I didn’t know the American version of carrot cake until I moved to America, in the late ’90s.
Growing up in Brazil, I knew a different carrot cake, one that’s sheet based, moist, smooth, and has a delicious chocolate glaze. In Portuguese, we call it “Bolo de Cenoura com Cobertura de Chocolate” or “Carrot Cake with a Chocolate Glaze”.
Carrot Cake is not the kind of dessert found in restaurants in Brazil, but it can be found in most home kitchens all over the country, left at room temperature on the kitchen counter, with a plastic film on top, still resting inside the baking pan, and each day the cake seems to disappear by the piece. Sometimes by the row. Sometimes by the half.
When I was growing up in Rio de Janeiro, my mom had a theory that if we had sweets at home, we’d eat it, and it’s much harder to stay away from sugar when you have it right in front of you. She was right then. She is right today.
I’ll never forget a conversation between my mother and a friend of hers, talking about making Pudim de Leite (Brazilian Flan), Carrot Cake, Quindim (Egg Yolk-Coconut Custard Cake) and other classic Brazilian home sweets. I was a very young girl and my mother’s friend told us that she’d have home sweets such as those mentioned above prepared weekly for her family.
“My kids love to take a bite every day,” her friend justified.
“If you have it at home, then we’ll eat it”, my mother defended.
Till this day, I am torn between the big contradictions that life presents us, such as:
Live once and enjoy life—and—save money for the future.
Don’t eat sugar—and—have a bite of pleasure.
After all, dessert is the only food we eat strictly for pleasure. It’s the toy store of the food world. It’s hard to find the balance.
My kids discovered Carrot Cake when we went to visit a friend of ours in Rio, not too long ago, and in her kitchen, there it was, the carrot cake inside the baking pan on the kitchen counter, with a plastic film on top.
“Mom, can you make this at home for us?”
My kids said, already knowing that this is the kind of request I just love to be asked!
Baking this cake takes only a few minutes to put together. All you have to do is blend the ingredients and then you have a great creation in your kitchen bestowing welcome all weekend! Calling the toy store inside of you!
For anyone who is intimated by baking, this is the perfect start. You just put the wet ingredients in a food processor or blender, pour into a baking pan, and bake for 30 minutes. Let it cool and cover with a chocolate frosting.
As easy as it seems, there is a way to ruin this cake. If you use store-bought shredded carrots, the recipe will turn out dense and dry. The secret to this cake is to use fresh carrots, and shred them just before preparing the cake, when they are still moist and juicy in their vibrant orange color, and the cake tastes soft, spongy, moist, and intense, yet not heavy at all. I use the shredding blade on the food processor and it takes only a few seconds.
I cannot tell you how much my kids love this cake. I am glad that they ask me to go to the toy store sometimes. We all need that balance in life!
Brazilian Style Carrot Cake
Makes one 9 x 13-inches pan, or yield about 16 to 18 pieces
- 1½ cups (240g) all-purpose flour
- Pinch salt
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 eggs
- 3 cups (385g) freshly shredded carrots
- ¾ cup canola oil
- ¾ cup (140g) organic cane sugar
- ½ cup (75g) light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 9oz (270g) semi-sweet chocolate
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon confection sugar, sifted
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
One 9 x 13-inches baking pan, greased, lined with parchment paper, greased again and lightly dusted with flour.
Prepare the Cake:
- In a large bowl, whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, ginger, and cinnamon. Reserve.
- In a food processor, beat the eggs, carrots, canola oil, cane sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla until completely smooth, about 5 minutes. Pour into the flour bowl and fold well with a rubber spatula or a whisk, until the batter is completely homogeneous and there are no pockets of flour.
- Pour the batter on the prepared pan, bake at 350˚F, for 30 minutes, rotating once during baking time, until the cake is lightly brown on top, and beginning to pull from the sides. A toothpick inserted should come out clean. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack, but leave the cake inside the pan. Cool for 10 to 15 minutes before spreading the frosting.
Make the Frosting:
- Melt chocolate over a water bath until it’s just melted.
- Remove from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes.
- Add the vanilla, sugar, and butter and mix until homogeneous.
- Spread frosting on the cake while still warm, making some swilrs with a spoon to decorate.
- Allow the frosting to set at room temperature, then cut into rectangles or squares.