Ooooh, that 70s penchant for carrot cake. The origins of carrot cake are shrouded in the mystery of history. Perhaps carrot cake evolved from a medieval carrot pudding, as carrots could take the place of sweetening instead of sugar, which was either too scarce or expensive. Carrot cake is mentioned in a 19th century French cookbook and seems to have been a popular birthday cake for children in Switzerland. Be that as it may, carrot cake became quite popular in the U.S. during the 1970s. Is it any healthier than, say, chocolate cake because of the carrots? Hardly. But it is delicious and festive any time of the year, including Thanksgiving and Christmas. Here’s a recipe for Classic Carrot Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting that I first started using back in 1976 and haven’t changed much about it since. It is a labor of love.
Note: The cake needs to be prepared 24 hours in advance.
Ingredients for the cake:
1/13 cups vegetable oil (I prefer canola)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup less 2 T whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
9 cups finely shredded carrots, packed (only different between then and now is that now I use a food processor with a shredding blade instead of doing it by hand with a grater, which is a lot of work)
8 1/2 oz crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped (optional)
Ingredients for the lemon cream cheese frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 T lemon rind, grated
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
In a large bowl, blend the oil and sugars. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until blended. In a separate bowl, sift the two flours as well as the salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture about 1/3 at time to the oil and sugar mixture. Beat just enough to blend. Fold in the carrots and then the pineapple. Add the walnuts if you are using them. Pour the batter into the two cake pans. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rock for about ten minutes before turning them onto the rack and cooling completely.
For the frosting, use a large bowl and cream together the cream cheese and butter until well mixed and fluffy. Sift the confectioners’ sugar if it is lumpy and add to the cream cheese and butter mixture until well blend. Then blend in the vanilla and lemon rind.
Frost the completely cooled cake. Store it in the refrigerator so the flavors can develop for 24 hours. The last instruction is academic ; the cake can be stored there for a week. No one in our house has ever waited that long.