn the mixer on and off for her mom, help with measuring ingredients and with mixing the batter. Eventually, she tried to make banana bread on her own. From them on, she was hooked!