What makes a good carrot cake good?

JMaking a carrot cake is relatively simple, but making one that’s perfectly delicious can be a bit challenging. One, not everyone likes carrots, even if almost everyone likes cakes. The idea that it was made using a vegetable as the main ingredient just doesn’t sit well with a lot of people. To make a carrot cake that everyone would love requires a lot of effort. You need it to be moist, flavorful, with just a hint of carrots.

Yup, you heard that right. A good carrot cake shouldn’t really exude that vegetable-y taste, even though it is the main ingredient. The carrot flavor should take a back seat to everything that’s good in a dessert piece: the sweet caramel of brown sugar, an enticing trifecta of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove, and the creamy, cheesy goodness of cream cheese. When it comes to texture, a perfect carrot cake should have a slight crumbly feel to the bite, but moist enough to bring it all together in one piece, and not a million crumbs falling to your plate.

Carrot cakes are never the start of any bakery showcase, but it’s the every-reliable, always-there dessert whenever you need something to lift you up. Now, if you’re interested in making one yourself, there are some things that you need to remember that a good carrot cake should have.

Carrots. The highlight of your cake is the carrot. It is perhaps the first and only vegetable to be used as an ingredient for a sumptuous dessert. If it wasn’t, it was probably the only one that didn’t turn out tasting like a vegetable to turn off most consumers. But don’t expect a good carrot cake to taste like carrots.

This isn’t your typically banana cake, which really tastes like the fruit they’re made from. So, what’s the purpose of using carrots for this cake then? Well, you can say that it’s healthy, and that it won’t hurt if you eat more than one slice…or the cake whole cake itself.

The carrots add a bolder, fuller flavor that doesn’t really make the cake taste like it’s made from a vegetable. Instead, it blends well with all the other ingredients, creating a flavor profile that’s unique to this kind of cake. If you’ve tasted one already, for sure you’ll remember it the next time you have it. You’ll be able to easily tell that you’re eating a carrot cake because of the familiar taste—which doesn’t taste anything like a carrot.

Cream cheese frosting. The best frosting to pair with the carrot cake is cream cheese. Not vanilla, not whatever you think would make it healthier. Cream cheese is literally the icing on your cake, and it will convince anyone who isn’t convinced with consuming your carrot cake yet, to actually take a bite. Or two. Or eat the whole cake. Because really, who could say no to a cream cheese-filled dessert? You want it oozing on top and on the sides. It won’t make sense eating the cake and not making a mess afterwards, especially if you forgot to control yourself and went ahead and took it apart bare hands.

The salty-sweetness that you get from cream cheese ups the ante of your sweet cake. It adds a layer of goodness that you won’t get from regular cake frosting. Cream cheese itself can be classified as a different dessert, so eating a carrot cake with such a frosting is heaven-sent for cake lovers.

Spice mix. As mentioned earlier, a good carrot cake has the spice trifecta of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. These three adds the flavor profile unique to carrot cake. It’s like a spice-y confection with a taste that you won’t find on any other cake. And to be honest, it’s these spices that gives the carrot cake it’s identifying taste.

Again, you won’t really find that carrot-as-a-vegetable taste. You can’t even tell that carrot is the main ingredient, unless you were informed from the get-go. But again, once you’ve tasted carrot cake, you won’t really forget about it and you can easily tell when you eat one in the future. Almost doesn’t make sense right? Well, so does using a vegetable for your cake, but here we are, right?

Other things that you could add to your carrot cake:

Any type of nut, except coconut. If you’re a fan of pecans and walnuts, then you can go wild and add them to your carrot cake. No one would judge you if your cream cheese frosting is speckled by crushed nuts. It won’t affect the taste too much, just an added crunch to your soft frosting, and the nutty flavor that would further enhance the spices that you’ve already added.

Aside from sprinkling nuts in your frosting, you can also add them while baking the cake itself. Just don’t go too wild, because adding too much can affect the taste and the texture of your cake. You won’t achieve the moistness and the softness that you want to see with a carrot cake.

Things that you shouldn’t add in your carrot cake:

As mentioned above, coconut. Well, this just started as a joke, since coconut is really quite far from your usual pecans and walnuts. But others might actually consider adding the coconut meat in your cake. The fat content of the coconut meat, plus a very unique taste, could drastically alter the taste of your carrot cake. You might as well concede the name carrot cake and just call it “whatever I want to put in it” cake.

Pineapple. Well, pineapple is not really a bad ingredient, especially for desserts like cake. But adding it can add that sweet and sour flavor profile that would totally overwhelm the “carroty” essence of your cake. You can’t taste the carrot, but you’ll definitely taste pineapple, so it’s another cake that has lost its identity.

Now that you have the basics of what makes a good carrot cake, you’re free to create one that matches your taste. Feel free to experiment on the ingredients, but try to avoid the ones mentioned above. Just have fun, enjoy, and hopefully you’ll create something edible. That’s the first step in creating something that’s actually delicious!

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