At our old cafe in Barang, carrot cake was a classic staple as it is in most cafes today. Its origins can be traced all the way back to medieval times when it was eaten as a pudding rather than a cake, with the fructose in the carrots as the only sweetener used. No wonder people used to be slimmer in the old days! Apparently it wasn’t until the early 1900s that carrot cake made its headway into American cafes and diners, evolving and transforming itself into a modern version with walnuts or pecans, different spices, pineapple and topped with a rich layer of cream cheese icing. Today carrot cake is a well-loved favourite everywhere around the world.
I think it fools us into thinking it’s a somehow virtuous dessert with the addition of carrots as its main star, doesn’t it? What’s more, it manages to qualify as a rich cake that is loved as much for its texture and it is for its unusual flavour. For me, it’s always my go-to cake when I need a dessert that’s satisfying and comforting, with much less guilt…something I’ll try to convince myself, hah.
Carrot cake is also popular in loaf, sheet cake and cupcake forms. The most common icing on carrot cake is a frosting of icing sugar and lemon juice. The European version uses a special glaze of brandied fruit, while the Americans apparently started the most popular version, also loved in Australia and other parts of the world—with cream cheese-icing sugar frosting.
May you find just the right balance of richness, texture and sweetness in my quick and easy carrot cake recipe. Don’t overmix the batter, and always remember to soften the cream cheese ahead of time before working the frosting. Enjoy.
Carrot Cake Recipe
1¼ cups (220g) brown sugar
¾ cup (185ml) vegetable oil
1½ cups (225g) plain (all-purpose) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of (baking) soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground all spice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
2½ cups finely grated carrots
½ cup (60g) chopped pecan nuts (or substitute with walnuts or others if preferred)
½ cup (80g) sultanas (optional)
1 cup crushed pineapple pieces (optional)
1 tsp vanilla essence
Cream Cheese frosting:
250g cream cheese, softened
⅓ cup (110g) icing (confectioner’s) sugar, sifted
1½ tablespoons lemon juice (or a sprinkle of Cointreau if desired)
1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F), if using fan-forced, at 160°C. Grease a 22cm-round cake tin lined with non-stick baking paper on the edges, extending a little over to the top.
2. Place the brown sugar and vegetable oil in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 3-4 minutes.
3. Add the eggs gradually one by one and take care to beat well. I add a tsp of cream of tar tar to stabilise the eggs further. This is optional.
4. Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, all the spice powders into the batter in your mixing bowl.
5. Grate the ginger over the sugar mixture.
6. Add the grated carrot, chopped pecans (and sultanas and pineapple if you’re using these optional ingredients) and mix until just combined into the batter.
7. Pour into a and bake for 55–60 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Cool in tin.
Directions for cream cheese frosting:
Process the cream cheese in a food processor until smooth. Add the icing sugar, vanilla essence and lemon juice (I use Cointreau sometimes for an orange flavour) and process until smooth and creamy. Spread frosting on the completely cooled cake. Serves 8.