Tag: Cooking for a crowd

Carrot Cake Baby Shower

Carrot Cake Baby Shower

This blog dedicated to our new little friend-to-be, N.R.W.

Baby and bridal showers can be so complicated, intense and have just too much food. There was a time when such events were not much more than cake, punch and mints and nuts on the table. Now, they’ve turned into rich buffets (with rich presents involved) in homes or even more expensive, rich meals at restaurants. Why not go back to the easy style of shower…a few treats, a couple of games to lighten up the day and lots of chatter and laughter? After all, the person giving the event has first got to organize it, cook a bit and definitely dust something or other (a lick and a promise is my idea of cleaning) before the guests arrive.

Spending the day loving the guest of honor and not worrying about the food or the house would be the goal here.

I hosted a baby shower last week for one of my good friends and made it easy, easy, easy. Here’s the menu:

** Sangria (see Chicken Taco Salad blog from last Monday)
** White wine
** Iced Tea/Water
** Spinach Dip and tortilla chips (brought by the grandma-to-be)
** 3 different cheeses (Humboldt Fog, Manchego, and Gouda) with
** 2 kinds of crackers and some thinly-sliced baguette
** Lindt truffles in small bowls around room


Dessert: Carrot Cake
Of course, there’s a story for the carrot cake.
I once worked for the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, D.C. I held several different jobs (mostly library ones), but finally moved out to Woodlawn Plantation in Mt. Vernon, Virginia. Woodlawn is a beautiful house, built by George Washington for his foster daughter, Nelly Custis Lewis. Originally part of the Mt. Vernon estate, it is just down the road from that lovely house and just north of Ft. Belvoir.
We had a great group of people working there, all of whom I loved dearly; I was quite attached to them. Lots of healing went on there after a few traumatic years of my life. Among the great work force was housekeeper Grace Herson. A nearly-elderly woman then, the mansion was a big place with which to keep up and she cooked for us, too! When there was a fine occasion or some vip was coming, Grace would make her carrot cake. We all adored it.
I left Woodlawn in 1985 after my husband went to Officer’s Training School and we were then transfered to Spokane, Washington. When it was time for me to go, the people I worked with wrote a cookbook for me, putting down on paper in one book all of their favorite recipes that we had eaten together over the years. Grace included a few, but the carrot cake was the one I’ve treasured over the years. Here’s Grace’s version that has become mine over the intervening years… and never fails to make a big hit, especially among carrot cake lovers. I doubled it for the shower and baked it in a 1/2 sheet cake pan.
 Grace’s Carrot Cake
makes 1 9×13 cake; serves 12
2 cups whole wheat
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 1/2 c vegetable oil (I use Canola now)
3 cups grated carrots (blotted dry w/ towel if you use food processor)
1 cup chopped nuts
Icing: 1 8 oz pkg cream cheese, 4 T softened butter, 3 1/2 c powdered sugar, 2 t vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  (If you make cupcakes, use 350 F.)

Cake: mix dry ingredients together and add eggs, oil and mix well. Add carrots and nuts. Turn into greased 9x13x2″ pan and bake 45-55 minutes until a toothpick stuck in middle comes out clean. Cool well in pan and ice. Refrigerate if not eating that day. Cake freezes very well for up to one month.


Icing: Beat cream cheese and butter together very well for 2 minutes. Slowly add powdered sugar (or you’ll have a big mess).
Beat in vanilla and whip icing until very smooth.
Sing a new song, and great thanks to the mother-to-be………someone very special, who’s been a pewmate in a new church for the last several months (what a difference that’s made) and is also the daughter of one of my very closest friends,
Chicken Taco Salad Bar Party for 25

Chicken Taco Salad Bar Party for 25

Why do we shy away from inviting a group-any size, really- of people to eat at our table (or sit on the floor) and warm their hearts with us? What stops us? Larger parties just put people to shaking their heads and sort of pulling their lower lips to one side, gritting teeth, thinking about the need to paint the house, clean the carpet, re-do the bathroom, install new lighting fixtures, buy all new dishes, pots and pans and wine glasses, and, as my husband says, “alphabetize the spices.” In other words, we want to do everything that ever needed to be done (preferably in one week/day? or less) in the last five years. (Above and below photos-favorite family/friends come visit for the chicken salad taco party in honor our our daughter’s college graduation.)
Once, many years ago now, we were having our good friends, Susan and Charles (with kids) over for a Christmas night buffet. Early that afternoon, my lovely guy decided it was time to pull apart the kitchen chairs and re-glue them. Oh, boy. (I did stop him.)

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