Wednesday, February 03, 2010


"There was an Old Person of Rheims,
Who was troubled with horrible dreams;
So, to keep him awake,
they fed him with cake,
Which amused that Old Person of Rheims."

~ Edward Lear
English artist, writer; known for his 'literary nonsense' & limericks (1812-1888)



~ Over 30 year old favorite (because of all the carrots) retro carrot cake recipe, clipped and adapted from Better Homes & Gardens

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
4 organic eggs
1 cup oil
4 cups grated raw carrots (about 8 medium)
1/2 - 1 cup chopped pecans

Cream Cheese Frosting:

4 Tbsp. soft unsalted butter
2 3 oz. packages Philadelphia cream cheese
4 1/3 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. maple syrup

  • Preheat oven to 350ยบ.
  • Combine flour, sugar, soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
  • In large bowl, beat eggs till frothy; slowly beat in oil.
  • Gradually add flour mixture. Beat smooth. Mix in carrots and nuts. Pour into 3 greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes or until done. Cool 10 minutes and remove from pan.
  • Frosting: Blend soft butter and cream cheese. Gradually add powdered sugar. Beat smooth. Stir in vanilla and maple syrup.
  • Frost between layers; Continue and frost top & sides of cake.


"Vegetables are a must on a diet.
I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.”

~ Jim Davis



Carrot cake

According to the food historians, our modern carrot cake most likely descended from Medieval carrot puddings enjoyed by people in this part of Europe. Carrots are an old world food. imported to the Americas by European settlers. In the 20th century carrot cake was re-introduced as a "healthy alternative" to traditional desserts. The first time was due to necessity; the second time was spurred by the popular [though oftimes misguided] wave of health foods. Is today's carrot cake healthy? It can be. It all depends upon the ingredients.

History notes here:

"In her New York Cookbook (1992), Molly O'Neill says that George Washington was served a carrot tea cake at Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan. The date: November 25, 1783. The occasion: British Evacuation Day. She offers an adaptation of that early recipe, which was printed in The Thirteen Colonies Cookbook (1975) by Mary Donovan, Amy Hatrack, and Frances Schull. It isn't so very different from the carrot cakes of today. Yet strangely, carrot cakes are noticeably absent from American cookbooks right through the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth. Before developing a new pudding-included carrot and spice cake mix, Pillsbury researched carrot cake in depth, even staged a nation-wide contest to locate America's first-published carrot cake recipe. Their finding: A carrot cake in The Twentieth Century Bride's Cookbook published in 1929 by a Wichita, Kansas, woman's club. Running a close second was a carrot cake printed in a 1930 Chicago Daily News Cookbook...Several carrot cake contestants also sent Pillsbury a complicated, two-day affair that Peg Bracken had included in one of her magazine columns sometime in the late '60s or early '70s...Whatever its origin, carrot cake didn't enter mainstream America until the second half of this century."

A survey of carrot cake (& precessor recipes) confirms these items took many forms:

When did the cream cheese icing appear?

The earliest American print references we find to frosting carrot cake with cream cheese are from 1960's:

About carrots

Carrots are an "Old World" vegetable. They adapted readily to "New World" soil. Notes here:

"The wild carrot, which grows in much of W. Asia and Europe, has a tiny and acrid tasting root. However, when it is cultivated in favourable conditions the roots of successive generations enlarge quickly. So the evolution of cultivars with enlarged roots is easily explained; indeed, what is puzzling is that it seems to have taken a very long time for D. Carota var sativa , as the modern cultivated carrot is know, to appear. The puzzle is all the greater because archaeologists have found traces of carrot seed at prehistoric lake dwellings in Switzerland. Also, the plant is included in a list of vegetables grown in the royal garden of Babylon in the 8th century BC. Here there is a clue: the plant is not in the list of ordinary vegetalbes but in that or aromatic herbs. It was probably being grown for its leaves or seeds, both of which have a pleasant carrot fragrance. It seems likely that this had also been the purpose of carrot cultivation in classical times, for there is little or no evidence to suggest that the Greeks and Romans enjoyed eating the roots. Many writers state that the carrot in something like its modern form was brought westwards, at least as far as the Arab Afghanistan, where the very dark red, even purple, carrots of antiquity are still grown. The introduction is variously dated at the 8th or 10th century AD, ie the period of Arab expansion in to the Middle East and C. Asia. This fits well enough with the fact that the earliest surviving clear description of the carrot dates from the first half of the 12th century, and was by an Arab writer...The first sign of truly orange carrots is in Dutch paintings of the 17th century...Cultivated carrots of the European type were brought to the New World before 1565..."

"Adding to the confusion of early carrot history is the wold white carrot...that is native to Europe and was subsequently naturalized in America. Now popularly known as Queen Anne's lace, the most famous for its ornamental flower, the woody root has been used interchageably with its visually similar cousin, the parsnip...The late-fourth-century Roman cookery book of Apicius lists recipes suitable for either carrots (presumably wild and cultivated) or parsnips, advice repeated nearly fifteen hundred years later in Lettice Bryan's The Kentucky Housewife (1839) that "carrots may be cooked in every respect like parsnips." English carrots were the first to be introduced into the colonies, accompanying colonists to Jamestown in 1609 and early Pilgrims to Massachusetts no later than 1629, where they grew "biger and sweeter" than anything found in Engalnd. Dutch Menonnites brought orange and scarlet carrots with them into Pennsylvania, from whence they spread through the rest of the colonies."


Rob (ourfrenchgarden) said...

Joey I read every bit of this and have to say this must be the most comprehensive carrot celebration on the web!

Clever those Dutch, breeding the orange carrot to celebrate the 'House of Orange'.

I haven't eaten carrot cake in a while. I don't know why as whenever I do I always enjoy it.

In the second world war, the British spread the rumours about carrots being good for the eyesight. This was to fool the Nazis as at that time they'd invented radar and the enemy could not understand why their planes and ships were getting spotted. Eat carrots of course.

Beautiful photos as ever.


Carol said...

Beautiful photos Joey! Whew! That is a lot of carrot information!! I love the quotes ... and as often happens when I visit you ... I must have something sweet to eat! ;>)) Carol

Roses and Lilacs said...

I can remember the first time I was served carrot cake as a child. I wouldn't touch it. Eeeewww, vegetables in a cake, what a crime:) Now of course I know it is delicious and moist. With that in mind, I can understand why the idea didn't catch on in this country until later. It's the spices that make the great flavor and aroma. Maybe early homemakers didn't have access to all those spices.

Victoria said...

Wow..great post..what a delightful informative read! OOh i love your moon photo..stunning! Gorgeous! What a wonderful tribute to carrot cake! rock..i always learn something wonderful and new here!

lindalou said...

Wow! You are a wonderful source of carrot information.

Carrot Cake is my significant others favorite cake. I always thought it was the cup of oil that killed the "healthy" aspect, not the cream cheese. His b-day is coming up next week. Maybe I should bake him one.

joey said...

Funny, Rob (just what I hoped)! I was thrilled to find this abundance of 'carrot cake' trivia ... you are a dear to read it all :) This lighthearted offering is in lieu of my annual Groundhog Day post that I missed yesterday! Thanks for kind words and added WWII tidbit ... this truly is a good cake!

Thank you, Carol. I'm sure you left with more carrot info than you probably ever wanted or needed to know. BTW - you can always nosh on a raw carrot when you pop over for a visit!

I don't think you were alone, Marnie. Most kids are turned off by the name. When I realized it was such a 'momentous' day, I was delighted to find my old recipe ... it's been a long time since I've made this yummy treat (plus I promised to bake this for an old friend for his birthday). I especially love this recipe 'cause it's loaded with more carrots than most, making it extra moist. Wish you were near to share a piece with me :)

Wow, thanks Kiki! And I always leave your site, spiritually fed.

Thanks, Lindalou! I would never tout this as being healthy, simply a dessert, maybe healthier than some :) I have substituted with part whole wheat flour, which is good. Have you ever tried the carrot cake at Whistle Stop (on S. Eton in Birmingham)? Different but almost as good as mine :)

Shady Gardener said...

Ohmygoodness, Joey! This post was almost more than I could handle because I LOVE a good slice of carrot cake! (Sneaky parents - putting carrots into cake! ha.) I'll be printing again... hopefully baking, too. :-)

beckie said...

Joey, such a fun and interesting post. Of course, loving carrot cake the way I do, I so enjoyed all the history of the cake and the carrot. It makes sense that it was used as a sweetener. I have always thought that's way carrots are so popular with kids(and adults!).

Wouldn't you love to see and taste some of those heirloom varieties- purple or scarlett carrots??!

joey said...

Hi Shady! Give this a try and let me know. Keep me posted if you ever get near!

Thanks Beckie and thanks for commenting on the tidbits! You can get full simply reading all this stuff :)

Meems said...

Carrot cake is my all time favorite. I bake my grandma's recipe which includes crushed pineapple. This was very interesting... I enjoyed all the information.

Kathryn/ said...

Is there any better combo than carrot cake and cream cheese frosting?? Thank you for this well researched history of carrot cake! Fascinating! Now curious about carrot pudding!

Anonymous said...

Joey...there's so much to learn from a post like this! Enjoyed reading up the details. I wasn't even aware it was native to Afghanistan. Fascinating info. And your photos and quotes are a treat too!

joey said...

You are not alone, Meems! I make one with pineapple too but this old favorite haunts me. Surprised to find all this info, I'm tempted to try the 1936 Carrot Torte recipe. If tasty, I'll post it again.

Hello dear Kathryn. Yes, carrot cake & cream cheese, a memorable taste treat! What do you like better ... the cake or frosting? Enjoyed your violet post.

Always a treat to hear from you, Kanak. Bless and thank you ~ a lot of details to read!

Erin @ The Impatient Gardener said...

Carrot cake is delicious, but let's all be honest: It's really just a vehicle for cream cheese frosting.

F Cameron said...

This was a great history lesson! I never knew any of this - WWII, Medieval, George Washington...

There is a restaurant nearby with a fabulous bakery that makes huge, rectangular carrot cakes!


D said...

Joey, my husband will not... will not! read this blog. lol He has never seen a carrot cake he has not liked. Beautiful moon shot!

joey said...

I hear you, Erin, and think you are not alone in that thought :)

Oh yes, lots of info here, Cameron! Who would have thought there was so much out there regarding carrot cake :)

Thanks, Di ~ wish you lived closer so we could share :)

Anonymous said...

National Carrot Cake Day sounds like just the thing! :) I'm keeping this recipe. :)

Chloe m said...

Another great cake will I resist? I like making these cakes on the weekend when my kids and husband can help me eat it otherwise I eat it all. :)
very good info about carrots, all I ever needed to learn about carrots, I learned it here. Seriously.

Gail said...

I love carrot cake..we served it at our informal marriage celebration...Thirty years ago this April. Hoping you have a wonderful weekend~gail

joey said...

Do hope you enjoy it, Nancy! For some reason, I think of carrot cake in early spring, around Easter. I have a CARROT PECAN COFFEE CAKE with PRALINE STREUSEL with wheat flour that is traditional for the holiday. It's posted if interested!

Thanks Rosey! You never know when you'll be called upon for info on carrots :) Enjoy the cake/kids/ and weekend!

joey said...

An enjoyable weekend wish for you too, Gail. Happy Early Anniversary wishes ... think of how lovely April will be when spring finally arrives.

Nutty Gnome said...

Oh I just adore carrot cake's up there with banana bread!

I never knew all that history about carrots - except for the WW2 propaganda about being good for your eyesight, to fool the Germans about radar! I remember our European history lessons only too well!

Have a great weekend :)

sweetbay said...

Very informative! Who cares whether carrot cake is a health food or not (lol), it's delicious!

joey said...

Always a joy, hi Nutty! Like you, I enjoy humor. This post ... a cross over ... yummy recipe/more trivia than needed! Enjoy the weekend and hoping you are feeling, top notch!

Agree, Sweet Bay ... enough said :)

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

I love carrot cake! My favorite wedding I ever attended had the main cake made of carrot cake! :)

joey said...

Was is Gail's wedding :) Just teasing, that's what she served! Happy 'unsnowy' weekend (we lucked out)