Since medieval times, carrots have been used in cakes because sweeteners were scarce and expensive. Carrots, which contain more sugar than any other vegetable besides the sugar beet, were much easier to come by and were used to make all sorts of sweet desserts.
So who baked the first carrot cake? Who knows? -- there will always be a dispute about that. Their popularity was probably revived during and after the Second World War due to sugar-rationing.
In the early 1960s, carrot cakes became commonly available in restaurants and cafeterias in the United States. First as a novelty item, but people liked them so much the cakes soon became standard dessert fare. The Food Network has listed carrot cake, with its cream-cheese icing, as No. 5 of the top five fad foods of the 1970s. I don't think it is a fad, I'm sure it is here to stay.
Carrot cake was voted as the favourite cake in the United Kingdom, according to a survey in the Radio Times in 2011.
The recipe below has evolved and changed as I have baked it over the years, to what really works for me in flavour and moisture.
If you want to add a different flavour to this cake, substitute one-quarter of the carrots with finely-grated parsnip.
You can also sprinkle toasted coconut on top and around the sides. There I go changing it again!
625 ml (21/2 cups) flour
10 ml (2 tsp) baking powder
8 ml (11/2 tsp) baking soda
15 ml (3 tsp) mixed spice
3 ml (1/2 tsp) cinnamon
1.5 ml (1/4 tsp) ginger
5 ml (1 tsp) salt
325 ml (11/2 cup) sugar
300 ml (11/4 cup) oil
5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla
500 ml (2 cups) carrots, grated
250 ml (1 cup) canned crushed pineapple
125 ml (1/2 cup) walnuts, chopped
65 ml (1/4 cup) smooth apricot jam
1. Preheat the oven at 180 C
2. Sift together the dry ingredients.
3. Beat the oil, eggs, sugar and vanilla together for 3 minutes
4. Add the carrots, pineapple, nuts and jam. Mix well.
5. Fold in the dry ingredients.
6. Pour into an 8-inch spring form cake pan.
7. Bake for 45 minutes.
8. Cool for 10 minutes before removing.
Cover with frosting when cool.
Cream cheese frosting
250 g (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
65 ml (1/4 cup) butter, softened
21/2 ml (1/2 tsp) finely grated lemon rind
21/2 ml (1/2 tsp) vanilla
250 ml (1 cup) icing sugar
1. Cream butter and cream cheese together until combined
2. Add vanilla and lemon rind
3. Fold in icing sugar and mix until smooth