Ice cream social
The trail signs have been taken down now and the orange markers have been pulled out of the snow. The checkers, vets, and the last of the 15 dropped dogs at the Finger Lake checkpoint have flown out. Our tranquil lake has returned to its pre-race quietude, except for the ravens, jays, and other birds that have appeared from nowhere to scavenge through the bits of leftover straw.
We won’t see so many people now passing through the Finger Lake checkpoint, travelling along the Iditarod Trail, for the rest of the spring season. For the past few weeks, it’s felt a little like we were living along a hobbit trail, with the most remarkable and unusual caravans, solo travelers, and teams all migrating their way towards Nome. Last year, late at night, a person on a bicycle pulled up to the window at our dishwashing room and asked if we had any water. Our dishwasher passed out a jug of water, just as if he was a server at a drive-through. I don’t think I’d be surprised by anyone I could meet along the trail.
In many ways, my family and those who live with us measure our year by the Iditarod. It is a passage into spring and on to the summer. It’s a time to pull together and work hard. We see people during the Iditarod that we won’t see again until the same time next year, but we embrace each other as old comrades and good friends. Pilots, snowmachiners, vets, and checkers call to each other a cheery “Have a good Iditarod” as if they are passing along an old customary good-luck greeting.
The night before the first musher arrives at Finger Lake, we have a little party for the race officials camped out on the lake, our guests, and our staff. We all meet in our living room and have an “ice cream social.” I used to make all the desserts for the gathering, but now my daughter Mandy does this. This year, she made carrot cake cupcakes, root beer floats, green apple ice cream, strawberry sherbet, apple and honey gelato, dark chocolate hazelnut ice cream, vanilla bean ice cream, mint chocolate chip ice cream sandwiched between chocolate fudge cookies, citrus granita, chocolate silk tart, malted chocolate pot de crème, and Devil’s food cake glazed with a black currant and chocolate ganache. Not too shabby for a remote outpost along the Iditarod.
I like to joke that the race is harder on the cooks along the trail than the mushers. From the pre-race scouts to the trailbreakers, mushers, officials, media, guests, on and on, it has been a marathon at the stove. As the last musher hiked out of our yard, with our own sled dogs howling them along, I sat in a chair and declared my Iditarod race was over.
I’ve never been further up the trail from where I live. I’ve always dreamed about visiting romantic and faraway-sounding checkpoints such as Takotna, Shageluk, and Kaltag. Maybe some day when I retire, Carl will take me on an extended dogsled trip up the trail. For now, I can just imagine all those hard working cooks along the way, getting ready for that first musher to arrive.
With the race over for us, we turn our attention to the early signs of spring. The snow is sparkling on the lake, small animal tracks are everywhere, and birds are returning. Pretty soon, the willow will begin to bud and the air will be filled with their fragrance.
- 3 cups peeled and shredded Alaska carrots
- 4 eggs
- 1½ cups sugar
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1½ cups flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
- 8 ounces (two sticks) of unsalted butter
- 12 ounces of cream cheese
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. This recipe fills 18 standard muffin cups. Depending on the size of your muffin tins, there might be batter left over or empty cups.
- Fill each cup with a paper liner. In a bowl, whisk together the carrots, eggs, sugar, and oil.
- In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon. (Cinnamon is always optional in my house because my husband doesn’t care for it). Stir the flour mixture into carrot mixture until both are well combined.
- Divide the batter amongst the muffin cups, filling each about three-fourths full. If you have any muffin cups unfilled, put a little water in them. This helps protect the tin.
- Bake the cupcakes for about 25 minutes or until the cake is firm in the center. Cool the cupcakes completely before removing them.
- Combine all ingredients, and whip this up until it is light and fluffy.
- Keep the frosting at room temperature before spreading it onto the cooled cupcakes. Mandy makes a small candied piece of carrot to go on top.
Here’s Mandy’s recipe for carrot cake cupcakes. Maybe you can find an excuse for celebration and have an “ice cream social” of your own.