Birthday Carrot Cake

“One always feels so virtuous eating beets!”  I heard that a few weeks back at dinner with some family friends.  The beet is a rare vegetable savored and appreciated by few.  I’m not amongst that proud crowd and instead have to pat myself on the back for eating them because  often the taste is not positive reinforcement in and of itself.
Beets are only tangentially related to this post. A childhood memory of what “carrot cake” must be like — cooked carrots, no thank you.  I flat out refused.  If you were being allowed – nay treated! – to cake, why on earth would you go for carrots?  Oh, how very wrong I was!  Over the years, I’ve tasted and thoroughly enjoyed.
I found a lovely little history here from bbclifestyle:
According to food historians, carrots were first used as an ingredient for deserts in Europe during the medieval age. It was a time when sweeteners were scarce and sky-high pricey, so folk began to mash the naturally sweet vegetable to create puddings as a tasty substitute to more traditional sugary treats.

The vibrant root vegetable eventually migrated to being used in cakes during the 18th and 19th centuries, and gained a revival on British shores when luxury foods were rationed and larder provisions were limited during World War II. The Ministry of Food actually encouraged the nation to quench their pudding cravings by making carrot cakes for Christmas and special occasions, and distributed recipes throughout the land.

Considering I’ve been devouring Downton Abbey like the rest of my family, I was naturally gleeful thinking that Daisy might be helping Mrs. Patmore prepare this cake or something similar for Lady Mary and her sisters at some point.

As Paul’s birthday rolled around, I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to try the classic carrot cake variety myself.  I used the traditional one from Joy of Baking website and took what shortcuts I could — including pre-shredded carrots!  I skipped the raisins – actually I just plain overlooked them, but good just the same!

I’ve only recently learned that toasting the walnuts is an essential first step so they don’t get rubbery when baked. They are also more fragrant.

toasting the walnuts

The kitchen I was using is in the middle or maybe the beginning of a rather large remodel… but electricity was working.

assembling all the ingredients

I wouldn’t have tried this without a working stove.

baking ...

The pans were different — one was an aluminum pan, made for baking cakes.  The other was a cheesecake pan with a glass bottom.  I opted to bake simultaneously for timing sake, but the downside was the differing temperatures.  Having the parchment paper makes the process much, much easier too.

one layer was a little too baked

Cream cheese frosting between the layers with a healthy coat on top, topped with the walnuts.  Happy Birthday!

yummy birthday cake for Paul


15 thoughts on “Birthday Carrot Cake

  1. Love the historical reference and tie-in to Downton Abbey, now that we are all in withdrawal. I’ve seen a recipe for a parsnip cake. It sounds bizarre, but really, if carrots work why not parsnips (which can be even sweeter). Have you ever tried one of those cake recipes with beets? I wonder if that would convert you. (I haven’t either but am curious).

  2. Apparently the carrot used to be white, but Holland’s national color is orange, and the Dutch manipulated it to the vibrant color we now think of today to honor their queen.

    Big beet fan over here, so much that they snuck their way into the title of my blog: Cheap Beets. I’ve seen brownie and cake recipes that call for beets, but I’ve never tried to bake any of them.

    Carrot cake, however, is one of my favorite baked goods of all time; my wedding cake was even a carrot cake (with raspberry filling and a marzipan fondant.)

    • Your wedding cake sounds delicious! I do love raspberries. I’m acquiring a taste for beets — promise! They are delicious with chevre cheese!

      And thanks for the fun fact on the carrots!

      • Alas, purple carrots cook up orange. Disappointing, I know. Red ones, too.

        Did you know there is a whole museum in the UK devoted to carrots? And that during WWII the UK government had to convince people to eat them (they were plentiful, UK-grown, and sweet in a time of food scarcity) because British folks thought of them as cattle fodder? Check it out:

        P.S. Where’s the recipe for that cake???

  3. I love carrot cake. Or I love cream cheese frosting. I haven’t decided which part of the cake I love more.

    And I can’t talk about Downton being off the air. Its just too painful. I tried watching the special that was on Sunday night but it was basically a stretched out version of what they showed after the Christmas special. At least Mad Men is coming back soon…

  4. I do love carrot cake and yours looks scrumptious! I am a fan of beets in any form – I even made a chocolate cake years ago that included them (added earthy flavor and moisture) so perhaps that’s the place to begin when trying to like them? I still have 2 more episodes of Downton Abbey to see before I’m caught up and can join the withdrawal support group.

  5. Howdy!

    I can totally relate to your childhood fear that Carrot Cake was somehow just carrots smushed and baked into cake… yuuck.

    NOW on the other hand, I think my favorite dessert is a slice of chilled carrot cake with too much cream-cheese frosting…. Now I’m hungry!

    Great post!

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