If you need an excuse to bake a carrot cake, this carrot cake baked in a glass dish needs you! The tasting panel chose it in a side-by-side comparison to another recipe, but I’d like to hear from another baker. The recipe appears similar to other carrot cakes, but the texture is tight crumbed and light and the cake is thicker and taller thanks to the dish size. But what is really special about this cake is its dark brown color, which I’ve attributed to baking soda.
Using a full tablespoon of baking soda in a recipe makes me edgy. Some people taste it and some people don’t. For me, it leaves a lingering sensation on the tongue which isn’t entirely unpleasant depending on what it’s baked into. For instance, baking soda’s aftertaste is okay with ginger cookies, and based on this recipe, carrot cake.
After I made this cake I made a half batch version of an almost identical recipe that used 1 teaspoon of baking soda and some baking powder. It also called for some brown sugar. Without the added baking soda, the color was less brown even with added brown sugar. So baking soda, not brown sugar, is what gives carrot cakes a browner color. I first realized this back when I made this banana bread baked at a low temperature. It has over a tablespoon of baking soda and becomes very dark as it bakes.
There’s also the factor of the chemistry of baking soda in carrot cakes. Baking soda makes the batter alkaline, and the alkalinity of the batter breaks down the cellulose walls of the carrots (thank you Cook’s Illustrated) so that they release moisture into the batter. So along with a browner cake, you get a moister cake with carrots that are more integrated into the cake. Using baking powder gives you more flakiness.
The recipe is is inspired by Come Early Stay Late, which I reviewed a few posts ago. I prefer carrot cake with lots of cinnamon and vanilla, so I omitted the nutmeg and ginger that the original recipe had in the batter. I was also short one egg and used 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise, which may or may not have contributed to the texture of this cake. Another change I made was the frosting. The book’s recipe for cream cheese frosting has a different ratio of butter and cream cheese along with a tablespoon of fresh ginger. I used my latest favorite plain cream cheese icing. I kept the important ratios, and of course the copious amount of baking soda, as is.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (9.8 oz)
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 scant teaspoon of kosher salt
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (or just use another egg)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups (10 oz) grated carrots (or shredded and chopped)
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 2 ounces butter, softened
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease an 8 x 12 inch glass baking dish.
- In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
- In a second mixing bowl, mix together the oil, sugar, milk, eggs, mayonnaise and vanilla.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until mixed. Stir in the carrots.
- Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until cake appears set. It will go from orange to a deep brown. Let the cake cool completely, then frost with cream cheese frosting.
- To make the frosting, beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth, then stir in the powdered sugar. Beat until creamy, then beat in the vanilla. Spread over cake