The orange flakes of cut carrot give the cake color and texture, along with sweetness and moisture.
Carrot cake may be eaten plain, but it is commonly either glazed or covered with white icing or cream cheese icing and walnuts, often cut. Often they are decorated with frosting or marzipan made to look like carrots. They are popular in loaf, sheet cake and cupcake form, and (in the United Kingdom as well as North America) can be found pre-packaged at grocery stores, and fresh at bakeries.
The origins of carrot cake are disputed.
Published in 1591, there is an English recipe for “pudding in a Carret(sic) root” that is essentially a stuffed carrot with meat, but it includes many elements common to the modern dessert: shortening, cream, eggs, raisins, sweetener (dates and sugar), spices (clove and mace), scraped carrot, and breadcrumbs (in place of flour).
Many food historians believe carrot cake originated from such carrot puddings eaten by Europeans in the Middle Ages, when sugar and sweeteners were expensive and many people used carrots as a substitute for sugar. Variations of the carrot pudding evolved to include baking with a crust (as pumpkin pie), steamed with a sauce, or molded in pans (as plum pudding) with icing.
In volume two of “L’art du cuisinier” (1814), Antoine Beauvilliers, former chef to Louis XVI, included a recipe for a “Gâteau de Carottes”, which was popular enough to be copied verbatim in competitors’ cookbooks. In 1824, Beauvilliers had published in London an English version of his cookbook which includes a recipe for “Carrot Cakes” in a literal translation of his earlier recipe.
Another 19th-century recipe comes from the housekeeping school of Kaiseraugst (Canton of Aargau, Switzerland). According to the Culinary Heritage of Switzerland, it is one of the most popular cakes in Switzerland, especially for the birthdays of children.
The popularity of carrot cake was revived in the United Kingdom because of rationing during the Second World War.
The explosion in popularity of carrot cake — an iced spice cake that uses carrots in the mixture — can be attributed to the dieting craze of the 1970s.
Today, it is one of America’s favorite cakes.
Carrot cake does contain healthy ingredients, such as carrots and nuts, but it is also loaded with fat and sugar. Depending on the size of the cake, your piece could be anywhere between 300-600 calories.
The largest carrot cake weighs 2,075 kg (4,574 lb) and was achieved by Guildford Town Centre and Saint Germain Bakery (both Canada) in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada on 8 November 2016. The recipe included raisins, coconut, pineapple, and 460 kg (1,014 lb) of shredded carrots.
National Carrot Cake Day is celebrated on February 3 of every year.
The word “carrot” comes from the Greek word “karoton.” The beta-carotene that is found in carrots was actually named for the carrot itself. The word carrot is first recorded in English in a 1538 book of herbs.
The Oxford English Dictionary traces the English word “cake” back to the 13th century. It is a derivation of “kaka“ an Old Norse word.