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Nov 5, 2011 06:59 PM

Carrot Cake that Wows... does anybody know this recipe???

Hi all; so I'm a teacher, and a kid walked in a couple of months ago with a carrot cake made by her Mum for a fundraiser. It was placed in the staff room for a dollar a slice. It looked like a regular old cake, so no one took notice; just a whole lot of creamed cheese on the tops and edges (it was cooked in a Bundt pan). I walked over to my mailbox to pick up a paper that had arrived, and when I turned around there was one piece left, which I grabbed. It was HEAVEN. The other carrot cake brought in by another child sat sadly, mostly untouched.

Now don't get me wrong. but carrot cake has never been my favourite because the cake is usually not all that tasty. The creamed cheese always redeems it. But this cake, my friends, had walnuts, was moist, and had flavour!!! Maybe it had a sultanas in it (can you grind up sultanas so they aren't in chunks?) or something. The creamed cheese on top was whipped and fluffy and sweet and finger licking good, but it was literally "the icing on top of the cake". The cake, and the icing, were perfection.

Needless to say, I asked the student for the recipe. Got the dreaded (yet challenging) "It's a family secret, we aren't allowed to give it out". She then added insult to injury by bringing another one of the same cake to a class party three weeks later. I seriously considered sending a slice out to be laboratory tested.

Ok, kid, I thought to myself. I know my pals at CH can help me out on this one. Surely someone here has made the Carrot Cake to end all Carrot Cakes, the piece de resistance of Carrot Cakes; traditionally inspired, yet somehow unbeatable.

So, the million dollar question... does anyone out there have a similar sounding recipe for Carrot Cake, the Carrot Cake that people fight over, leaving the other desserts in the dust? I am willing to make as many cakes in a row as needed to get to the perfect one, but you folks will have the best places to start.

Thanks in advance to anyone with ideas, suggestions, etc.

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  1. I'll be watching to see if anyone decodes this and comes up with a recipe for a first-rate cake but I think you're going to have to provide more info.

    What was the texture of the cake? Was there a lot of carrot in discernible pieces or might the carrots have been cooked and pureed? Was it dense or light? Did it have dried fruit included? Nuts? Could you detect flavors like pineapple or apple or banana or citrus? Was it spicy? Was the color a conventional spicy-brown or was it more pale?

    What, in short, was it that made it so special?

    1 Reply
    1. re: rainey

      Thanks Rainey, no discernible pieces of carrots, but they tend to incorporate, don't they? The texture was heavier than light, but not heavy/dense like fudge. It was more like a bread than a cake, except far more moist. I ate the second slice with a keen eye, and saw no chunks of any fruit, but did find fragments of walnuts.

      Maybe they cut up fruit very very small and mixed it in? Or used a paste? I do not think I tasted pineapple. Maybe apple. I really just tasted "delicious", embarrassed to say. It was a bit spicy, but not cinnamon spicy, maybe a bit of nutmeg/allspice? It's colour was the conventional spicy brown.

      The moistness and the lively flavour made the cake special+the nuts. And the icing was pretty incredible too. Just hoping someone will have a good place to start, because there are thousands of recipes out there!


    2. I just look for a basic recipe, like from James Beard, and add lots of walnuts, some pineapple (crushed), possibly chopped dates. One could dice them small. I'm not one to like chunks of stuff, but it adds to the moistness of the cake. The chopped raisins or sultanas would be good, I'd think.
      I tend to follow the recipe somewhat for spices, may add a bit more of something, depending on the freshness of my spices.
      Sometimes I use a bit of coconut, too.
      Then the cream cheese frosting and some toasted coconut either on the sides or just the top.
      I tend to cook them longer, they are pretty dense. Like a carrot fruitcake almost.

      4 Replies
      1. re: wyogal

        Thank you Wyogal; this one was not like a carrot fruitcake, though I'm beginning to suspect some very finely chopped dried fruit was in there. Like you, I dislike chunks of anything in my food, and this cake did not disappoint. I didn't see any visible chunks of anything. But that moistness! Would pureeing the pineapple/dried fruit have that effect?

        When you say you cook cakes with fruit longer, do you mean at the same temperature, or slightly lower and longer?

        1. re: ideabaker

          I turn it lower at the end of baking and continue to bake it so it doesn't brown too much around the edges. I don't know about pureeing pineapple, but the applesauce suggestion below sounds good. I have put dried fruit like dates in the processor before, and would do that with the nuts, too, almost a meal. Then one would have that flavor, with a consistent cake texture. Full of flavor. easy to slice, too. Sometimes when there are too many chunks, the cake part isn't enough to hold it together.
          I'd say start with one of the offered recipes, and also look for what the recipes have in common.
          As far as spice, maybe there was powdered ginger in there, too. That can give a bite. Then, go from there.

          1. re: wyogal

            Mmm! Dates sound like a very promising alternative to the usual raisins.

            1. re: rainey

              Rainey, so true, and if cut finely enough, as Wyogal suggests, they mightn't be too noticeable when shoving the cake into the mouth...

      2. Here's a recipe that strikes me as being a significant variation from a conventional carrot cake baked in a different shaped pan:

        NIcole Weston's recipes are generally very reliable and she speaks to the issue of the greasiness and heaviness of conventional carrot cake recipes. Maybe that's the difference in the cake you're trying to replicate:

        This one from the Epicurious files dates from 2000. Do you think that has enough longevity to be a "family" recipe? In any case, the reviews are pretty consistently good with at least one rave:

        This one from Taste of Home has citrus rather than pineapple and got good if a limited number of reviews:

        Here's one made with applesauce. There's a single review but it's a very good one:

        This one from AllRecipes got nearly 5 stars from over 100 reviews:

        Here's another one that's different in that it uses sour cream and is pretty light on the amount of actual carrot:

        Hope one of them might sound like it fills the bill or at least give you a place to start from.

        1. I've adapted Ina Garten's recipe and I've been making it for the past couple years to extremely good results. I've changed some proportions a bit in addition to heavily modifying the instructions- the end result is something extremely moist, rich, and somewhat light at the same time. For frosting it really does depend on how long or how vigorously you whip it: leave it on a slow speed and it's quite dense but put it on high it's light and fluffy. Finally I top it with candied orange zest, which is the perfect accompaniment that cuts through the richness.

          3 extra large eggs
          2 ½ CUPS granulated sugar
          1 ½ CUPS vegetable oil
          1 TABLESPOON pure vanilla extract, divided
          2 TEASPOONS cinnamon
          ¼ TEASPOON nutmeg
          1 POUND carrots, grated
          2 ¼ CUPS all purpose flour
          2 TEASPOONS baking soda
          1 ½ TEASPOONS kosher salt
          1 ¼ CUP raisins
          1 ¼ CUP walnuts, toasted and chopped
          ¾ POUND (1 ½ PACKAGES) cream cheese, room temperature
          1 CUP (2 STICKS)unsalted butter, room temperature
          ¾ POUNDpowdered sugar
          2 large navel oranges
          ¼ CUP grand marnier, freshly squeezed orange juice, or water

          Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
          In a stand mixer, beat the eggs and 2 cups of the sugar together until pale and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. While mixing, slowly drizzle in the oil... the end result should be almost a mayonnaise like consistency. Add half of the vanilla, the cinnamon, and the nutmeg, afterwards scraping the bowl. Add the grated carrots and stir to combine. Sift together 2 cups of the flour, baking soda, and salt, and while on low speed add to the wet ingredients in thirds, waiting until each addition is completely absorbed before adding the next. Toss the raisins and walnuts together with the remaining flour, and fold into the batter by hand.
          Scoop the batter into lined cupcake tins about ¾ of the way up. A 2 oz ice cream scoop works perfectly, which holds about a ¼ cup. Bake for 10 minutes, turn the oven down to 350 degrees, and bake for an additional 8-12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Take the cupcakes carefully out of the tins and let cool on wire racks.
          In a small saucepan heat the Grand Marnier and sugar together until dissolved. Using a cheese grater with a medium grate, run the oranges down the entire length, rotating them as they go down creating long laces of rind. Be firm enough so the rind doesn’t tear, but not so hard as to get the pith. Simmer the orange rind in the syrup for 10-15 minutes until they turn soft and slightly translucent. Drain and let cool.
          For the frosting, beat together the cream cheese, butter, remaining vanilla, and powdered sugar until combined. For a rich, dense frosting leave the mixer on low, and for a more lighter, fluffier one beat on high (the lighter frosting will melt more easier than the denser one). Generously frost each cooled cupcake with icing, and top with a pinch of candied orange zest.

          1 Reply
          1. re: fattychalupa

            Fattychalupa, that sounds divine! I'm extremely sensitive to the taste of liquor in my food, so think I would have noticed if Grand Marniere was in it (don't think it was because children were eating it at school). But maybe the orange masked the flavour and the liquor burned away? In any case, your detailed recipe definitely makes me want to make these cupcakes, perhaps for a tea. Scrumptious! Thank you.

          2. The best carrot cake I ever had had pineapple in it and the carrots were shredded. The best frosting I ever had on a carrot cake was a cream cheese with maple syrup added. Do you think the cake had pineapple in it?

            1 Reply
            1. re: Hank Hanover

              That's how my carrot cake is made, minus the maple, which sounds quite good...

              2 C sifted flour
              2 tsp baking powder
              1 1/2 tsp baking soda
              1 1/2 tsp salt
              2 tsp ground cinnamon
              2 C sugar
              1 1/2 C salad oil
              4 eggs
              2 C finely shredded carrots
              1 (used to be 8.5 oz) can drained crushed pineapple in juice
              3 1/2 oz unsweetened flaked coconut (or adjust sugar)
              1/2 C chopped walnuts
              sift together flour, salt, b. soda, b. powder and cinnamon
              beat at med. spd. 1 min. oil, eggs, sugar, then stir into flour mixture
              stir in carrots, coconut, nuts, pineapple
              1/2 C butter, soft
              8 oz cream cheese, softened
              1 tsp vanilla
              1 lb box 10x sugar
              Blend, chill before using.
              bake at 350 in a 10” cake pan

              This cake weighs a LOT, very moist, dense TDF.