Carrot cake is a new indulgence for me. Kind of like discovering a new band or a new author. You start thinking about it, more often than not. Pretty soon, you spend your hours online, researching and brushing up on it’s history. You memorize details that you think you must commit to memory. Before you know it, BAAM! You are hooked.
That’s how I came upon carrot cake. I had my first bite of when I was 15 while I worked at a ritzy senior retirement center. Working as a waitress for these rich senior citizens was very interesting. You learn new things about people everyday. For example, senior citizens are creatures of habit. God forbid you forget to bring out the regular coffee at the same time as you bring out the poppyseed bagels. And those cream cheese tubes? They better be room temperature or else you will get your butt chewed out by an older cranky lady who is wearing too much makeup for a Sunday brunch.
As you can probably tell, my 2 and half years working there was very interesting.
Can I tell you a secret? My senior customers had an insatiable sweet tooth. I mean, INSATIABLE. Worse than me, and I’ve been known to down the sugar. Our brunch started at 7 a.m. and these people would down donuts, sticky buns, even soft serve ICE CREAM! Like I said, these guys could beat me in the sugar consumption race. Obviously, they must have felt invincible but I personally feared for their blood sugar. If it wasn’t a waffle drenched in sugary strawberries, than it was a sugar-laced cocktail at 3 p.m. No wonder they took naps in the middle of the day, their poor blood sugar was like a roller coaster.
I was in charge of the dessert buffet (how fitting, right?) and every morning at 6 am. I’d stumble in to work, and get to slicing the hundreds of frozen cakes and pies. Chocolate cream pies, tiramisu, pineapple upside-down cake, cheesecake. You name it, we had it. And you can be sure that I’d sample a slice or two with my co-workers. Don’t worry, we made sure to hide out in the freezers while hastily devouring our treats…
One cake that I continually stayed away from was the carrot cake. It looked… sick. Literally, disgusting. Oily and studded with coconut (oh, how have the times changed). You couldn’t pay me to taste it. It looked like a sugar coma waiting to happen. But without fail, the seniors would down this cake by the pounds!
Looking back, I wish I could swap every carrot cake I plated on that dessert table with this simple and heart-healthy carrot cake. Rather than a sugar-filled, dense, oily slab, this cake a la King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking is light and fluffy, with a subtle spicy bite. It’s the kind of cake you could eatevery day without guilt. It’s frosting-free, which might disappoint others but if you want you could whip up some cream cheese frosting. But I prefer this cake naked, if you will, kind of like zucchini or pumpkin bread.
I know I’ve made carrot cake before but these two recipes aren’t the same AT ALL. The other is your holiday dessert, the staple of your holiday spread. This is the homey breakfast slice you have the morning of your holiday celebration. The kind of cake you feel good eating, and the kind you don’t feel so guilty giving to your kids. No sugar highs here guys! It is also less fussy than the other. It doesn’t require a watchful eye and bakes up rather quickly without any supervision.
In true form, I couldn’t leave the recipe alone. I left out the pineapple and instead of making a layer cake, I baked the carrot cake in bundt pan. The only change I had to make with this pan change was an increase in baking time from 35 minutes to 45 minutes. I left my changes out of the original recipe though. The trusty test kitchen at King Arthur Flour really puts their recipes through the ringer, making them a trustworthy source for your baking needs. I happen to love this book and even when I make alterations, the end result turns out delicious. If you are need of a Thanksgiving breakfast treat, I highly recommend this recipe and hope you give it a try. Carrot Cake doesn’t need to be an over-the-top affair. The more natural, the better…
King Arthur Flour’s Whole Wheat Carrot Cake
Origin: King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Book
Yield: Two 9-inch round layers, 16 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 35 to 40 minutes
● 4 large eggs
● 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
● 2 tsp vanilla extract
● 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
● 1/2 cup light or dark brown sugar
● 2 cups whole wheat flour
● 2 tsp baking soda
● 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
● 1 1/2 tsp salt
● 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
● 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
● 2 1/2 cups finely grated carrots
● 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
● 1 cup sweetened coconut, shredded or flaked
● 1 can crushed pineapple, drained
Preheat the oven to 350℉. Grease and flour the pan or pans of your choice or line with parchment paper.
Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, and add the oil while the mixer is running. Add the vanilla, then sprinkle in the sugasr. You will have a thick, foamy, lemon-colored mixture. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices in a medium bowl. Add these dry ingredients to the eggs and oil in your mixing bowl, mixing to make a smooth batter. Add the carrots and nuts, then the coconut and pineapple. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.
Bake the cakes for the amount of time appropriate to the pan size. The cake is done when a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack, then dust with confectioners’ sugar or frost with cream cheese frosting.