21 Years of Carrot Cake

April 26, 2011
5 Ratings
Photo by Lindsay-Jean Hard
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

During times of inordinate stress, pressure, or change, I find that more than any amount of yoga or breathing, the best meditative practice is simply the act of remembering. Remembering is an act of the heart. It gathers the images and energy of the people we associate with the past experience, and we cannot help to feel a pang of gratitude that we were there to share that specific moment in time together. It’s a practice we can do anywhere, anytime. Driving home from work, checking out books from the library, making the bed… you get the idea. We bring these memories into focus and suddenly the many worries and preoccupations of our day fade to the background. The wisdom of friends, family, and strangers who occupy these memories should remind us that the love and admiration we feel for them is reciprocal—they love and believe in us just the same.

Some of the most powerful memories we can access, especially during times of self-doubt or criticism, are the ones of our younger and enthusiastic selves. As children, we were not buried deep in worry, restraint, or stress. Our full-time jobs were to explore a world in its limitless intricacies. We were constantly seeking, questioning, creating, laughing, and enjoying.

When I think of myself at three or four years old I see a little girl who was uninhibited, and free. She beamed with light and exuberance and felt blissfully content to be who she was. The words “you can’t” were not in her vocabulary yet and she was assured that the entire world was at her fingertips.

I remember that girl. She was amazing. I remember her smile, her confidence, and certainty. But then I realize… hey, that girl is me! That same spirit and lightheartedness still lives inside of me. I can still be free like her; and so can you. We should remember the energy and lightness of our childhood and give ourselves permission to cultivate it in our seemingly constrained lives. Conjuring the memory of such a lightness and warmth can even be enough to push you up the hill on a hard day.

Carrot cake is a dessert that brings together the best memories of my both my childhood and of my mother. All twenty-one of my birthdays (which is actually in December) have been celebrated with an original carrot cake recipe that she has saved from the 80s. When I emailed her asking for the recipe last week I think she was probably expecting me to completely transform it into a fat-free sugar-free relative. But I couldn’t—memories associated with this keepsake are of an auspicious nature, and I needed to (mostly) maintain its integrity if for no one's sake but my own. A few tweaks to the icing and oils, but otherwise pretty darn accurate. For me, carrot cake celebrates life, love, remembrance, and the many more memories to be made in the future.

I will always remember the way my Mom made this cake for my Birthday. Her love, her compassion, her strength, her goofiness, her joy. I would like to be remembered for this cake, too. I hope to celebrate the daughter of my future and all her potential with this recipe.

May it bring you a moment of lightness and tenderness in the way it did for me this weekend. —Happyolks

Test Kitchen Notes

If you are looking for a fresh take on carrot cake, this recipe is the ticket! Coconut oil has become a popular oil to use for cooking and this recipe maximizes its potential. It not only imparts a subtle coconut flavor that lingers on your palate but also contributes a velvety texture. This recipe uses significantly less sugar than most carrot cake recipes but the sweetness of the coconut oil and pineapple compensate beautifully. Because it is less sweet than most carrot cakes it can be eaten without the glaze for breakfast...we certainly did! My "eaters" were split on how they felt about the sauce, so I made an alternative glaze using organic confectioners sugar and coconut milk. I added just enough coconut milk to the confectioners sugar until it was of drizzilng consistency. No matter which glaze you use this cake will magically disappear. This recipe has been added to my favorites folder! - sticksnscones —sticksnscones

What You'll Need
  • 3/4 cup raw sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose baking flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 heaping cups of grated carrots
  • 1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed pineapple (strained lightly)
  • 1 cup (optional) raisins
  • 1 cup reduced-fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
  • sprinkling of shredded coconut
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside. In a larger bowl, beat the eggs and add the sugar. Slowly beat in the coconut oil, vanilla, and pineapple. Add the flour mixture and stir gently with a rubber spatula until just incorporated. Finally, stir in the carrots and walnuts. I decided to make these in mini loaf molds, but it would also work in large loaf or round pans. Depending on your preference, grease your pan(s) and fill to 3/4 full with cake batter. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool before drizzling with coconut glaze.
  2. For the glaze, mix together melted coconut oil, coconut milk, and brown rice syrup until it forms an even consistency. Pour into a small glass container and store in the fridge. When the cake is done, shake and pour over hot cake and with a happy heart.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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  • Janet Yoon
    Janet Yoon
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    Daniella Price González
  • ZombieCupcake
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15 Reviews

Pat August 31, 2020
This cake tastes lovely. I baked it in a loaf pan. I had to bake it for 40 minutes to have it set inside. No one else mentions having to increase the bake time for a larger loaf. I did make two smaller cakes in large ramekins. They had set in the 25 minutes. Is anybody making the larger loaf and having to increase the bake time? I followed the recipe to the letter. Thanks.
Janet Y. May 6, 2019
Made this twice in one month and everyone who's tried it has loved the "sweet-but-not-too-sweet" flavor profile, plus the lovely combination of fruit and nuts. Thanks for the great recipe!
Green R. March 20, 2018
what would be a good substitute for the walnuts? I am allergic to tree nuts of all kinds and yet I like to bake what would you suggest I substitute for the nuts
Elizabeth October 29, 2016
I had no pineapple so added a dollop of Greek yoghurt for moisture. I also had no raisins, but put lots of fresh grated ginger inside and on top (with a more basic cream cheese glaze and freshly grated nutmeg). It turned out very well- light and moist.
Daniella P. September 29, 2013
Can the pineapple be omitted or substituted?
Daniella P. September 22, 2013
Coarsely or finely grated carrots?
Daniella P. September 22, 2013
Could I use full fat coconut milk instead of reduced?
brokensaucer April 2, 2013
This is the best carrot cake I've ever had. It's so good, I just blogged about it. But I topped it with lime mascarpone icing instead. But the cake was so moist and amazing! Try this recipe!!!
ZombieCupcake February 17, 2013
This is going to be a surprise for my girlfriend's birthday! Sounds great
Muse October 24, 2012
Another fabulous recipe...looks like I will be baking right through the Fall/Winter season this year!
Sadair123 November 13, 2011
Where can I find brown rice syrup?

Thank you
Flavor D. December 12, 2011
Whole Foods has brown rice syrup. You will find it with the maple syrups and honey section. Just happened to see it yesterday.
dailykale May 12, 2011
this looks fantastic! What a terrific submission and special association with this cake! I am so excited to make it. The carrot cake gods are definitely on my side....I have all the ingredients at home and love, love, love baking with coconut oil. Thank you for submitting happyolks--will report back on this one!
Happyolks April 28, 2011
thank you susan, she inspires me every day!
susan G. April 28, 2011
21 years of carrot cake and a good mother -- beautiful!