The Power of Carrot Cake

America’s Sweetheart

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By Dara O’Brien
Creative Director, Lake Isle Press

Just when I thought there was not one single thing most Americans could agree on I stumbled onto something.

It started when I told a friend I was trying out this new cake recipe, and she said, “When are you inviting me over?” Then I offered some of that said cake (made with butter and eggs) to a (mostly) vegan friend, and she ate a large piece with gusto. Next I brought half of the cake to a small pandemic-pod dinner party, and the next day my hosts texted me three times with their compliments. In making my first carrot cake I came upon a universal truth: if you bake it, they will come.

It’s not unusual to seek stability and comfort from baked goods in chaotic and stressful times like these. Each of us has our preferences and special favorites, but I’ve yet to find anyone who doesn’t love carrot cake. Not too rich, not too sweet, with a nice little patina of healthfulness.

I’m a little late to the carrot cake bandwagon, but I’ve now happily climbed aboard, thanks to my experience baking and sharing this lovely cake from “Jim Fobel’s Old-Fashioned Baking Book.” The recipe is clear and easy to follow, and it turned out beautifully on the first try. The texture was balanced and moist, and the frosting offered a creamy, not-too-sugary accompaniment. I initially thought of trying to scale it from a 9" by 13" sheet pan to two 8" round layers, but I’m glad I didn’t. That would have made for a fancier presentation, perhaps, but there was something so accessible and hardy about those little squares of abundantly-frosted cake.

The chance to share something so simple and see it bring such pleasure was a reminder of what I’ve lost track of in my solitary pandemic hideaway. We’re missing so many little joys. Let’s hold on to what we can.

I had a few final pieces of cake left in the fridge and brought them to a friend, who took them home. She reported to me that her husband said it was wonderful, then she added “and he’s kind of an expert on carrot cake.” From the way people perked up at the very words carrot cake, along with eaters’ reactions to this very tasty one, I can only observe, “Isn’t everybody?”

CARROT CAKE

Click here for printable recipe.

Makes one 13-by-9-inch cake

INGREDIENTS
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup vegetable oil
5 large eggs
3 cups coarsely shredded peeled raw carrots (6 medium)
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) chopped walnuts

PREPARATION

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Grease and flour a 13-by-9-inch baking pan.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

3. In a large bowl, combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and butter; beat with an electric mixer until evenly blended. Beat in the oil until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then beat until thick and light, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the dry ingredients and beat just until blended. With a spoon, stir in the shredded carrots and chopped walnuts; the batter will be thick. Turn the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, until top springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack. When completely cool, generously frost, making swirls over the top. Cover and refrigerate. The frosting will set. To serve, return to room temperature and cut into squares.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

Click here for printable recipe.

INGREDIENTS

One 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Makes 2 2/3 cups

PREPARATION

1. In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese and butter; beat with an electric mixer until fluffy, about 1 minute. Beat in the vanilla.

2. Place the bowl of frosting in the refrigerator and chill, stirring frequently, just until thick enough to be of a good spreading consistency. Frost the cake and chill to set.

Recipe reprinted from ”Jim Fobel’s Old-Fashioned Baking Book” by Jim Fobel, Lake Isle Press, 1996

Originally published at https://www.lakeislepress.com on November 5, 2020.

Written by

Dara O’Brien is the Creative Director of Lake Isle Press. When she isn’t cooking or writing about cookbooks, she writes plays and sometimes acts in them.

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