Sunday, February 10, 2008

Carrot Cake

When my college roommate got married some 20-odd years ago, she served a tasty carrot cake at the reception. She also told me that carrot cake should be served at all weddings since it is the "traditional" cake. Actually, I believe fruit cakes were the original wedding cakes, but nonetheless, her wedding/carrot cake was a hit!

The first cakes resembled bread instead of having the consistency of the cakes we consume today. Carrot cake as we know it derived from medieval times. Sweeteners were scarce so carrots were substituted in cakes and desserts. This cake resembles a quick bread more than a cake.

Molly O'Neill, in her New York Cookbook (1992) states that Washington was served carrot cake at a tavern in New York in 1783 as a celebration of British Evacuation Day.

During WWII, the British revival of carrot cake came about due to sugar rationing. The sweet spice dessert did not gain popularity in the U.S. until the 1960s.

Carrot cake can be a plain spice cake with grated carrots or it can be a culinary work of art. Ingredients for one of my favorite variations are:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 2 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 c. vegetable oil (I substitute apple sauce for the oil)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups grated carrots (about 4 medium carrots)
  • 1 8-oz. can crushed pineapple
  • 1 c. coconut
  • 1 c. chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 pan or two 9-inch round cake pans.

Combine dry ingredients and stir to blend. Add eggs, oil, carrots, and vanilla. Beat until blended. Stir in pineapple, coconut, and walnuts. Pour mixture into the pan(s). Bake for 50 to 60 minutes.

If you like the traditional cream cheese frosting most American carrot cakes are topped with, try this recipe. This recipe will frost a 9 x 13 cake. If you prepared two 9-inch round cakes, you'll need to double this recipe.

  • 1 3-oz. package cream cheese
  • 1 T. warm water
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 3 cups powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese, water, and vanilla. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until frosting reaches a smooth consistency.

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