Carrot Cake – its History, and Carrot Museum Curator’s Favourite Recipe

Today, apparently, is National Carrot Cake Day! It’s impossible to say who decides these things, and which nations are included in the celebrations, so Saucy Dressings, being of an international turn of mind is joining in regardless.

Carrots (like that other root vegetable, sugar beet) have long represented a cheap and easily grown alternative to sugar. A type of cake (‘cake’ being a word with Viking antecedents) using carrots as a sweetener has existed in form or another across northern Europe since medieval times. For a full history of carrot cake, go to John Stolarczyk’s virtual Museum of Carrots.

For the fascinating story of how John set up the Museum of Carrots go to his Saucy Dressings guest contributor post here.

John has also generously provided his expert, many-times-tested, recipe for carrot cake, which appears below.

Carrot Museum Curator’s Favourite Carrot Cake Recipe

This combination may sound a little strange, but putting a banana in the carrot cake gives a lovely moist sponge. The banana also makes the texture slightly more dense rather than light and springy.

Serves 8

Ingredients FOR THE CAKE

  • • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • • 275g (10oz) caster sugar
  • • 250ml (9fl oz) sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing
  • • 275g (10oz) self-raising flour
  • • 2 tsp baking powder
  • • 2 small ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (about 200g/7oz)
  • • 2 medium carrots (150g/5oz), peeled and coarsely grated

Ingredients FOR THE ICING

  • • 280g (10oz) full-fat cream cheese
  • • 150g (5oz) butter, softened
  • • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • • 250g (9oz) icing sugar, sifted


1 You will need two 20cm (8in) round sandwich tins. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4, then grease the tins with sunflower oil and line the bases with baking paper.

2 Make the cake. Place the eggs, caster sugar and sunflower oil in a bowl and beat until just combined. Measure the remaining cake ingredients into the same bowl and beat together well. Divide the mixture evenly between the tins and smooth the tops.

3 Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until golden, firm in the middle and shrinking away from the sides of the tins. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the tins and leave to cool on a wire rack.

4 Meanwhile, make the icing. Whisk the cream cheese and butter together in a bowl, either by hand or using an electric hand whisk. Add the vanilla extract and icing sugar and whisk again until smooth.

5 Once the sponges are cold, use half the icing to sandwich them together. Sit the cake on a plate and use the remaining icing to cover the top in a pretty swirl. Place in the fridge to chill for at least an hour and then cut into wedges to serve.

TO PREPARE AHEAD The cake can be made and iced up to a day ahead.

FREEZE The sponges freeze well without the icing.

John’s Tip – Coarsely grate the carrots; if they are finely grated, too much water comes out of them during cooking and results in a wet cake. The icing is fairly soft but will firm up once chilled.

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