Carrot Cake, Vegetable Oil or Butter?

Going to make a carrot cake for the first time. As I look through available recipes, most call for a generic vegetable oil of some kind. I have to go back all the way back to my beloved James Beard’s American Cooking to reference a recipe for carrot cake that uses butter. Does anyone know why?

  • Posted by: Linn
  • January 17, 2013
  • 76976 views
  • 22 Comments

19 Comments

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bigpan
bigpan January 17, 2013

The oil makes it moist.

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HalfPint
HalfPint January 17, 2013

Butter can make carrot cake very heavy and dense. Oil makes carrot cake (most cakes really) lighter (i.e. fluffier).

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anged
anged January 17, 2013

Better with butter

WileyP
WileyP January 17, 2013

The recipe I use calls for 1/2 cup vegetable oil and 1/2 cup apple sauce. The cake ends up light and fluffy and moist.

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trampledbygeese
trampledbygeese January 17, 2013

I vote for butter as it makes a nicer flavour and I can't stand light, fluffy carrot cake. Carrot cake made with veg oil tastes like health food imitating yummy food.

Besides, carrot cake should be rich and dense, almost to the point of being a secret moist and naughty indulgence. It should make you feel pleasantly guilty for absconding with a slice for breakfast as you run out the door. It should be an amnesiac drug to make you forget that carrots have health benefits as well as making the cake sweet and sultry (because carrots are nothing if not sultry). That's what perfect carrot cake is to me, and in order to do all that, it needs butter, real butter.

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The Fiery Epicurean
The Fiery Epicurean January 17, 2013

I'm a huge unsalted butter fan, but oil is much better in carrot cake!

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ATG117
ATG117 January 18, 2013

Another vote for oil. Oil gives the cake moistness and it's often what's used in carrot, zucchini, and other quick breads.

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Voted the Best Reply!

boulangere
boulangere January 18, 2013

Carrot cake typically calls for oil rather than butter because in other cakes, a butter cake, for example, the way in which the soft butter and sugar are whipped together creates a nest of tiny pocket of air which help to leaven the cake. Carrot cake is more dense because of its many heavy ingredients, so this step is unnecessary, and would likely destabilize the cake, again because of all the weighty stuff in it. If you prefer the taste of butter, you can certainly substitute it, but melt it first so that you can treat it as you would oil.

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Linn
Linn January 20, 2013

Thank you all for such wonderfully informative and inspiring answers. Like so many issues of personal preference, it sounds like either one is a good choice. It just depends ...

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K_Squared
K_Squared January 21, 2013

In my experience, using butter in carrot cake really gives a more "cake-y" texture. Closer to pound cake, really. But oil results in a texture closer to moist bread (like banana bread?)

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Bevi
Bevi January 21, 2013

This is the carrot cake recipe I have used for decades, from The Bakery Lane Cookbook: Freeman Allen's Carrot Cake. Bakery Lane was a restaurant in Middlebury, VT, famous for this cake and other great baked goods. http://andbabycakesthree.blogspot.com/2011/09/perfect-birthday-cake-included.html

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Bevi
Bevi January 21, 2013

And it calls for vegetable oil....

THE BITTER CHEF
THE BITTER CHEF January 22, 2013

What? No love for olive oil? Once you go olive oil in carrot cake, you'll never go back.

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Linn
Linn January 24, 2013

Would olive oil work okay? Butter is tough to beat, but if I were to decide to give oil a try, olive would be my first choice. But let me ask you this, THE BITTER CHEF, have you actually tried making a carrot cake with olive oil?

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boulangere
boulangere January 24, 2013

I've not made carrot cake with olive oil, but yesterday made gingerbread with it, and it was divine. I'll never go back!

THE BITTER CHEF
THE BITTER CHEF January 24, 2013

Won't make carrot cake any other way. No need to use expensive extra-virgin. Every day olive oil does the trick. Now go make one. Now. It won't make itself.

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Linn
Linn January 26, 2013

I'll do it with olive oil! Need to work out my ratios first, but I am going to give it my best shot.

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Linn
Linn March 3, 2013

My thanks to The Bitter Chef. I have made two carrot cakes now both with olive oil and to my taste, it is right on.

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ChefManuela
ChefManuela March 3, 2013

We make it with Olive oil and almonts
Lemon sugar glazing
www.cooking-class-authentic-tuscany.com

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Linn
Linn March 5, 2013

I tried a lemon glaze and I was the only one who liked it. The people sitting at my table are used to the traditional cream cheese frosting. I appreciate you letting me know I am not alone.

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THE BITTER CHEF
THE BITTER CHEF March 5, 2013

Forget butter. Salted or unsalted. Skip vegetable oil. Don't go near applesauce. What? Why? What's up with applesauce? ... If you're going to make a carrot cake the way to go is olive oil. You don't know me, but trust me. Olive oil.

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caris
caris January 9, 2019

Can I put butter in instead of margarine

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