I don’t bake. Well, I shouldn’t bake. I do bake to disastrous results more frequently than should be encouraged. Few things turn out well enough to not be the family joke. That’s because I have a hard time following measurements and method instructions exactly as written. I ad lib. It works in savory cooking and I’m pretty good at that, but in baked goods where precision is most important it’s rare I work a recipe as written. Carrot Cake is one of those exceptions. It’s my husband’s favorite. It’s special and special occasion worthy. So I do follow the directions. Mostly.
This recipe is from an ancient copy of the Farm Journal cookbook I’ve had since…probably 1973 when we got married and we now call:
Dad’s Favorite Carrot Cake
1 1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
2 cups sifted flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 cups grated raw carrots (use mouli or food processor for shreds)
1 cup finely chopped pecans (left out)
Combine oil and sugar, mix well. Sift together remaining dry ingredients. Sift half of the dry ingredients into sugar mixture/blend. Sift in remaining dry ingredients alternately with eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add carrots and mix well; then mix in pecans if you don’t leave out. Pour into lightly oiled 10 inch tube pan–I use my angel food cake pan. Bake in slow oven 325° about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Cool in pan upright on rack. Remove pan.
Frost with cream cheese frosting. Always home made. I use Martha Stewarts recipe found on her website or the one in my old Betty Crocker cookbook, also circa 1973. I’ve never found it online exactly as written.
The original recipe calls for an orange glaze. This is not understandable to anyone from Wisconsin. Cream cheese is the way to live right. And whilst it used to be possible to buy fairly decent cream cheese frosting in a tub, whatever food manufacturers have done to cut production corners and costs has been disgusting. Trust me when I say, scratch is best. It won’t really take too much time, and you get to lick the beaters.
Speaking of mixers, I usually use my electric hand mixer for the batter but the recipe is written just as above and I have done all mixing by hand with a spoon before. It turns out! Once when we moved close to my husband’s birthday, all I had access to in my packed up kitchen was a food processor so that’s what I used for everything. It turned out! The batter will be fairly stiff until you add the raw carrots. Their moisture is key. We especially like shredded carrots instead of grated carrots.
I’ve made this with nuts but we are not that fancy most days of the year and pecans are an investment. (We have walnut allergies so those are out.) When I did use pecans I finely chopped them because I’m not a fan of nubs in my food and it made this rich dense cake even richer and denser. Meh.
My husband asks for this cake for his birthday and whenever I ask him for his idea for dessert on some special occasion. My daughter also asks for this cake. I bake it in an angel food tube pan because that’s all I have. When it comes out of the pan it’s impressive looking and frosts well. I can also slice the cake horizontally to make layers and do this when I want to be extra fancy. At no time in 2020 did I feel extra fancy.
Other thoughts about Carrots
I have always appreciated carrots. I have a whole Pinterest Board called Carrots Curated with images of carrots and links to more info including the World Carrot Museum. (I’ll let you fall down that rabbit hole on your own.)
I grew carrots in my garden this year and have to say they gave me very little trouble or worry although most gardeners say they are fussy to grow. Seeds are tiny and moisture during germination is critical. My biggest problems were my cats who laid on them. I’ll grown more in the coming garden season.
You’ll find carrot art and folk art around our house and garden. There is something artful about carrot shapes but also humor. And comfort I think. When my daughter was small I crocheted her a pale yellow hat with a bit of a brim. It was the kind of hat that needed a feather or a flower. I crocheted carrots and attached them. It was splendid and she looked adorable. I think we passed the hat on to a cousin and who knows where it ended up. There was only one like it in the world as my Dad would say.
When I bake it really is for a special reason for a special person, a gift of love in food. I don’t like doing any part of the process. It’s messy. It’s painful even because standing is hard, and so is resisting the urge to eat such an awesome treat as a Type II Diabetic. A sliver is all I can allow myself. But treating someone with a tasty delight is worth the effort. So here you go. Try this recipe for yourself.