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Adrien’s Birthday Cake

June 23, 2011

Carrot cake is very common in the United States.  In Europe, I have found that mentioning the combination of words ‘carrot-cake’ exerts a doubtful yet curious expression on many Europeans, especially the non-Northern types.  It appears that the origins of this vegetable root cake are North-European.  It is documented that carrots along with beets were a good source of sugar when sugar was scarce during the Middle Ages in Europe.  So the story goes, according to food historians, carrots were used to make a cake for the first time in the Swedish town of Göteborg.  Several centuries later, carrot cake became a common baking alternative in Britain during WWII mainly because of the food rationing introduced by the UK government as a way to deal with the food shortage.  It is said that the country relied on imports for something like 70% of its sugar consumption in those times and the average person was entitled to less than 250g of sugar per week.

One could joke and draw a parallel between those times and our post-financial fiasco days but this won’t entirely be true.  Carrots are cheap but walnuts are not, especially here in Belgium.  We don’t have rationing introduced (yet!) but food prices are on the rise, and have been for a while now, affecting the lowest economic segment of the population more than ever.  At the same time, artisanal products at local bakeries or organic farms are restricted to the upper niche of consumers who might have a higher environmental awareness and more sophisticated taste, but which they can also afford to have.  So strangely enough, carrot cake may be a little more unique and luxurious nowadays than during the Middle Ages.  Disregarding its socioeconomic and historical position, I opted to make this cake for a birthday gift mainly for: 1) its personalized approach since it is homemade; 2) special taste created by the carrots; and 3) my friend’s partner who is vegetarian and appreciates any vegetables, so I am adding healthful to the list as well.



  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup veggie oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups carrots (grated)
  • 1 cup walnuts (chopped)

Pre-heat your oven to 180C/250F and grease pan with butter.  Beat sugar, oil and eggs in a bowl until blended.  Add remaining dry ingredients.  Finally stir in the carrots and nuts (optional).  Bake +/- 50 mins or until cake firms up in the center.  Thank you, Betty Crocker!


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 egg whites
  • 370g butter (softened)
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Prepare a pot of water, let the water boil and reduce heat.  In a large metal bowl, whisk egg whites and sugar, holding the bowl over the pot of water (bottom of metal bowl should be submerged in the simmering water).  When sugar has dissolved, remove from heat and whip with an electric mixer until doubled in size.  Add vanilla, then butter in increments, and whip until white and creamy.


  • cake round
  • cream frosting
  • shaved carrot pieces
  • chopped walnuts

Step #1:

Slice round cake horizontally across the center in two halves.  Even cake top or sides if misshaped.

Step #2:

Fill and frost the cake.  Spread a layer of cream in the center of bottom layer of cake and place second half on top.  Frost twice like in wall painting – the first layer is the initial one to secure that crumbs are cemented in place and won’t mix in with the outer frosting; the second layer allows for a smoother cover.  Frost sides and top carefully and as generously as your cream amount affords but don’t obsess with trying to obtain a perfectly glossy frosting.  Beauty is in the imperfections!  After all, you want your cake to look like it’s made by hand and not by a machine.

Step #3:

Decorate the top by sprinkling with walnut pieces/powder all over the cake top and a few of the shaved carrot slices in the center.


Useful tips: If you want the cake to feel firmer and more solid when cutting it, refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving.  To make cutting easier, dip a straight-blade knife in a glass of water after each slicing. 




From → American, Seasonal, Sweets

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