Carson McCullers may be most well known for her literary talent—no one can make deaf-mutes and tomboys come alive on the page like she did—but based on her writing, I suspect that she also had a knack for recognizing a good cake when she saw one:
"The afternoon was like the center of the cake that Berenice had baked last Monday, a cake which failed. The old Frankie had been glad the cake had failed, not out of spite, but because she loved these fallen cakes the best. She enjoyed the damp, gummy richness near the center, and did not understand why grown people thought such cakes a failure."
— The Member of the Wedding, Carson McCullers
McCullers makes a great observation: Two major parties exist in the realm of cake politics—those who might consider a cake to be "a failure" based on its appearance alone, and those who judge a cake primarily based on taste. For the latter group, as long as a cake is delicious, it is considered a success, regardless of its droopy center.
To the amateur home baker, it can be a major relief to bake with this second party in mind. That way, even if your cake "fails" to look distinguished, it can still rest on the laurels of taste—and please your guests.
In fact, one of my favorite carrot cake recipes originated in failure—the failure to add any eggs. By the time I realized my mistake, it was too late, but the resulting cake was so delicious that I now purposely omit the eggs. Granted, without eggs to help bind it together, it's a bit more crumbly than your average cake. However, the crumbly texture helps make it a sinfully delicious topping for yogurt. Taking the time to combine the shredded carrots with the sugar beforehand draws out a syrup from the carrots, ensuring that this cake will turn out incredibly moist. The end product is the closest I've come to achieving that "damp, gummy richness" McCullers' Frankie enjoyed so much. Maybe you'll enjoy it, too.
Eggless Carrot Cake
1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup canned crushed pineapple (drained of juice)
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8x8 square baking pan with cooking spray.
Combine shredded carrots and sugars, let sit for 5-10 minutes (a juice will form). In the meantime, combine the melted butter, oil, and vanilla extract in a bowl. Add to the carrots.
Mix dry ingredients (except raisins) together, and add to the wet ingredients. Stir until almost combined, then mix in the raisins. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick or knife, when inserted, comes out clean.
Let cool before serving. This cake holds together a little better when it's chilled.