Carrot Cake Redux and Refined

You’ll find the earliest carrot cake recipes in the “Moosewood Cookbook” (1977) and “The Silver Palate Cookbook” (1979). The most recent revision of “The Fannie Farmer Cookbook” (1990) calls it a “Rabbit’s Carrot Cake” and offers a plain recipe in two loaves, without the cream cheese frosting. “The Joy of Cooking” ignores it, and in most European cookbooks, it simply doesn’t exist. Britain is the exception, where it is considered a “healthy cake” — a perception fortified, according to Alan Davidson, “by the use of brown sugar, whole meal flour and the inclusion of chopped nuts, and only slightly compromised by the cream cheese and sugar icing which appears on some versions.”

“The Gourmet Cookbook” argues that even though this dessert is an all-American standard, there’s always room for improvement and to prove this, they offer a version that includes both pineapple and coconut, both promoting the moistness. The grated carrot, an ingredient that has never been big on flavor, puts in an appearance for both color and texture.

The following carrot cake recipe, which serves 12, is said to have won a blue ribbon in a Wisconsin State Fair dessert contest.

Allene White lives in Brooklin.

Carrot Cake

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1½ cups canola oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsps. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsps. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. fine salt
  • 1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 1 7-ounce bag shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 2 tsps. vanilla extract
  • 2 large carrots, trimmed and finely shredded (2 cups)

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-13-inch pan with nonstick spray.

Put sugar, oil and eggs into a large bowl and whisk until well combined. Add the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt and stir with a wooden spoon until just mixed together into a batter.

Add the pineapple with juice, the coconut, walnuts, until combined.

Transfer the batter to a prepared pan, smooth the top with a rubber spatula and bake until deep golden brown. A toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake should come out clean. 50-55 minutes. Cool the cake completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • ¾ lb. cream cheese, softened
  • 8 Tbsps. salted butter, softened
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract

Put the sugar, cream cheese, butter, and vanilla into a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. 4-5 minutes. Spread the icing over the cooled cake to cover, creating swirls if you wish. Refrigerate the cake until completely chilled — about 3 hours. Cut into 12 squares and serve chilled.

There’s another old standard that depends on carrots as a main ingredient. This recipe is a big one — making 30 muffins that are enriched with apples, coconut and pecans. Fortunately, the recipe can be halved. On the other hand, these muffins keep, if stored in an airtight container at room temperature, for up to two days — so you may want to make the whole batch.

Morning Glory Muffins

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2½ cups sugar
  • 4 tsps. baking soda
  • 4 tsps. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsps. salt
  • 12 carrots (4 cups) coarsely grated
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, coarsely grated
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 tsps. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 30 muffin cups, or use paper inserts.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the carrots, raisins, pecans, coconut, and apples. Whisk together eggs, oil and vanilla in another bowl, then add to the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling to the top. Bake until springy to the touch, about 30 minutes. Cool in pans for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm or room temperature.

Adapted from “The Gourmet Cookbook.”

Nicole Ouellette

Nicole Ouellette

When Nicole isn't giving advice she's completely unqualified to give, she runs an Internet marketing company in Bar Harbor, where she lives with her husband Derrick and their short dog Gidget. She loves young adult novels, cooking and talking French to anyone who'll talk back. [email protected]