Carrot Cake Isn't Fluffy

My son is turning 1 in two weeks, and I wanted to make him a homemade birthday cake. He has some food intolerances/sensitivities, so store-bought cakes are iffy. I used the First Birthday Carrot Cake recipe from, following almost exactly from it (I pasted the recipe below). I only made changes due to circumstances: I used regular apple juice instead of concentrate because I couldn't find concentrate. And I wasn't able to get a smooth carrot puree; it was a little gritty. I did a run-through last night, just to make sure I get it right. It wasn't a huge disaster, but it did not turn out quite as expected.

Here are my issues:

1. The cake is still a little wet in the middle. I don't know if this cake was meant to moister for babies, but I baked it a little longer to cook it through, and now the outside of the cake is firmer, but the inside is still a little wet.

2. The cake did not rise -- only just slightly. So it's kind of solid and heavy. I was kind of expecting a fluffier, lighter cake.

Baby's First Birthday Cake (Carrot Cake)

Read about Eggs and Your Baby

(Makes 1 double-layer 9-inch square cake; adapted from "What to Expect")

2 1/2 cups thinly sliced carrots
2 1/2 cups apple juice concentrate (you may use slightly less)
1 1/2 cups raisins
Vegetable Spray/Shortening
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 whole eggs
4 egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 Tbsp low sodium baking powder
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon

Prep: Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two 9 inch square cake pans with waxed paper and spray the paper with vegetable spray/shortening.

1. Combine the carrots with 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the juice concentrate in a medium size saucepan.
2. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, until carrots are tender, 15 to 20 mins. Puree in a blender of food processor until smooth.
3. Add the raisins and process until finely chopped. Let mixture cool.
4. Combine the flour, wheat germ, baking powder, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Add 1 1/4 cups juice concentrate, the oil, eggs, egg whites, and vanilla; beat just until well mixed. Fold in the carrot puree and applesauce. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans.
5. Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 mins. Cool briefly in the pans, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely. When cool, frost with Cream Cheese Frosting below or sprinkle a wee bit of powdered sugar if desired.

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petitbleu May 19, 2013
I would agree with Droplet about the whole wheat flour. No matter what you do, whole wheat flour will make a cake heavy. Keep an eye out for whole wheat pastry flour, though--it's lighter than regular whole wheat flour but still has that "good for you" factor. I've had great success using it in many baking recipes.
MissChristina May 20, 2013
Thanks for the tip!
MissChristina May 19, 2013
Thanks for the suggestions everyone! I'll take everything into consideration. The reason why I wanted to stick with the recipe I used is because it didn't include salt, and there's no sugar -- it was sweetened using applesauce and apple juice. The Smitten Kitchen recipe doesn't seem to be for babies, but maybe I'll tweak it and give it a shot. Thanks again for responding!
Droplet May 19, 2013
If you choose to stick with this recipe (which somehow doesn't sound like a very balanced one),in order to get a fluffier cake I'd suggest you use all purpose flour instead of the whole wheat (the wheat germ would still make it healthy. Separate your eggs and whip the whites, then fold them in at the very end.
jamcook May 19, 2013
I would use the smitten Kitchen recipe too.. A known and successful recipe from a known and successful baker
boulangere May 19, 2013
It's curious that there is no baking soda in the list of ingredients. Adding some will leaven the cake a bit more, but what it really contributes is that lovely deep color that carrot cake typically has because the soda encourages deeper browning of the carbohydrates. Add 2 teaspoons of baking soda the next time you make the cake. As Monita mentioned, be sure to cook the carrots until they are really, really tender before you purée them. It's usually in baking cakes that people discover that their oven thermostats aren't perfectly accurate. If you don't have one, they're inexpensive, and will give you useful information about how much you may need to increase/decrease your baking temps. Incidentally, how smart of you to take it for a test drive before the big day!
Lindsay-Jean H. May 19, 2013
I used Smitten Kitchen's carrot cake recipe for my daughter's first birthday cake, and it was great. The carrots are really finely grated, so it's a nice soft cake. There's obviously more sugar in it than the recipe you're using, but you could always cut it back.
MissChristina May 19, 2013
Yes, I finely grated my carrots too, but I must not have cooked them long enough because it didn't puree as nicely as when I'm making homemade carrot baby food... which I thought was weird. Taht's why I thought it might have something to do with the middle not being cooked all the way through. But I'll give the Smitten Kitchen recipe a try, and tweak it! Thanks for the suggestion!
jamcook May 19, 2013
The cake would be more watery with the juice rather than the concentrate. Also the ingredients seem pretty standard, so maybe try another recipe if your son is not sensitive to the ingredients.
MissChristina May 19, 2013
Thanks! I suspected it might be the regular juice too... so I'll try to find the concentrate and bake this again. Thanks!
Monita May 19, 2013
Did you use 9" square pans? Rising could have been affected if your pans were smaller and the batter was near the top of the pan.
Carrot cake isn't a very light fluffy kind of cake. It's usually pretty dense. The gritty texture may have come from not cooking the carrots enough so they turned very tender and completely pureed. Does the inside of the cake taste "uncooked" if it tastes baked but is moist, that's ok.
MissChristina May 19, 2013
Thanks for the suggestions! I think you're right about the pan size -- I used a 6" round pan, and put some into cupcake wrappers. They both were soggy in the middle. It does not taste "uncooked" but wetter than I expected. I just baked a new cake this morning, using a 9" round pan, with the remaining batter that was left sitting on the counter overnight (I had planned to just toss it, but my partner thought we should try using it). I just took it out of the oven, and it's still wet in the center, but I'll let it cool completely before cutting it up to see... Thanks again!
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