Sometimes I wonder how certain vegetables have been inducted into the Hall of Acceptable Dessert Ingredients while others stand dolefully outside the gates. Carrots and zucchini, for example, are somehow perfectly admissible in cakes and quick breads, whereas mushrooms and eggplant are not. (Then again, I can’t imagine requesting a mushroom cake for my birthday–can you? If you said yes, I’m not sure we can be friends…) I suppose with carrots, it’s their innate sweetness that makes them fit alongside butter, sugar, and flour in a cake. For zucchini, I have to dig deep. Maybe some zucchini farmer had a bumper crop and made a convincing sales pitch for grating it up and putting it in bread. And here we are in the 21st century with a National Zucchini Day on the books. (April 25th, if you were wondering.) This zucchini farmer must have been one smoooooth operator.
Although I’ve never really gotten used to the idea of zucchini in a sweet package, every year my husband requests carrot cake for his birthday and I am happy to oblige. There *may* have been a year or two when I made a box mix while he was at work and passed it off as homemade. But no longer! Now that I have my chopaholic food processor, grating 3 cups of carrots in a matter of minutes takes a major chunk of the work out of making carrot cake from scratch. (It also nearly took a major chunk out of my hand before I located the pusher that had gone missing.)
This particular recipe has been a success for me in the past, so for my husband’s birthday yesterday, I tried it again. It totally passed the test–light but moist with a hint of cinnamon sweetness and the perfect amount of rich tang in the cream cheese frosting. Definitely a winner even for those who (like me) remain somewhat skeptical about vegetables in dessert.
Just don’t ask me to try carrot pie. That’s taking the idea entirely too far.
(Adapted from Allrecipes.com)
For the cake:
3/4 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. applesauce
1 3/4 c. white sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 c. grated carrots
For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. butter, softened
4 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3 Tbsp. milk
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch cake pans.
2. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, vegetable oil, applesauce, sugar, and vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Stir in carrots. Pour into prepared pans.
3. Bake in preheated oven 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool at least ten minutes in the pan, then carefully remove to a cooling rack to finish cooling.*
4. To make the frosting: in a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Add milk a little at a time and mix until frosting consistency is to your liking. Frost cake as desired when it has cooled completely.
*If you’d like to make the cake ahead of time and frost later, here’s an awesome hack: spray the inside of two freezer bags with cooking spray and place one cake layer in each. No losing the top of the cake to sticky plastic wrap!