History of Carrot Cake

World Carrot Museum - carrots  logo

History Wild Carrot Today Nutrition Cultivation Recipes Trivia Links Home Contact


Carrot Cake History 

Origin of carrot cake (also pudding)  (more on carrot puddings history here) (world records)

Cake is a term with a long history, the word is of Viking origin from the old Norse - "Kaka". Cake denotes a baked flour confection sweetened with sugar and honey; it iscarrot cake mixed with eggs and often, but not invariably, with milk and fat and it has a porous texture from the mixture rising during cooking. The distinctions between bread, bun and biscuit are blurred as techniques for baking and leavening developed and eating patterns changed.  Some Roman breads were enriched with eggs and butter and much have reached a cake-like consistency although still named as breads.

According to food historians, our modern carrot cake most likely descended from Medieval carrot puddings enjoyed by people in Europe. No one really knows where carrot cake came from, It looks like it did evolve from the Carrot Pudding of medieval times, during the middle ages sugar and other sweeteners were difficult or expensive to come by in Britain and carrots had long been used as sugar substitutes. Carrot Pudding history here.

Carrot cake and its precursors took several forms including baked in pastry, like pumpkin pie steamed and served with sauce, like plum pudding baked in pans and served with icing, like cake

I can find recipes for carrot pudding as far back as 1591 A Booke of Cookrye, John Evelyn's 'Discourse of Sallets' in 1699,  Receipts (recipes) of Pastry and Cookery For the Use of his Scholars, By Ed. Kidder (1720-1740) and Hannah Glasse's 'Art of Cookery' of 1747, but no reference to carrot cake until the 19th century:

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 is quite close to the carrot cakes of today.

"George Washington's carrot tea cake

 2 cups all-purpose flour 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon 2 tsp baking soda 1 tsp salt 3/4 cup canola oil 2 cups sugar 4 eggs 2 cups grated carrots

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a Bundt pan with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, combine the oil, sugar, eggs and carrots, and mix well. Add the flour mixture and stir until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a tester comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool in the pan 2 minutes, then turn the cake out onto a rack to finish cooling."


Carrot Cake Recipes Through the Ages 

The Art of French Cookery, 1827, A B Beauvilliers.The Cook's Dictionary, 1830, Richard Dolby

Top right recipe also appeared in "The Household Encyclopedia",1858, By An association of heads of families and men of science.

German national cookery for American kitchens, Henrietta  Davidis,1904, included a recipe for Mohrentorte.

See Carrot Pudding recipes through the ages here - carrot puddings.

I believe there is confusion because the term "cake" is fairly recent, probably 13th C and it could be that many puddings were in fact cakes - solid pudding.  
 

"Acetaria: A Discourse of Sallets" - John Evelyn 1699

"26. Pudding of Carrot. Pare off some of the Crust of Manchet-Bread, and grate of half as much of the rest as there is of the Root, which must also be grated: Then take half a Pint of fresh Cream or New Milk, half a Pound of fresh Butter, six new laid Eggs (taking out three of the Whites) mash and mingle them well with the Cream and Butter: Then put in the grated Bread and Carrot, with near half a Pound of Sugar; and a little Salt; some grated Nutmeg and beaten Spice; and pour all into a convenient Dish or Pan, butter'd, to keep the Ingredients from sticking and burning; set it in a quick Oven for about an Hour, and so have you a Composition for any Root-Pudding."

The Food timeline gives a lot more here.

A few Americans claim to have "invented" carrot cake in the early 20thC using recipes from "back home" - Germany, Russia, Poland etc. My mother was Polish and recalls her grandma teaching her about adding carrots (and other stuff, base on availability) to cakes. So I suspect the eastern Europeans have had it from the 19thC at least. Of course country folk passed on these recipes through word of mouth so documentary evidence is sketchy.

According to Gil Marks in the “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food”, the first appearance of the term “carrot cake” in an American source came from “The Neighborhood Cook Book” by the council of Jewish Women, published in Portland, Oregon in 1912 -
 

Carrot Cake From the Neighborhood Cook Book by the council of Jewish Women, Portland, Oregon

 One-half pound sugar, one-half pound almonds, blanched and chopped, one-half pound carrots, boiled only till they can be grated, juice and grated rind of one lemon, four eggs. Cream the yolks and sugar; whites beaten to snow, added last; add three or four bitter almonds; beat for one half hour before adding whites of eggs. Butter spring form and sprinkle with grated zweibach. Bake in a moderate oven one and one-quarter hours, till loosed from pan.

The Germans have a long tradition of cakes, torts etc and I would guess that would be a likely origin. If anyone knows more do contact the curator. click here

When did the cream cheese icing appear? The earliest American print references to frosting carrot cake with cream cheese are from 1960's:  Some eastern European cultures, have cream cheese cakes and it could well have developed from this, and a lot earlier.

Mary Berry's Carrot and Banana Cake recipe.


Another variation - Carrot Pancakes

Carrot cake pancake recipe

Yields 14-16

Ingredients: •1-1/2 cups flour •1/3 cup brown sugar •1/2 teaspoon salt •1 teaspoon baking powder •1 teaspoon baking soda •1 teaspoon cinnamon •1/2 teaspoon nutmeg •1/4 teaspoon ground ginger •2 eggs •1-1/2 cups whole milk •3 tablespoons melted butter •1 teaspoon vanilla •2 large carrots, peeled, grated and pressed between stacks of paper towels •1/2 cup raisins •1/2 cup walnuts

Directions: 1.Preheat a grilled or large skillet, spray with cooking spray. 2.In a large bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and ground ginger. 3.In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, whole milk, melted butter and vanilla. 4.Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined. 5.Stir in the carrots, raisins and walnuts. 6.Pour 1/4 cup batter onto a hot griddle. 7.Cook until the edges start to look dry, and the underside is golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side until cooked through.

Chinese New Year white carrot "cake"

Makes one 9x2 inch round cake

1.5 kg (about 3 big ones) WHITE carrots (ONLY WHITE carrots give the right taste!) 300g rice flour (may use all-purpose flour, but never tried it though) 25 Chinese dried mushrooms, soaked overnight in water 10 dried scallops, soaked to soften overnight --OR-- 6 Chinese sausages, chopped into small pieces **a handful of dried shrimps, soaked overnight (OPTIONAL) 8g five spices powder 2 tsp salt 1/2 tsp chicken powder 1 tbsp white pepper 2 slices of ginger 2 tbsp oil 1 tbsp oil

(NB: all the above dried seafood (eg. Chinese mushroom, shrimps, scallops and Chinese sausages can be found in Chinese seafood stores, in Chinatown definitely)

(1) if using scallops, spread the soaked scallops into shreds. (if using Chinese sausages instead, chop into small pieces)

(2) Chop all soaked, softened and drained mushrooms, Chinese sausages, shrimps (if using) into small pieces. set aside.

(3) shred white carrots, set aside. (Shredding is the part which takes most of the time)

(4) Heat wok [or a large skillet] HOT with 2 tbsp oil. Fry chopped mushrooms, sausages, shrimps or/and scallops shreds for 1/2 min. Dish up and set aside.

(5) Add 1 more tbsp oil, fry ginger a bit. Then add shredded carrots, toss constantly for about 3 mins. (DON'T REMOVE ANY WATER left)

(6) Add spice, salt, chicken powder, white pepper, toss until evenly distributed.

(7) TURN OFF HEAT. Add rice flour on top, now use a chopsticks to toss and mix flour evenly with carrots (about 2 mins).

(8) Remove carrots flour mixture onto a greased 9x2 inch deep round cake pan.

(9) Clean wok or large skillet, boil a wok/skillet of water. Steam the pan of carrots on a round wire rack on LOW-HEAT/FIRE for 45 mins. (can use a large bamboo steamer if u have)

(10) Slice into pieces and serve hot!! OR cool on wire rack before covering with plastic firm and put in fridge.

HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR! "Kung Hei Fat Choi"!

History Wild Carrot Today Nutrition Cultivation Recipes Trivia Links Home Contact

SITE SEARCH

 

Back to Trivia 2