your grandmother's carrot cake
April 29, 2020 5:25 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a recipe for old-fashioned carrot cake. Carrot-flakes below.

My good friend's grandmother used to make a wonderful carrot cake. Carrot cake recipes abound, but what made hers different was that firstly, it did not have cream cheese frosting. It used a frosting made of condensed milk, vanilla, and brown sugar, and perhaps a few other ingredients. Secondly, she doubled the number of carrots. This is all my friend remembers but he swears up and down this was a unique and flavorful cake. We have tried re-creating the carrot cake using conventional recipes, doubling the number of carrots required, and experimenting with this frosting, but ended up with cakes that tasted extremely bland, while the frosting was so sweet, without nuance, that it hurt my teeth. I think somewhere out there someone must have a recipe that is similar to this or has a relative who made a recipe similar to this. If so, I would greatly appreciate if you would share it with me!

If no such recipe exists, than I would alternatively appreciate tips on how to alter a carrot cake recipe sufficiently that extra carrots can be added without loss of flavor.

Thank you!
posted by Crystal Fox to Food & Drink (9 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
What do you (or your friend, if I'm reading this correctly) remember about the taste of the cake? I'm not sure what magic would happen by adding more carrots to an existing recipe, but maybe your friend can explain. (Probably a red herring, but there are delicious cakes that include carrots and pineapple - can recommend!)

Was the frosting something like this Caramel Frosting that uses brown sugar and condensed milk? Or perhaps like this Russian Buttercream?
posted by Cheese Monster at 5:41 PM on April 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

This doesn't answer your plea but my favorite carrot cake has orange marmalade in the batter, orange marmalade between the layers, and a cream cheese frosting with marmalade. Very Sweet and just bitter enough to balance.
posted by tmdonahue at 5:54 PM on April 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

You might try a boiled milk frosting for being old fashioned and fluffy but with controllable sweetness. Seems worth a shot with brown sugar.
posted by janell at 6:46 PM on April 29, 2020

Response by poster: Cheese Monster - he says it was just a carrot cake with typical carrot cake flavor, only super dense and moist because of this apparently enormous quantity of shredded carrots.

That caramel frosting, though, on that recipe with 6 cups of carrots may well do the trick! "Double Carrot" sounds about right. Thanks!
posted by Crystal Fox at 6:54 PM on April 29, 2020

There are meh carrots and superb carrots - could his grandmother have been growing her own? Or good at choosing them?
posted by clew at 8:31 PM on April 29, 2020 [4 favorites]

I hope that 6 cup recipe works out.

With regard to this question:

I would alternatively appreciate tips on how to alter a carrot cake recipe sufficiently that extra carrots can be added without loss of flavor.

Do you mean loss of structural integrity to the cake? Because if so, there actually is a magic ingredient that compensates for the sogginess you would otherwise get from excessive fruit/veg in a cake: coconut flour. Whenever I'm making pumpkin/zucchini/etc kind of bread to use up veg, and wanting to jam really excessive amounts of veg in there, a quarter cup or so of coconut flour (no more!) just sucks it right up.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:28 AM on April 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Here is my friend Jennifer's family carrot cake, for comparison. It calls for 3 cups of grated carrot, but I always found it very "carroty" and very moist. It uses a cream cheese frosting, but another type could easily be substituted.

Whole Wheat Carrot Cake

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups brown sugar, packed
2 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t ground cloves
1 t salt
1 cup neutral flavored oil
4 eggs
3 cups grated carrots, lightly packed
1 t vanilla

Combine flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt in a bowl. Mix well, then blend in oil. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in carrots and vanilla. Turn into two greased and lightly floured 9-inch layer pans. Bake at 350 F 35 minutes or less, until tops of layers spring back when touched lightly. Let cool 10 min. Turn out to cool completely. Frost.

Brown Sugar Frosting

8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup unsalted butter (or margarine)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 t vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Let cream cheese and butter stand in bowl for an hour or so to soften. Cream together at high speed of mixer or by hand. Gradually beat in brown sugar and vanilla. Fold in half the nuts. Use to frost cake, and sprinkle remaining nuts around edge of top of cake.
posted by gudrun at 8:36 AM on April 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

If you want it to taste carrotier, chop the carrots to smithereens. Lots of tiny surfaces for maximum flavor distribution.

Like, sit there chopping at them for 45 minutes while you do something else. I ate something once at a potluck that was extremely brocolli flavored, and it was just that the cook had sat there chopping brocolli for literally 45 minutes.
posted by aniola at 12:27 PM on April 30, 2020

Cook's Illustrated has one that uses a pound of carrots - three cups. I can't pull the paper magazine with the accompanying article at the moment, but I think I recall from when it ran in 2003 that part of what they were attempting to do was get more carrots into the cake for a richer carrot flavor.

Spiced Carrot Cake with Vanilla Bean-Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes one 13 by 9-inch cake

When developing our carrot cake recipe, we wanted to avoid dense, soggy cake while streamlining the procedure. For a moist, rich cake with a tight and tender crumb, we tinkered with the amounts of all-purpose flour, carrots, and oil to get just the right balance. Conservative quantities of cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves gave our carrot cake recipe pleasant, but not overwhelming, spice. And we added some sour cream to our cream cheese frosting recipe for shine as well as flavor.

Carrot Cake
2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon table salt
1 pound medium carrots (6 to 7 carrots), peeled
1 ½ cups granulated sugar (10 1/2 ounces)
½ cup light brown sugar packed
4 large eggs
1 ½ cups vegetable oil or safflower, or canola oil

Cream Cheese Frosting
2 vanilla beans
8 ounces cream cheese, softened but still cool
5 tablespoons unsalted butter softened, but still cool
1 tablespoon sour cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups confectioners' sugar (4 1/2 ounces)

If you like nuts in your cake, stir 1 1/2 cups toasted chopped pecans or walnuts into the batter along with the carrots. Raisins are also a good addition; 1 cup can be added along with the carrots. If you add both nuts and raisins, the cake will need an additional 10 to 12 minutes in the oven.

FOR THE CAKE: Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 13 by 9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line bottom of pan with parchment and spray parchment.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, pepper, cardamom, cloves, and salt in large bowl; set aside.

In food processor fitted with large shredding disk, shred carrots (you should have about 3 cups); transfer carrots to bowl and set aside. Wipe out food processor workbowl and fit with metal blade. Process granulated and brown sugars and eggs until frothy and thoroughly combined, about 20 seconds. With machine running, add oil through feed tube in steady stream. Process until mixture is light in color and well emulsified, about 20 seconds longer. Scrape mixture into medium bowl. Stir in carrots and dry ingredients until incorporated and no streaks of flour remain. Pour into prepared pan and bake until toothpick or skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking time. Cool cake to room temperature in pan on wire rack, about 2 hours.

FOR THE FROSTING: Using a paring knife, halve and scrape seeds from 2 vanilla beans. When cake is cool, process cream cheese, butter, sour cream, vanilla extract, and vanilla seeds in clean food processor workbowl until combined, about 5 seconds, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Add confectioners' sugar and process until smooth, about 10 seconds.

Run paring knife around edge of cake to loosen from pan. Invert cake onto wire rack, peel off parchment, then invert again onto serving platter. Using icing spatula, spread frosting evenly over surface of cake. Cut into squares and serve. (Cover leftovers and refrigerate for up to 3 days.)
posted by jocelmeow at 12:30 PM on April 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

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