This recipe and photography was provided courtesy of local cookbook author and chef, Carla Snyder. Learn more about Carla and discover her recipes at Ravenouskitchen.com.
The first carrot cake I ever baked was back in 1983. Gourmet Magazine featured an adorable 2-layer carrot cake with marzipan bunnies and bright orange marzipan carrots. “This is the cake I will make for my daughter Jessica’s 5th birthday,” I said.
It was July and we had no air conditioning. I lovingly shaped the rabbits from marzipan and painted them with cocoa powder paint. I mixed green food coloring into some of the marzipan and pushed it through a garlic press to make grass. The cake rose beautifully and the cream cheese frosting was amazing.
Did I mention it was 90 degrees outside? While adding the candles, the top layer of the cake partially slid off in the heat, so it was a little lopsided, but still okay. The kids didn’t mind. We lit the candles, blew them out and one of the kids asked what kind of cake it was. I said, “Carrot!” All the kids went “Ewwwwwww,” and not one of them ate even a bite of my creation.
It was so delicious, though. Raisins and walnuts with sweet carrots and a touch of orange zest – this was a cake to love. Over time, my kids forgot about the carrots and just enjoyed the cake. I was vindicated in the end and carrot became the new darling birthday cake at our house. It’s not often that we need a great big cake these days. We are more likely to want a bit of something sweet to satisfy that afternoon coffee break and don’t want a large cake that will lure us to the fridge for days and days of sinful bites. How about a smaller carrot cake loaf? It’s the perfect size to serve company and then enjoy with a cup of coffee the next day.
Wherever you stand on raisins and walnuts in carrot cake, I am wholeheartedly a fan of them. If you are not… leave them out. I direct you to soak the raisins as it makes them blend right into the cake as flecks of sweetness. Be sure to finely chop the walnuts as this will keep them from being too crunchy. The carrots are the main event in the way of ingredients, anyway. I may be crazy, but I think that organic carrots are generally sweeter than conventional carrots. However, even though they are the easiest to grate, avoid those giant carrots in the produce bin as they’re a little on the woody side. A food processor can make short work on the grating, but I find it easier to use a box grater and just rinse it off. I’d rather not have to wash and dry the bowl, lid and blade of my food processor, but that’s just me.
I added cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg to this loaf and think the spicing is just right. With only 1 cup of sugar, this loaf isn’t super sweet and the 1/2 cup oil keeps it moist but not oily. There’s a delicate balance and this cake hits that sweet spot.
The honey-glazed carrot ribbons on top are pretty and bright. If you’re thinking about skipping the carrots, I won’t be mad at you, but it only takes a minute to sauté the ribbons in honey and butter. The resulting orange streamers are a show stopper and especially pretty on the white cream cheese frosting. Yum.
This carrot cake loaf should definitely be on the menu at your house for the holidays. It makes a lovely hostess gift and is perfect for sharing with workmates. Just don’t tell the kids there’s carrots in it.
Carrot Cake Loaf
Start-to-Finish: 2 hours 30 minutes
Hands-on Time: 30 minutes
For the Carrot Cake Loaf
- 8 oz. carrots
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1 teaspoon, plus 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 large eggs
- Zest of 1 orange
For the Cream Cheese Glaze
- 2 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups powdered sugar
For the Glazed Carrot Topping
- 1 large carrot
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Peel and grate the carrots into a medium bowl. You should have about 2 cups. Set aside.
- Soak the raisins in hot water to cover for at least 15 minutes and up to 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry with a paper towel.
- Finely chop the walnuts.
- Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan with the teaspoon of oil and line it with parchment paper overlapping the sides to make it easy to pull from the pan once baked.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Stir in the carrots, drained raisins and walnuts with a big spoon to blend. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the 1/2 cup vegetable oil with the sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, eggs and zest. Beat on medium speed until well mixed, about 2 minutes. Stir in the carrot mixture and mix just until well blended. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool on a rack for 30 minutes, then lift the loaf from the pan using the parchment paper and cool completely on a rack.
- To make the glaze, combine the cream cheese, milk and vanilla in a medium bowl and stir together with a fork. Stir in the confectioner’s sugar until it forms a thick glaze. Spread the glaze over the cooled loaf.
- To make the carrot topping, peel and shave the carrots with the peeler to make carrot ribbons.
- Heat a medium-size skillet over medium-high heat and add the butter and honey. When the butter is hot, stir in the carrots and toss them in the pan until glazed and tender, about 3 minutes. Cool on paper towels.
- Top the carrot cake loaf with the carrot ribbons before serving. Cover and refrigerate leftovers.