Carrot cake came to mind when I was thinking about a dessert for the Easter feast, and I found as many recipes as there are bunnies in my neighborhood.
An Internet search came up with everything from carrot cake fudge to diabetic carrot cake, gluten-free carrot cupcakes and dozens of variations in between.
And, get this, I discovered that the manufacturers of M&M's candies also make white chocolate carrot cake Easter chocolate candies, though they're not available in our nearby stores. You can find the limited edition at Amazon.com for $18.95 for two 9.9-ounce packages.
While searching for unusual recipes, I also found the history of the carrot cake written by Candis Reade, an EzineArticles.com writer.
Her research found that the origins of the carrot cake were likely a carrot-type pudding served during medieval times. In her article, "A Rich History of the Carrot Cake," Reade explains that sweetening agents were hard to come by in Britain and quite expensive during the Middle Ages, and carrots were often used in place of sweeteners. It was actually in the 1960s when the carrot cake became a common dessert in the United States at family reunions and fall celebrations.
The traditional carrot cake found in Kentucky cookbooks contains raisins and walnuts, along with several grated or shredded carrots, and sometimes pineapple all topped with a rich cream cheese icing.
Here are some recipes we found that might make a nice addition to your Easter dessert table.
A basic carrot cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups finely shredded carrot
1 cup cooking oil
In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Add carrot, oil, and eggs. Beat until combined. Pour into two greased and floured 9- by 11/2- inch round baking pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on wire racks for ten minutes before removing from the pans. Ice with cream cheese frosting.
Cream cheese frosting
6 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup softened butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 1/2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
In a bowl beat together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Gradually add 2 cups confectioner's sugar, beating well. Continue to gradually add the remaining confectioner's sugar until the frosting has a spreading consistency.
Decorate cake with white chocolate carrots. Sketch out a carrot pattern. Trace it onto parchment paper, duplicating it for however many carrots you'd like. Make sure you turn the paper over, so the ink is on the under side before drawing the design. Next melt some white chocolate chips in the microwave. Stir the white chocolate until smooth. Then pour it into a decorator's bag with a fine tip.
Then just trace the carrot pattern. Don't worry if you draw outside the lines; as long as it's thin, it will break off. After you have the outline complete, make a pattern inside the carrot shape. Place them in the freezer for about half an hour to set. Place on top of cake.
How about carrot cake fudge?
Carrot cake fudge
4 tablespoons butter
3 cups white chocolate chips
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup dry carrot cake mix
1/2 cup marshmallow cream
Cream cheese fudge icing
3/4 cup canned cream cheese frosting
1 cup white chocolate chips
2 tablespoons marshmallow creme
1/2 cup M&M's white chocolate carrot cake flavor, Easter limited edition, or sprinkles
To make carrot cake fudge: Line a 9- by 13-inch pan with parchment paper and set aside. In a large saucepan combine the butter, white chocolate chips, and sweetened condensed milk. Stir over low heat until melted and smooth.
Stir in the dry cake mix 1/4 cup at a time until thoroughly combined. Stir in the marshmallow creme. Keep stirring to keep the fudge from sticking on the bottom. Pour into prepared pan. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.
To make the cream cheese fudge icing: In another saucepan, melt the 1 cup white chocolate chips over low heat. Stir in the cream cheese frosting and marshmallow creme when the chips are melted. Pour over the carrot cake layer and smooth out. Press the M&M's or sprinkles into the top. Chill 1 hour before cutting. Cut into 40 to 50 squares.
This French version of carrot cake is from cookbook author David Lebovitz. It's more like a flat griddle-cake.
Gâteau aux carrottes
8 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
Pinch of salt
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups toasted almonds
2⁄3 cup flour
1/4 cup, packed, finely grated carrot
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter two shallow 10-inch cake pans and line each with a circle of parchment paper. Then lightly butter the top of each circle of paper.
Beat the butter, sugar and salt until smooth. Meanwhile, pulverize the nuts and flour in a food processor or blender until relatively fine, but not powdery. If you don't have a machine, simply chop the nuts by hand and toss them with the flour.
Beat in the eggs one at a time. Afterwards, stir in the ground nut mixture and carrots, mixing just until smooth.
Divide the batter into the pans, smooth it evenly, and bake for 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool, then release the cake from the pans and cut in wedges to serve. Makes two 10-inch cakes.
Carrot poke cake
1 box carrot cake mix, or your favorite carrot cake mix
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
8 ounces Cool Whip, thawed
8 ounces Cool Whip vanilla frosting (cream cheese flavor)
6 ounces whipped cream cheese
½ cup caramel sundae sauce, or less
1 cup chopped pecans, or less
Bake cake according to recipe direction. Do not remove from baking dish. Poke about 20 to 25 holes in baked cake. Pour sweetened condensed milk over top of warm cake, trying to fill the holes as much as possible.
In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to beat together the Cool Whip, the Cool Whip frosting, and the whipped cream cheese until smooth. Spread over top of the cake.
Pour the caramel sauce over top of the Cool Whip mixture and sprinkle with chopped pecans. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Cut into 12 squares.
Gluten-free carrot cupcakes
½ cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1½ cups almond flour
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ tablespoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
¼ cup agave nectar
1½ cups carrots, grated
Crystallized ginger, optional
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 36 mini muffin tins with pleated paper liners. On a small baking sheet, spread pecans in an even layer. Toast for 8 to 12 minutes. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, combine almond flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. In another bowl, mix together eggs, oil, and agave nectar. Stir carrots and toasted pecans into wet ingredients. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just incorporated. Using a 11/2 tablespoon ice cream scoop, place batter into paper lined upcake pan. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes. Cool to room temperature on wire racks. Frost with cream cheese frosting. Sprinkle with crystallized, chopped ginger if desired.
Sharon Thompson: (859) 231-3321. Twitter: @FlavorsofKY. Blog: Flavorsofkentucky.bloginky.com.