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Exploring Carrot Cake

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.

exploring-carrot-cake

According to the World Carrot Museum...

I'll bet that got your attention, didn't it? In addition to natural history and civic collections, there are museums dedicated to cars, wars, sports, arcade machines, chess sets, matchbooks, and Barbie dolls (to name just a few). Practically anything you can think of has probably been revered and enshrined in a gallery. But carrots?!

Yes, it's true, although you can't drive there and peek through the windows. The World Carrot Museum is a virtual home for anything and everything that has to do with carrots. And, why not? As outlined in my recent article "Exploring Carrots: Facts, Folklore, and Fun Recipes," the carrot has existed on this planet for eons. Most food historians believe that they originated in Asia. By the 10thcentury, purple carrots were growing in Iran and northern Arabia; from there they spread to northern Africa and into Spain. By the mid-16th century, Holland was leading the pack in the cultivation of the carrot, and the brightly colored root was deemed attractive enough to gain a prominent place in several Dutch Masters paintings. Ultimately, carrots found their way into stews, soups, and puddings. In 1749, carrots were being exported from England by the Dutch East India Company.

But, What About Carrot Cake?

Carrot cake has a history more recent than the Stone Age. Again, our cherished food historians trace the first carrot cakes back to the steamed carrot pudding of Medieval times. Carrots are naturally sweet in flavor, and they were certainly prevalent, so it makes sense that they would appear in a dessert-like fashion. According to the U.K. World Carrot Museum:

In the Oxford Companion to Food, writer Alan Davidson believes that carrots were used in Europe to make sweet cakes. These were a predecessor to the carrot cake. Because sweeteners were rationed during the Second World War carrot pudding was seen as an alternative in the UK. Later on, carrot cake was seen as a 'health food'.

A Health Food?

Wow, that rationale certainly works for me! Although I have the nickname "Carb Diva," sweet treats are usually not my carb of choice unless, of course, you are speaking of carrot cake. I love this confection so much that it has become my traditional birthday cake. (I won't say how many years, but suffice it to say I was alive during the Eisenhower administration. And, coincidently, my birthday also happens to be National Carrot Cake Day.)

Recipes in This Article:

  • Carb Diva's "World Famous" Carrot Cake
  • Classic Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Candied Carrot Curls
  • Carrot Cake Oatmeal Cookies
  • Carrot Cake Overnight Oats
  • Carrot Cake Roll
  • Carrot Cake Cheesecake
  • Carrot Cake Biscotti
  • Carrot Cake Pancakes
  • Carrot Cake Truffles
exploring-carrot-cake

Carb Diva's "World Famous" Carrot Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups shredded carrots, raw
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 8-oz. can crushed pineapple, drained

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease and flour a 9x13-inch cake pan.
  3. Sift together the first 6 ingredients (flour through nutmeg) and set aside. Place the sugar, oil, applesauce, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Mix together with a spoon.
  4. Add the dry (flour) mixture, and then stir in the carrots, coconut, walnuts, and pineapple.
  5. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 45 minutes. Cool and frost with your favorite cream cheese frosting.

What makes this recipe work?

  • The addition of applesauce serves two purposes—first, it substitutes for some of the cooking oil. And the acid of the apples reacts with the baking soda to provide more lift (leavening) to this dense cake batter.
  • Flaked coconut and pineapple provide some natural sweetness.
  • Chopped walnuts contribute texture and a satisfying crunch.
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Read More From Delishably

Here's a cream cheese frosting recipe.

Classic Cream Cheese Frosting

Samantha's classic cream-cheese frosting (which she posted on her blog FiveHeartHome.com) is rich, smooth, creamy and not too sweet. It will sit perfectly atop your perfect carrot cake.

And then, why not make some candied carrot curls to decorate the top of your cake?

Candied Carrot Curls

Thank you Stef (at CupcakeProject.com) for making carrot curls. Certainly prettier than a blob of orange frosting that's supposed to look like a carrot (I couldn't sculpt anything out of frosting if my life depended on it).

But Wait, There's More

We can't stop with just one carrot cake recipe. This super moist, flavorful treat is so beloved its flavors have been adapted in many different ways. Here are a few more ideas for your eating pleasure.

Carrot Cake Oatmeal Cookies

Amy'sHealthyBaking.com is where I found this recipe for extra soft, moist carrot and oatmeal cookies. Each one is 96 calories; I think you could eat these for breakfast and not feel (too) guilty.

Carrot Cake Overnight Oats

Carrot Cake Overnight Oats

Carrot Cake Overnight Oats

There is a new (to me) trend in meal preparation. Do a Google search for "overnight oats." My results were 13,700,000 hits in 0.40 seconds. (WOW!). Overnight oats are a healthy way to plan ahead for those frantic got-to-get-the-kids-to-school mornings. They're also gluten and dairy free. This carrot cake version of overnight oats is so good even I made it and (1) I don't have kids in school, (2) my mornings aren't frantic, and (3) we don't need gluten- or dairy-free.

Carrot Cake Roll

If you've never made a roll cake, this might be a good choice for your first attempt. This carrot cake roll is moist and forgiving. Dorothy of CrazyForCrust.com provides great step-by-step instructions and lots of photographs.

Carrot Cake Cheesecake

Jaclyn is the owner/operator of the blog CookingClassy.com (with a sprinkle of fancy). She has combined my two favorite desserts (carrot cake and cheesecake) into one amazing treat.

Carrot Cake Biscotti

Colleen (SouffleBombay.com) has put all of the flavors of carrot cake into a full-of-spices biscotti. This is not your traditional biscotti—it's even BETTER!

Carrot Cake Pancakes

Cristin runs a SpicySouthernKitchen.com, and created these flavorful carrot cake pancakes for her family. If these don't convince your kids to get out of bed, nothing will.

Carrot Cake Truffles

Last year at Christmas my older daughter and I took a slightly different approach to our traditional flurry of baking. Instead of cookies we made a variety of truffles. I think we'll do that again, and will add these carrot cake truffles (from MomSpark.net) by Amy Bellgardt to the list.

© 2017 Linda Lum

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