When Alex and I attended a coffee class in Saigon in early March of 2019, there was a short break between the “smelling” part and the actual coffee making part. We were served snacks — carrot cupcakes to go with brewed coffee.
When the cupcake was first placed in front of me, I was ready to dismiss it as a token snack. It didn’t look particularly good. In fact, it looked plain. Why didn’t it have cream cheese frosting? Wasn’t that de rigueur?
But it turned out to be one of those times when I had to remind myself not to be deceived by looks. It was the best carrot cake I have ever had in my life. Light and soft, moist, and chockablock with nuts, fruit and spices. I took a photo — as a visual souvenir and nothing more because, in the context of the coffee class, the carrot cupcake was merely an aside.
My long love affair with carrot cake is hardly an aside though. It began at a coffee shop within walking distance from our office building. I was a young lawyer and, in the same office, were two other young lawyers I went to school with. And, just some twenty meters from the office building was a steak house owned by the family of another law school friend.
It was the latter who gave me my first taste of carrot cake. She often visited us at work and, during one of those visits, she suggested coffee break at this newly-opened place called Cafe Gianinna just a few steps from the building. We went, we ordered the carrot cake, and I was more dumbfounded that amazed. How could a vegetable possibly go into a cake that actually tastes good?
Years later, I was still frequenting that coffee shop. With my husband and, later, our daughters. In time, we tried almost all the cakes sold there but nothing could beat the carrot cake experience. After we moved to the suburbs and the coffee shop became too far away to satisfy the craving for carrot cake, we found ourselves trying versions from other bakeshops and cafes. Not one made the grade. Not even the carrot cake of the iconic Calea in Bacolod.
And then I had that carrot cupcake in Saigon. All previous carrot cakes, in every shape and form, paled in comparison. Yellow Chair’s carrot cupcake is the best I’ve had. So far.