Ever walk into a coffee shop in an okay-ish mood it changes to brilliantly happy within seconds? Yes, this happened to me the minute I walked into The Brew Room on one quiet afternoon in Chennai.

This place transported me back to world of sheer comfort, the aroma of coffee snuggled in and the cakes, my God, the cakes, they made life so very worth living. (Note: I am not exaggerating, nor am I being paid for this, BUT: carrot cake, lemon cake, coffee cake, old-fashioned chocolate cake, white velvet cake, and a very cool tamarind and date cake…)

You cannot possibly continue a bad day after a step into here. The place satisfied my coffee snobbery, with every kind of coffee and it’s gadgets (cold drip, chemex, aeropress, Turkish…). I had lovely slow drip coffee that kept me awake and alive for the rest of the day. I hear they spent a very long time in research and consultation to get the right kinds of coffees and methods for the best cup of joe. The owner, a lovely young lady Rishika, mingles with the guests and asks for feedback and offers suggestions on what to try. It’s a fancy place, but with all the warmth that a good coffee shop / café should have. 

Now, another revelation – I don’t necessarily have a great or an adventurous sweet tooth. When I crave dessert, it’s usually for the classics, in small quantities, like a good chocolate cake, a light and airy fruity tart and on some occasions, a teacake sans the heavy frostings.

But inspired by The Brew Room’s gorgeous layered carrot cake, I searched my mother’s cupboards for her recipe, which she fed us regularly in our younger days. She used whole-wheat flour, because, well she’s a mother, and never added chocolate chips, for the same reason. She put in a lot of walnuts, which I don’t like, and smothered no frosting whatsoever. But it was still good. It was very, very good. My younger cousin could eat a whole tray of these within minutes.

Because I’ve always been a rebel, I’m adding chocolate chips and replacing the walnuts with pecans. And a thin layer of cream cheese frosting. (FYI, my mother made a few faces, but then ate two slices!).

Photo credits: The gorgeous Krishna Lalbhai 

The Recipe
Serves 6


  • 1 1/2 cup Carrots, grated
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Oil
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup Pecans
  • 1/4 cup Chocolate Chips
  • 150g Cream cheese
  • 100g Icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp + extra for dusting Cinnamon
  • 1/2 pod Vanilla bean


  • Heat the oven to 175°C.
  • Beat the oil, sugar and eggs together.
  • Then stir in the vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, baking soda and baking powder.
  • Then stir in the whole-wheat flour with a wooden spoon to combine. Do not over mix.
  • Then gently fold in the carrots, nuts and chocolate chips.
  • Pour the batter into a greased and floured tin, and smoothen the tops with a spatula.
  • Bake for 30 minutes. When you insert a fork or knife in the centre of the cake, it should come out clean.
  • Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack before removing from the tin and slicing.
  • Whisk the cream cheese with vanilla until fluffy and smooth.
  • Then slowly whisk in the icing sugar and cinnamon powder.
  • Frost the cooled cake and sprinkle some cinnamon on top.

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The recipes are tried and tested, some are adapted from various places, and a few are passed down; but every one of them comes straight from the heart.