The History of Carrot Cake

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Maybe it’s the Easter bunny, or maybe there’s just something about it that feels like spring; whatever the reason, we’re about to start making a whole bunch of carrot cake around our house! But where did it come from?

Carrot cake is one of the most underrated desserts that are actually incredibly easy to make! It seems as if every family has their own secret recipe, make special by just a pinch of something...but they’ll never tell you what! The roots of this dessert go way, way back, and that’s part of the reason we see so many delicious variations today. 

The use of carrots as a sweetener goes way back to Medieval times across much of northern Europe. Some of the earliest references to a dish that resembles carrot cake would certainly look a lot different from what you’d see on the dinner table today. Those recipes were more like a pudding, with some of the English and Germanic variations including meat as well as carrot, breadcrumbs, and a number of spices. These would have been formed or served in slices, perhaps covered with a sort of honeyed icing. 

It wasn’t until 1591 that the more modern version of the cake finally hit the printed page. This version still had meat, but things were on their way. By 1814, the royal French chef under King Louis XVI, published something very much what we’d recognize in his best-selling cookbook. Perhaps a copycat, or another organic recipe, sprouted up just a handful of years later in Switzerland. The dessert was a hit, and remains popular to this day in Switzerland, especially for birthdays. 

In the Anglo-American tradition, the carrot cake found a sort of second in popularity during and after the Second World War. With strict rationing in place limiting the availability of sugar, even urban families took pride in planting a garden at home. When it was time for a treat, they could rely on carrots to give their cakes a little bit of sweetness and flavor, saving sugar for the soldiers on the front lines. 

This is our favorite carrot cake recipe, and make a note of the applesauce for added moisture. We actually tend to use a softened banana to achieve the same effect, and add a little more sweetness, too! 

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