The Carrot Cake

Food historians tell us the origins of the Carrot Cake were likely a carrot-type pudding enjoyed during medieval times. Candis Reade, in her article, “A Rich History of the Carrot Cake,” explains that sweetening agents were hard to come by in Britain and quite expensive during the Middle Ages — and carrots were often used in place of sweeteners. It was actually in the 1960s when the Carrot Cake began becoming a more common cake in the United States, soon becoming the dessert of choice at family reunions and fall celebrations.

Most Carrot Cake recipes have a core group of ingredients in common, which are flour, sugar, spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, Allspice) salt, baking powder, butter or oil, nuts and of course, carrots. Some of us like to branch out to include features that bring the cake up a notch or two! These might be pumpkin, figs or prunes, chocolate chips, oranges, zucchini, crystallized ginger, mashed sweet potatoes or even papaya.

The traditional Carrot Cake frostings (though some like their Carrot Cake plain ) will include cream cheese, powered sugar and vanilla flavoring. I have done the Carrot Cake with the seven minute frosting and it tends to lighten the dessert and still have the amazing combination of creamy frosting and heavy cake.

While working at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion as administrator and executive chef, I served my “all-time favorite” Carrot Cake. The beauty of this regal Carrot Cake version is that it incorporates a simple syrup glaze made with buttermilk between the layers. This adds moisture, depth and richness and enhances the drama of the cake.

The addition of pineapple and walnuts does not hurt!

In addition, my wife and I have a favorite Carrot Cake that includes the spice mace (this spice tastes and smells like a pungent version of nutmeg, and for a very good reason). Mace is the bright red membrane that covers the nutmeg seed. After the membrane is removed and dried, it becomes a yellow-orange color. It’s sold ground and is used to flavor all manner of foods, sweet to savory.

This Carrot Cake with Buttermilk Glaze makes a grand presentation to any table, but is especially good when the fall colors are at their peak. For those of us who cannot indulge in too much of this sugar, cream and totally decadent richness, I’ve included a diabetic version of the Carrot Cake! For a timesaving hint, I bake the cake layers a few days ahead of time, freeze them for additional moistening and bring them out when it’s time to frost the cake. The layers slice and frost easier, the cake is dense and moist and you have less time in the kitchen! Enjoy Carrot Cake with Buttermilk Glaze!

Carrot Cake

2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups salad oil
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon mace
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped nuts
3 cups grated carrots
Cream sugar, eggs, oil, add dry ingredients, nuts, carrots, vanilla. Bake in greased and floured 9 x 13 pan at 350 degrees F for about 55 minutes. Cool.

1 stick margarine or butter
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
1 box powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Dash of salt

Cream margarine and cheese with mixer. Add powdered sugar, vanilla and salt. Spread on cooled cake.

Diabetic Carrot Cake

Refrigerated butter-flavored cooking spray
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/2  cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup shredded carrots
4 ounces unsweetened crushed pineapple with juice
¼ cup dark raisins

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat 9” bundt pan with cooking spray. Dust with flour, shake off excess.
In large bowl, whisk together egg whites, yogurt, oil, applesauce, brown sugar and vanilla. On a piece of wax paper, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Gradually add to egg-applesauce mixture, stirring to incorporate.
Stir in carrots. Drain and reserve (discard or use in another recipe) juice from pineapple. Stir in the drained pineapple and raisins into cake batter.
Spoon the batter into prepared pan, smooth top. Bake 40-45 minutes until a tester comes out clean.
Cool for 10 minutes. Loosen edges of cake from pan and invert on rack to cool.

Buttermilk Carrot Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded carrots (4 medium)
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
3 eggs
1 8 1/4 ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 cup coconut
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup cooking oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup butter or margarine
2 teaspoons light-color corn syrup Cream Cheese Frosting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and lightly flour two 9 x 1 1/2 inch round baking pans; set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, 2 cups sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Stir in shredded carrots, 1 cup of the walnuts, eggs, drained pineapple, coconut, 1/4 cup buttermilk, oil, and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla. Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake in a preheated oven 40 to 45 minutes or until cakes spring back when touched. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup buttermilk, 1/4 cup butter, and corn syrup. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cook and stir 4 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Pour evenly over tops of cakes. Let cakes stand in pans on wire racks for 15 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely on racks.

To assemble, frost one of the cake layers with some of the frosting. Add remaining layer; frost top and sides with remaining frosting.

Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup walnuts. Cover; chill to store. Makes 16 servings

Cream Cheese Frosting:
Beat two 3-ounce packages softened cream cheese, 1/2 cup butter or margarine, and 2 teaspoons vanilla with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.

Gradually add 4 1/2 to 4 3/4 cups sifted powdered sugar; beating to spreading consistency.