The subject of cakes prompts many questions. Two of the most popular are:
- Did King Alfred really burn the cakes? School children still learn the story of the burnt cakes but it is now thought they were loaves of bread.
- Did Queen Marie Antoinette actually say “Let them eat cake”? Again, probably not, as historians now believe the phrase is more likely to have originated 100 years earlier with Marie-Thérèse, wife of King Louis XIV.
But putting history aside, today’s big cake question (not a burning question) is:
- Why carrot cake? Vegetables in cake, what’s all that about?
The most likely reason is to do with the sweetness of carrots. Apart from sugar beet, carrots are one of the sweetest vegetables. In medieval times, across northern Europe, carrots were often used to sweeten baking when honey was unavailable or too expensive. Carrot pudding was a favourite sweet dish and it is thought that carrot cake originated by extending the idea to sweetening bread with carrots. Bakers realised the flavour worked rather well and the first recorded carrot cake recipes were published in 19th century cook books.
In the UK, the big revival for carrot cake came as a result of sugar rationing in the Second World War. In the postwar years, although sugar became plentiful again, carrot cake was never forgotten and in the last 20 years the novelty of incorporating a delicious vitamin-rich, healthy vegetable has appealed to a whole new generation of cake lovers. The carrots help keep the cake moist whilst providing a hint of a crunchy texture. With the addition of spices and a creamy frosting, carrot cake has evolved into one of the nation’s favourites. Our carrot cake contains 26% carrot. Some bakeries use dried carrot, but we only use wholesome fresh carrots sourced from local farmers.
One of our younger aficionados (still at primary school) told us that our carrot cake is her favourite and it’s so good it must be what angels eat. We liked that thought and now we call our recipe ‘Angelic Carrot Cake’. And here’s a final thought:
“A party without a cake is just a meeting”. Julia Child (American TV chef)