Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Carrot cake: for the birthday girl

Carrot Cake: for my daughter's first birthday
and also her fifteenth
The recipe is blotted with my positive review
and the subsequent spatterings which indicate
frequent usage!

I just took my Carrot Cake out of the oven, and the air is richly perfumed with cinnamon and so many memories of birthdays past.

I first made this perennial favorite for my oldest daughter's first birthday.

I can't recall why; perhaps I thought that the pureed carrots made it appropriate for a toddler? Certainly I tend to think of it as a wholesome cake. It is a dense, moist cake, too. You never have to worry about it slumping or tasting dry; it is sturdy and reliable, and it lasts for days . . . assuming there aren't more than two parents plus a birthday girl to eat it. (If you've got a crowd, I have found that people tend to be greedy. Don't count on left-overs!) I make this cake at least once every year; if I don't make it, people get a bit plaintive.

Just a taste of carrot cake!

Although I rarely look at our old photo albums, today I indulged in a fit of nostalgia. So much has changed, but my girl still has the same cheeky grin -- albeit, toothier.

My baby girl

Last night I couldn't sleep, and I started thinking about the night 15 years before when I lay awake all night with mild contractions. I remember feeling ready to get on with it: I wanted to meet my girl.

I remember being vaguely aware that nothing but would ever be the same again.

My daughter was born at 2:18 pm on June 17 in the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, England after what I like to describe as "inadvertent natural labor." Named after both grandmothers, she was the first grandchild on both sides of the family. My first impression on meeting her was that she looked just like her father! That similarity is more than skin-deep; she is smart and strong-willed, also like her father.

She walked early, talked early, read early . . . and now she is anxious to grow up and assert her independence in other ways. This year has been one of enormous physical and emotional change, and sometimes it is hard for me to keep up.

I suppose that is why I am grateful for these small rituals, these paper-chains of continuity between the past and the present.

Carrot Cake: at my birthday girl's request.

Berta’s Carrot Cake
(from The New Basics Cookbook, Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins)


2 cups all-purpose or plain flour (if weighed in ounces, it will be approx. 12 oz)
2 cups granulated sugar (16 oz)
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup (8 oz) corn oil
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups pureed cooked carrots (approximately 10 2/3 oz)
1 cup (8 oz) chopped walnuts
1 cup (8 oz) moist sweetened coconut
¾ cup crushed pineapple, drained (approximately 6 oz)


Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C. Line two 9 inch cake tins with waxed paper and grease the sides.

Sift the flour, sugar, baking soda and cinnamon together in a large mixing bowl. Add the oil, eggs, and vanilla, and beat well. Then fold in the carrots, walnuts, coconut and pineapple. (I use my Kitchen Aid mixer for all of these steps; run it on low for the last step and scrape the sides well.)

Divide the batter between the two tins and place on the middle rack of the preheated oven. The cake will need approximately an hour to cook through. The edges will pull away from the sides of the tin and a toothpick will come out clean when it is ready.

Cool the cakes in the tin for 10 minutes, and then invert them onto a baking rack and let completely cool before frosting.

This cake tastes really delicious and wholesome without frosting, but for a birthday cake you are going to need great creamy gobs of cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting


8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons (3 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups (approximately 18 oz) confectioners/icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Juice of ½ lemon

Cream the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and well-incorporated.

Slowly sift in the icing sugar, and continue beating until smooth (no lumps!). Stir in the vanilla and lemon juice. Adjust the sugar for thickness. It needs to be fairly thick or it will slide off the cake!

You may want to garnish the cake with finely chopped walnuts and/or grated coconut. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t.


Maggie May said...

YUM. and your daughter has sparkly pretty eyes:)

larkspur said...

I think I need a carrot cake! Thanks for sharing your recipe. I have copied it faithfully and will head to the kitchen shortly :}

Elizabeth said...

Happy birthday,elder daughter.
Yes, I'm sure carrot cake is very suitable for a toddler.

And for the rest of us too.....
I have just made cup cakes to eat with fresh strawberries from Union Square.

Catalyst said...

Ah, carrot cake. One of my favorites. How about a photo of the 15 year old daughter?

David Cranmer said...

Thanks. I've copied and pasted the recipes for my wife... and happy b-day to your daughter.

Nimble said...

What a lovely association. I think your daughters are lucky to have you making those paper chains with them. Happy birthday month -- what a good choice she made to be born in June!

ArtSparker said...

Hope you had a wonderful birthday celebration.

Errrm...would you like my address if you have insufficient room for leftovers (too lazy too cook).

Bee said...

Maggie May - She does have lovely eyes, thanks.

Larkspur - I promise you that I have never tasted a better carrot cake than this one!

Elizabeth - Yes, indeed; carrot cake is suitable for all ages! Your cup cakes reminded me that C and I made lemon cup cakes yesterday. SO GOOD with raspberries or strawberries.

Catalyst - I'm trying to preserve her privacy . . . and just embarrassing her with the baby pics!

David - Does your wife like to bake? This cake really is wonderful -- for a birthday, or any occasion.

Nimble - Yes, June definitely beats January!

ArtSparker - I wish that I could send you some . . . with only four of us there are PLENTY of left-overs. (Although I am already looking forward to a piece tomorrow . . .)

Cait O'Connor said...

I'm glad you posted your recipe, I was hoping you would as I started reading about the cake.
Your daughter was a very happy looking baby, don't they say all new babies look like their fathers - my first baby, also a daughter certainly did.

willow said...

I've had The New Basics Cookbook for YEARS, but have never tried the carrot cake recipe. Now I must!

Happy Birthday to your beautiful daughter!!!

Lover of Life said...

Carrot cake is my favorite. My little brother used to make it for himself, and I still have his stained recipe. He's now almost 50! Happy birthday to your sweet daughter. Enjoy her, as they leave us far sooner than we would like. I'm already lonely for mine, and I spent the whole of last week with them!

Reya Mellicker said...

The Silver Palate is one of my favorite cookbooks. Strange that I've never made the carrot cake. I must remedy that immediately!

Many happy returns to the birthday girl. I have a very close friend whose birthday is today. Geminis are incredible people.

Happiest day to all!

Beth said...

Wishing your sweet “baby girl” a belated Happy Birthday!

I love these words of yours - “...paper-chains of continuity...”

Jamie said...

Ah! What a precious baby! My eldest turned 21 last month...where do the years go??

Recognized your Silver Palate cookbook and what I think are David Austin roses? My favorite yellow: Graham Thomas.

From one Southern girl to another: I adore your blog. Quite lovely.

rxBambi said...

What a wonderful way to celebrate a milestone. I love that it was the same from 1st b-day. What an adorable baby, I bet she's turned into a lovely young lady...oh my God does that make me sound old or what??!!

Chairman Bill said...

whoever first thought of putting carrots into a cake? And what were they smoking at the time? The result is delicious, but nonetheless a strange concept.

Isn't it funny how we're all obsessed with the age at which our kids learn to walk, talk, etc? It really makes no long-term difference, yet we still cling to the mistaken belief that an early walker/talker is somehow special. Nowt as funny as folk.

♥ Braja said...

I love that recipe, Bee...thank you. Cos it doesn't have eggs! And I don't eat them. So I've saved it and when I'm well I'm going to make it...I'll definitely let you know how it goes :)

Debski Beat said...

Happy Birthday Baby Bee

Delwyn said...

Hi Bee
your 15 year old was beautiful as a baby so I imagine she is just as beautiful now...if not more so...

Chairman Bill questions carrots in a cake - what about pumpkins in a sweet that is very odd...

Happy days

Bee said...

Cait - I've read a couple of articles that say that first babies, in particular, tend to favor their fathers. I think it is part of the canniness of our genes!

Willow - Isn't it a great cookbook? I've used it probably more than any other in my collection. Please let me know if you try it.

Lover of Life - It is my opinion, based on anecdotal evidence, that men really like carrot cake. Isn't it wonderful to have a handed-down recipe?

Reya - My daughter is SUCH a Gemini.

Beth - Oh, thank you.

Jamie - You are right; those are all David Austin roses. I don't have any Graham Thomas roses, but they are lovely. I have a friend who has a hedge of them and I always envy it when they are bloom. Thanks for visiting!

rxBambi - Now that all my friends' children are teenagers, I am amazed and dismayed by all of the cliches that come out of my mouth!

Chairman Bill - At least carrots are sweetish; who thought of zucchini cake? (also delicious)

The early development thing: I'm just saying that the child has always been impatient and in a hurry!

Braja - I've never really noticed the absence of eggs . . . but I think that a cake is just the thing to celebrate your return to health!

Debski - Oh, thank you. You remember her when she was a plump toddler having Little Mermaid parties! (Are you okay?)

Delwyn - Pumpkin pie is one of my absolute favorites! I obviously favor vegetables in desserts.

JaneyV said...

Happy Birthday to your eldest. I hope she doesn't get too grumpy that you published her baby pics because they are adorable! My eldest will be fifteen at the end of the year and my daughter turns 12 tomorrow (19th) but she was due on the 17th!

The carrot cake sounds wonderful. I definitely would want the lovely vanilla/lemon frosting - YUM!

Fantastic Forrest said...

I'll be trying this recipe this weekend. Sounds lovely.

"Inadvertant natural labor" - ha!

When I start to get upset at my daughter's strong will and attempts to assert her independence, I console myself with all the alternatives I wouldn't want. It makes it easier, and I'm able to deal with a bit better. Mouthy vs. a child who has trouble speaking? Okay, I guess I'd choose mouthy. Pushy vs. too timid to go after what she wants? Grudgingly, I acknowledge that I'd prefer her pushy. It's just that I want to temper her personality with kindness.

Oh...wait...this was about YOUR daughter, right? Sorry. I can't help but think about my own offspring when I read friends' musings on their children. :-) And everyone else is right, your eldest daughter was a beautiful baby. Happy Birthday to her!!

Stephanie said...

Happy Birthday to sweet is amazing..isn't it how fast these years fly!

AND I love carrot cake

Polly said...

The recipe sounds delicious. I love carrot cakes, even though it seemed like a strange idea to have cake made of carrot...

Beautiful photos!

Bee said...

JaneyV - Do you make a birthday cake or do you go the store-bought sponge route?

FF - Your daughter, my daughter . . . who can tell the difference? Mine flounced off in a royal strop after dinner. She retreated to her bedroom with laptop and Ipod. Splendid isolation!

Stephanie - Thank you! But I would just like to say that the cake originated with Berta . . . my daughter isn't named that!

Polly - Several friends dropped in today because they knew I had a carrot cake! Really, it is that good.

A Thousand Clapping Hands said...

Happy Birthday to your daughter! And congratulations to you and your husband.

As soon as I saw the page of that cookbook I knew it was the Silver Palate gals. Their original store was right on my corner in NYC. The carrot cake is delicious!


Nimble said...

There was a mention of pumpkin baked goods. I have found that grated zuchini can be substituted for pumpkin in muffin and cake recipes. It really works with the pumpkin pie spices.

Bee said...

Catherine - Yes, those cookbook pages are immediately recognizable! Thanks for your good wishes.

Nimble - I've been meaning to make a chocolate zucchini cake for a while now. Did you ever eat the one at Twin Sisters Cafe?

Kate said...

I am SO making this cake! I host a weekly "Cake and Cards" event in my home, and most definitely I'll be serving your "excellent" recipe.
Thanks for posting the pics of your sweet baby girl. (Smiles abound!)
Whenever I feel like a partial or complete failure, I always tell myself that I have been a good mother and my children like me.
It's something to be proud of!

Bee said...

Kate - Cake and Cards sounds like so much fun! What kind of card games do you play?

Please tell me if you do end up making the cake.

BTW, are you on Facebook? Interested in some online Scrabble?

julochka said...

my child also looks exactly like her father...which is probably lucky for her, but sometimes i look at her wish i could see just a teeny tiny bit of me...but alas i cannot.

hope the birthday was great (i'm still behind on reading my posts, you know)....

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