The Great Carrot-Cake Bake-Off

By March 14, 2014 3 Comments

Awhile back, in the deep freeze of February there was a great hunkering for cake. And apparently carrots.

It just so happened that I found a “Carrot-Cake Makeover” recipe. In need of cake and a healthy dose of Vitamin A, I raised my hand for this experiment. But my husband is legend for his carrot cake. Could I really make a cake that was healthier AND rivaled the great master?

Well…the great cake bake-off began!

This was a competition-first for our marriage. Potentially dangerous territory. Truth be told, he’s a much better cook than I. However, after 16 years of marriage and carrots, I must be getting a tad bit more secure. Or reckless. Either way, we could make our cakes and eat them, too. And still like each other at the end of the day. Right?

The man’s cake:

daddycakeHe never writes recipes down; it’s all in his head. Which drives me crazy. But for back-up he went straight to the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. I won’t lie. It was good. Real good. It was stiff competition.

The numbers for one serving of a traditional Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting:

Calories: 530  Fat: 33g  Saturated Fat: 8g

Cook Country’s  Reduced-Fat Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting:

Calories: 280  Fat: 11g  Saturated Fat: 3g

His secret ingredients: golden raisens, walnuts, and crushed pineapple.

His extra dose of yum? Shaved white chocolate.

Mama’s cake:

mamacakeI was a little worried right from the beginning. A towering two-layer circle is a little more impressive that a sheet cake – and you get double the frosting with every bite!

Mama’s extra: Shaved coconut.

Mama’s secret ingredients? Take a look!

fluffThe fluff is sugar, but according to “Cook’s Country,” a food magazine I adore, using marshmellow creme in place of some of the butter and sugar yields thick, rich frosting with no additional fat.  And the carrot baby food? Just one tub adds moisture and a mild carroty sweetness. *Look for brands with only carrots and water.

Of course, you could just puree carrots, but baby food is easier and way more fun.

cakesSo…which cake was better?

Full-fat or Carrot-Cake Makeover?

judgesThe judges had to taste and vote: four opinionated children and two food-saavy adults, one who happens to be a professional chef. Just a friendly competition with the end goal of finding the perfect carrot cake. When the voting began? I won’t lie. My palms were sweaty.

Each cake was sliced and plated. The eating began.


Everyone was sweet as pie cake. But the voting came in: 4-2. In the man’s favor.

Reasons: More robust flavor, moist, the nuts, raisins, the melding of flavors. It was close, they said, but he had the edge.

We shook hands. And remained married.

I smiled on the outside, but vowed that this would not be the end of my fluff and carrot baby food dream. I would someday combine the two recipes and make a BETTER cake.

Time went by, and carrot cake became a distant memory. UNTIL. The 30 lbs. of carrots came to live at our house. And ANOTHER deep freeze descended. Oh, help me. Well of course the perfect carrot cake just had to be made. A fridge with a carrot view:


It was a sign! I was SUPPOSED to make carrot cake again. So I went back to Ina’s carrot cake recipe, wondering how to fix a cake that already tasted fantastic.

The first thing we had to do was cut the sugar in half. The original recipe called for two whole cups of white sugar. Yep, I cut ONE WHOLE CUP of white sugar out. And immediately felt better, remembering that in England, they usually do that with American recipes. I worried that this would affect texture as well as taste. Not so.

Oil was cut by 1/3.

Golden raisins in place of regular. Golden are plumper and more juicy. I don’t like raisins, but I DO like them in this cake.

And of course – baby food was added.

Grating one pound of baby carrots is not exactly fun or painless, but alas, it had to be done. I tried the Vitamix but it just turned to liquid. So I had to go back to the grater.

Tip: grate with a light touch so that the carrots are thin and small. Pressing down hard on the grater will produce bigger chunks of carrots and be harder to chew. Plus, you are far more likely to shave tiny bits of fingers and knuckles into the shaved carrots. Ow. Ew. Go soft touch.

I combined the two recipes and Man! It was Good! Like, oh my goodness this is Good!morecarrots

Did you want the recipe or something?

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

1 Cup Sugar

1 Cup Canola/Olive Oil Blend

3 Large Eggs

1 tsp Vanilla

Beat until light and fluffy

Stir in Dry Ingredients:

2 1/2 Cups Flour

2 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Nutmeg

2 tsp Baking Soda

1/2 tsp Salt

Fold in:

1 lb. Grated Carrots

1 Jar Baby Food Carrots

1/2 Cup Crushed Pineapple (only use pineapple in 100% juice)


Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray and flour 2 (8-inch) round cake pans.

Divide the batter equally between the 2 pans. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pans set over a wire rack.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 8oz Cream Cheese

1 Cup Marshmallow Fluff

1 1/2 tsp Vanilla

1/4 Cup Confectioner’s/Powdered Sugar (add more as needed)

Mix the cream cheese, butter and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer until just combined. Add the sugar and mix until smooth.

Putting it all together:
Place 1 layer, flat-side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

The results? When this cake was proudly served one more time, my previous competition ate a bite and began to say, “Mmmmm. Mmmmm. Mmmmmm.” I couldn’t get any words out of him. Just sounds. “Mmmmm. Mmmmm.  Mmmmmm.”

I smiled. I win 🙂 Not that it was a competition or anything!

So next time you need to make a carrot cake, come on back here to get a reduced fat/sugar cake that tastes like the full-fat/sugar version. Okay?

p.s. We are STILL in a deep freeze. I might need to make another cake.

Hooray for cake! Have a wonderful weekend.



  • 4amWriter says:

    I usually make carrot cakes around this time of year. I have always used crushed pineapple and golden raisins. My kids don’t like nuts in their cakes (or cookies or brownies), so I omit the walnuts. However, I would add them otherwise. I am intrigued by the marshmallow fluff ingredient. I have never heard of such a thing, but I would definitely try it out.

    I’m happy you’re still married.

  • Amy Mak says:

    Me too 🙂
    The next thing I want to try is coconut oil in place of the canola/olive…

  • Oh lordy, I wish you hadn’t posted this with those photos! Hubby and I just started a week-long paleo-type diet that eliminates fun carbs like potatoes/rice/pasta and sugar (I know, a week doesn’t sound long, but it’s a start for us…I do love my pretzels and ice cream). Man, now all I can think of is carrot cake with FROSTING!! *do not scroll back up to photos, do not scroll back up to photos, do not scroll back up to photos…*

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