Carrots improve your eyesight. Right?
Therefore, if you are going to have a sweet, decadent dessert, you are somewhat forgiven for eating carrot cake. It’s a health food, for heaven’s sake!
This line of argument works for me.
If carrot desserts seem odd to you, know that carrots have long been used as a sweetener by cooks. Since carrots have more sugar than any vegetable other than the sugar beet, it makes sense that cooks use carrots to sweeten desserts.
And, it has been going on for a very long time.
According to The Carrot Museum (Yes. There is a carrot museum. www.carrotmuseum.com), carrot desserts originated during the Middle Ages when carrots were used in puddings because other sweeteners were expensive and scarce.
No culinary slouches, American cooks have long used carrots in dessert cooking, too. George Washington is reported to have been served a carrot tea cake at Faunces Tavern in 1783 and carrot cakes and other desserts have appeared regularly in American cookbooks throughout our history. In more modern times, carrots were a particularly popular sugar substitute in the United States during WWII. So much so that, after the war, there was a glut of canned carrots, Some food historians maintain that that glut led a wily entrepreneur named George C. Page to conduct a contest to identify recipes that could incorporate carrots. The modern-day carrot cake with cream cheese frosting was a result of that contest. (Thank you, Mr. Page!)
Being dedicated history buffs, you’re probably asking yourself where carrots originated and how the modern carrot evolved?
Carrots are believed to have originated in the Middle East and were originally yellow and purple. There are historical records indicating that carrots were cultivated in Afghanistan and/or Turkey as early as 900 A.D. but it is believed that people used wild carrots for medicine and food long before that time. Here is what is believed to be a carrot representation from the wall of an Egyptian tomb. The tomb painting would indicate that, at least in the case of carrots, you can, indeed, take it with you.
Over these many years, hybridizers have worked to improve the vegetable. As carrot cultivation spread to the East, growers in India and Japan developed a red-colored carrot, rich in lycopene. In western cultivation, the yellow/orange carrot was more popular and is believed to have roots (sorry for the pun) in 17th century Holland. Dutch hybridizers worked with various carrot mutations to produce a bright orange carrot, perhaps as a tip-of-the-hat to the ruling family, the House of Orange. The new Dutch carrot was sweeter than other commonly-available carrots, and, once the Dutch crop could be reliably cultivated, the orange Dutch carrots took over the western market and have dominated the carrot market ever since..
Here is a 17th century Dutch painting of a carrot vendor that, at least to my mind, leaves little doubt that the Dutch carrot was venerated by “foodies” of that period. Are those carrots beautiful or what?
Today, if you look carefully in your local farmers market, you should be able to find different varieties of carrots. My local market carries what I think are spectacular white carrots. I love to incorporate them into soups. Trader Joe’s, I’ve noticed, often carries packages of mixed-colored carrots.
Here is a recipe for a decadent carrot cake “stuffed” with cream cheese and frosted with orange-flavored cream cheese. I’m enjoying a piece of this cake as I write this. Complemented with a hot cup of tea, I can assure you that the cake is very, very good
This recipe serves twelve to fourteen guests.
I’m still trying to figure out how I am going to eat all of this cake. Can you come over?
This recipe is adapted from one that originally appeared on the food site carlsbadcravings.com. A link to the original recipe appears at the end of this post.
Ingredients: Cream Cheese Stuffed Carrot Cake with Orange Glaze
2 1/2 C. peeled and shredded carrots
2 C. all purpose flour
1 1/2 C. granulated sugar
1/2 C. light brown sugar (packed)
1 C. pecans (finely chopped in a food processor)
2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 T. plus 1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. allspice
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
4 large eggs
3/4 C. vegetable oil
1/2 C. vanilla Greek Yogurt
1 t. vanilla extract
2 t. orange extract
Cream Cheese Filling
8 oz. full fat cream cheese (room temperature)
1/2 C. granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 t. lemon juice
1/2 t. vanilla extract
3 T. all purpose flour
Orange Cream Cheese Glaze
4 oz. cream cheese (room temperature)
2 T. butter (softened)
2 T. orange juice
2 t. lemon juice
1 t. orange extract
1/2 t. vanilla extract
2 C. powdered sugar (sifted)
Optional Decorative Garnishes
roasted pecans (chopped)
roughly chopped orange zest
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Peel and grate 2 1/2 C. bright orange carrots.
Butter and flour a large bundt pan. Be sure to butter the pan liberally, so that your cake won’t stick. Set aside.
Prepare cream cheese filling by beating cream cheese and sugar in your mixer until it is light and creamy. Add remaining filling ingredients and mix until smooth. Set aside.
Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and stir in remaining wet ingredients until the mixture is just combined. Be careful not to over mix.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until the mixture is moistened. Once this happens, stir in the 2 1/2 C. grated carrots.
Carefully spoon 3 cups of the batter into your bundt pan. Spoon cream cheese filling over the batter. Try not to allow the cream cheese filling to touch the sides of the bundt pan. Next, spoon the remaining cake batter over the cream cheese filling layer.
Bake at 350 degrees F. on the middle shelf in your oven for 45 minutes. At the 45 minute mark, lower the heat to 325 degrees F. and put a sheet of aluminum foil over the cake pan. (The batter will have risen towards the top of your bundt pan by this point in the cooking.) Bake for another 25-30 minutes until the cake is done. Test for doneness by sticking a wooden skewer into the middle of the cake. If the skewer comes out clean, the cake is done. Remove cake from oven and let it cool. Once it is cool, invert the cake onto a cooling rack and continue to cool. (If the cake doesn’t easily release from the pan when you invert the pan over the rack, run a paring knife around the edge of the pan to ease the cake out of the pan. If you do have problems with a small part of the cake sticking, keep in mind that the glaze will cover a lot of the irregular parts of the cake.)
Prepare the orange cream cheese glaze. Mix all ingredients together except the powdered sugar in your mixer on medium speed until well mixed and smooth. Add the powdered sugar and beat until the mixture is completely mixed and smooth. Drizzle the glaze over the cake when the cake is completely cooled.
Decorate cake with roasted and chopped pecans and grated orange zest.
Serve immediately. Refrigerate the remainder of the cake. The original recipe says that the cake will keep in the refrigerator for up to seven days. Seven days of indulgence!
Here is the link to the original recipe: