Sunday, January 23, 2011

Remembering Aunt Gloria and Her Carrot Cake

Aunt Gloria's original recipe card, from my mother's recipe box
Growing up, I spent some time at my Aunt Gloria's house.  She lived in Woodhaven (Queens, NY for those of you who may not be familiar).  There were several reasons I loved staying at Aunt Gloria's.  First of all,  I got to spend time with my cousin Lynda who was, and still is,  just a year younger than me.  We had the freedom to walk to the stores on Jamaica Avenue by ourselves. No one had to drive us.  I'm sure this excited me much more Lynda.  There were no stores to walk to in my neighborhood.  I felt like a country girl in the city.  Aunt Gloria's house was the "fun" house, never a dull moment.  My cousin Robert used to play 45's on the record player and show us his latest dance moves.  If I close my eyes I can see Robert dancing around the dining room table to "Spirit in the Sky".   John was just a baby and we were totally amused  listening to him learn to speak.  We'd say, "how hot is it John?"  He'd wipe his brow and reply, "it's hot ta hell" ( in baby-talk of course).  We would make him say it over and over again.  We'd laugh and he'd giggle.  We were so easily amused, and life was so simple.

Aunt Gloria had a zest for life.  She could turn any day into a party.  She was ready with her Johnny Mathis records, cold beer in the fridge,  a percolator with coffee and a tea kettle on the stove ready to be fired up, and if you were lucky, a freshly baked carrot cake.  People would just stop by her house.  Family lived closer.  It wasn't unusual for one or two of my uncles to stop in.  "Stopping in" was a way of life back then.   Everyone sat around the table, drinking, eating, sipping coffee, singing along with Johnny Mathis and just be together shooting the breeze.  OK, it wasn't always perfect, sometime the Irish blood got boiling and things would get a little heated, but in the end, everyone was family, they'd still get a hug and kiss before heading home.

So back to that Carrot Cake.  Aunt Gloria's carrot cake was my first, and the standard to which I have held each subsequent carrot cake.  I remember she'd say to Lynda and me, I'll bake the carrot cake if you grate the carrots.  Not a bad deal.  It was worth a few scraped knuckles. Her carrot cake had a fairly tight crumb.   It was an old fashioned cake, and baked in a tube or bundt pan.  She did not frost it rather, she sprinkled it with powdered sugar.  But today, people's expectations of carrot cake have changed.  Carrot cake is a common occurrence on most menus today.  Generally it is baked as a layer cake with gobs of cream cheese filling and frosting.  It may even have some pineapple or coconut tossed into the batter.
Are you getting hungry? Here...have a bite just to hold your appetite.
I've made Aunt Gloria's carrot cake many, many, many times.  Over the past year or so, I have made a few changes and I've been very pleased with the results.  I've lightened it up a bit, substituting half of the oil with apple sauce.  The cake is a bit more dense with a larger crumb as a result, but not so much that it changes the integrity of the cake.  She always used Presto self-rising flour.  I don't, so I've added leaveners.  I always add walnuts and a few raisins.  I bake it in my mother's trusty tube pan.   This cake is a big, and serves 12 to 15 people depending on how big you slice it.  It is incredibly moist and will last for days.  I like to make a batch of cream cheese frosting and keep it refrigerated.  I don't frost the whole cake.  I frost it by the slice; if you like your cake frosted, or if you are into nostalgia, I can serve it plain sprinkled with powdered sugar.  I aim to please.

Old Fashioned Carrot Cake
Click here to print recipe
Adapted from My Aunt Gloria's Carrot Cake
Serves 12-15
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Grease and lightly dust a 10 inch tube pan or bundt pan

  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup apple sauce (I use home made which is unsweetened)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar (white or turbinado)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 cups all purpose flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts - optional
  • 1/4 cup raisins - optional
Optional FROSTING:
  • 8 ounces softened cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
Grate carrots, preferably using a food processor.  I used 3 GIANT carrots for this cake and got about 2 1/2 cups...I used them all -  a half cup extra is OK, less is not.  If your carrots are small you may need 6.  I don't like the carrots to be grated too fine.  They should look like this:
As long as the Cuisinart is out, I give it a quick wipe with a paper towel and put the walnuts and raisins in the work bowl and pulse quickly, 2 or 3 times to chop.  Set it aside.

Add oil and applesauce to the grated carrots and set aside.

Sift flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon together and set aside.

Using a stand mixer, beat the eggs, then add sugars and beat well.  Mix in the carrot mixture.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until well incorporated.

Mix in the nuts and raisins if using.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour - 1 hour 10 minutes.

Cool cake in pan for 20 minutes

After 20 minutes, remove from pan and allow to cool on a rack.

Frosting Directions:
Place room temperature cream cheese and butter, along with vanilla in a medium bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until well blended.  Add confectioners sugar in 4 additions, beating well after each time.  After the last addition of the sugar, add the lemon zest and beat until perfectly smooth. 

When cool, dust with powder sugar, frost with cream cheese frosting or leave as is and decided how to serve it by the slice!

How would you like your carrot cake?  Like this?
Or maybe like this?
Can't decide?  How about a little of both for the do it yourselfers?
How ever you like it, your plate will soon look like this:


  1. Lovely post. I've been reading this blog and your stories are genuine and heart warming. This carrot cake looks like my Grammy's cake. I can't wait to try it.

  2. Only yesterday I was thinking about Aunt Gloria and her carrot cake.....My sister Carol always talks about that cake...I remember she also made a mayonnaise cake....What a great post this was Dianne...filled with warm memories of our relatives and sharing these wonderful recipes.....once again my eyes are flooded with I miss my Mom and her sisters! Dorothy