Editor’s Note: Last week, our regular contributor and friend Jennie Franks (of the Telluride Playwrights Festival) wrote a wonderful tribute to Judge Sharon Shuteran, who died earlier this month while hiking in Mexico. Her untimely death left her family and her extended in Telluride and beyond in shock. Sharon was the county judge who judged no one – except those who came before her bench and then always fairly. She was also a ubiquitous presence at festivals and other fun events. She loved intelligent conversation. She loved to dance. And she loved to cook. In fact, Judge Sharon Shuteran was an accomplished chef, who once owned a restaurant on the corner now occupied by Patagonia. Her chocolates always won prizes at the San Miguel Resource Center’s Chocolate Lovers Fling, but according to her dear friend Lisa Barlow, her carrot cake was also a contender. Sharon and Lisa were very close: they traveled and raised their children together. They also raised hell in the kitchen. The following story and recipe is Lisa’s tribute to her dear friend.
A community tribute to Sharon is planned for the Palm Theatre, Saturday, June 2, at 2 p.m.
Recently, if you walked through the streets of Telluride with Judge Sharon Shuteran, you were bound to be stopped more than once by someone she had seen in court. It was likely that she had ruled against them, sending them to counseling, or even to jail, but the tenor of these exchanges always started with a thank you and contained the heartfelt admission that without her help, things might have been a lot worse.
As a judge, Sharon was tough, but she was notably fair, and it was her generosity of spirit, as well as the imaginative solutions she helped to create for the people who came before her that she was celebrated for.
Fortunately, most of us sampled Sharon’s generosity not in the courtroom, but as her friend. As we all know, Sharon volunteered for almost every festival. She traveled far and wide to help those in need. Closer to home, she was there for any of us who needed her companionship or counsel for any reason at all.
Because my regular column is about food, it is an easy jump to remember Sharon as a gifted baker and to recognize her generosity in the kitchen as well. Anyone who ever invited Sharon to a party in Telluride lucked out when she showed up with dessert or a treat to enjoy later. We all have our favorites: her densely rich flourless chocolate cake, her decadent pumpkin roll, her classic linzer torte, the spiced nuts many of us received for Hanukkah or Christmas.
For our family, it is Sharon’s carrot cake we love the most. Sharon had baked it for my daughter’s birthday a few years ago. Caroline, in turn, made it to celebrate her uncle’s birthday. And then it just became our family’s universal celebration cake, making appearances at almost every birthday and holiday. At Christmas we served it instead of fruitcake. At Easter, we decorated the frosting with inexpertly drawn carrots and placed it in the center of the table with a chocolate rabbit.
The cake is kind of a celebration in and of itself by virtue of the number of ingredients that Sharon tossed into it. Carrots predominate, but not by much. Because the recipe was in her head, Sharon threw in enough coconut, raisins, nuts and pineapple until it felt right to her. When Caroline asked for the recipe, it took Sharon a while to figure out how to measure out the ingredients and baking time.
Of course, the cake has come to represent another kind of celebration too, one we never could have expected or wished for. With Sharon’s sudden disappearance from our lives, it has become, for our family, a tribute to an extraordinary friend.
As I write this, a large tin pan filled with a glorious carrot, nut, pineapple and raisin studded batter is baking in the oven, its cinnamon scent perfuming the air. I know it’s just cake, but there is solace in the idea that in a few hours we will be sharing it with Sharon’s beloved son Eliot and some of her closest friends and family. With every bite I will celebrate Sharon and remember how lucky we all are to have had her blaze so brightly in our midst.
Here is the recipe, exactly as Caroline and Sharon worked it out.
Sharon’s Celebration Carrot Cake
1 ¼ cup unbleached white flour
1 ¼ cup wheat flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 ¼ tsp salt
1 TBS cinnamon
(you can throw in orange peel, dash of nutmeg or any spice you like)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup raisins
1 ¼ cup coconut
3 cups shredded/grated carrots (get small)
1 cup nuts (whatever kind you like) – optional
10 oz crushed pineapple
8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
1/3 cup butter at room temperature
2-3 cups powdered sugar (add as needed for the right texture)
¾ tsp vanilla
¼ tsp cinnamon
dash orange peel
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.
Combine the liquid ingredients and then add to dry until well mixed.
Add the raisins, etc. and mix well. Pour into either a 9×13 in pan or a large Bundt pan or two cake pans (you’ll have a little extra batter for a few cupcakes or a mini taster cake). Make sure they are well greased.
Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or till a fork or cake tester comes out clean. It may take a little longer in high altitudes.
Combine all the frosting ingredients and beat with electric mixer. Start with less powdered sugar and add as you go till you get the texture you want.
Let the cake cool and then frost. If you used a Bundt pan, use less powdered sugar and make the frosting more like a glaze.