#187 carrot cake

With a great deal of carrots along the Easter bunny’s path, I took the liberty of preparing this fantastic treat for us this weekend!  I think carrot cake can be included with apple pie as an ultimate all-American classic.  The origins are rather disputed and not many people are familiar with the traditional treat, but one thing’s for sure: once you try it, you’re hooked!  According to food historians, carrot cake might have originated long ago in the Middle Ages, when sugar & other sweeteners were too expensive for most individuals and hard to find for others, so people used carrots as the substitute!  Recipes began to be published in France & England as early as the 19th century and its popularity was revived in Great Britain due to rationing in WWII.  Although it’s a popular American dessert, it’s also interestingly enough one of the most popular cakes in Switzerland, especially for kids’ birthday parties.

Carrots themselves were imported to America by European settlers and with them came a sort of popular carrot pudding, that later evolved into the famous cake we all love.  A carrot’s natural sweetness was a big plus back then; it could be said that since luxury foods were rationed, governments became ‘carrot-pushers’ and recipes were distributed to promote the carrot as a nutrient-dense ingredient.  By mid-century, the carrot cake had hopped on over to America, where it would make dessert history.

Of course, just because it’s carrot cake doesn’t make it valid as a true serving of vegetables.  The thick slather of cream cheese, butter, and sugar became the frosting of choice in the 1960s, a time during which Philadelphia Cream Cheese released many recipe pamphlets – which made carrot cake & cream cheese frosting a classic bonded pair.  Many cakes can turn out to be disappointingly dry and a great other many boast in being the most moist & soft ever…but this recipe is, without a shadow of a doubt, absolutely delicious!  One whole carrot cake was way too much for our small family of four, so I had the chance to share some bite-size pieces with some of my peers at school.  Needless to say, Europeans aren’t as fond of overly sweet treats, but my Syrian classmates definetely enjoyed the sugar buzz!

For the Carrot Cake

  • 1-1/3 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon of allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 2/3 cup of vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups of shredded carrots
  • 1 cup of chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup of golden raisins

This carrot cake, straight from the kitchen of the Joy family is an amazingly moist & flavorful one!  Have all ingredients at room temperature, about 70°F, and preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease & flour your cake pan, or line the bottom with wax or parchment paper.  Whisk together all the dry ingredients – flour to salt on the list above – in a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the vegetable oil & eggs.

With a rubber spatula, stir the eggs mixture into the flour mixture until just combined.  Stir in the carrots, walnuts, & raisins.  Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly.  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.  Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack, or remove from the pan after a moment of cooling.  Frost when cool or sprinkle the cake with confectioners’ sugar.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 8 ounces of cream cheese
  • 5 tablespoons of butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla
  • 1 pound (4 cups) of confectioner’s sugar, sifted

A very important thing to mention is: DO NOT OVERBEAT.  Also, use cold, not softened cream cheese.  Have the butter softened and the sugar sifted…only then will you have a perfectly smooth frosting with enough body to swirl onto a cake or pipe through a pastry bag!

Beat the cream cheese, butter, & vanilla in a medium bowl at low speed just until blended.  Add the powdered sugar one-third at a time and beat just until smooth and the desired consistency.  If the frosting is too stiff, beat for a few seconds longer; do not overbeat!

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