Beet or Carrot Cake

October 5, 2007 at 2:53 AM (beets, carrots, cheese, cream/Philly/hung yoghurt, dishes by cuisine, dishes by main ingredient, grains and grain-like, milk and milk products, sugars-sweets, USA, various nuts like me, vegetables/ fruits, walnuts, pecans, and hickory-nuts, wheat)


Shilpa of Aayi’s Recipes is continually making me envious by her beautiful parade of cakes, and no wonder: she has a keen interest in cakes and cake-decorating, and has greatly expanded her talents by studying the subject hands-on with local masters. Despite her self-criticism of the final outcomes, she manages to astound me- and the rest of her readers- with her exquisite attention to detail and gorgeous design. Each time I view the latest one, I find myself wide-eyed in disbelief that she has just begun this hobby!

Let me be honest with all of you: I have never attempted to develop any skills with complicated frosting/icing work; instead, I seem to prefer finding myself in awe at weddings, birthdays, and other occasions when one of these beauties stands before me- silent and breath-taking to behold- and for now, that’s fine with me!  I’m far more interested in churning out edible ladoos and burfis to tell you the truth… So, you’ll have to excuse this little attempt with its rather messy frosting, and slightly-off-center arrangement of nuts…


This is a beet cake. Apparantly, any recipe for carrot cake can be made with beets instead (is it just me or are there other people contemplating gajar halvah at the moment?), and I do find myself wondering if turnips, rutabagas and radishes would work as well- maybe not. What I do know is that for several years I have been searching for the perfect carrot cake recipe: one that would recall the good old days before the low-fat revolution of the 1980’s took place, one that is like the many slices that I’ve purchased and didn’t regret spending $3-4 dollars on, one that is sinfully-rich, moist, and flavourful, one that screams out: “chilly nights are upon us in Wisconsin”, “mulled cider or wine is in order”, and “tonight would be a great night to sit near the burning hearth”… But really, despite these very subjective images that I tend to connect to a fork-ful, this cake is enjoyable at at any time of the year, and in any weather. And thus far, this particular recipe is the best I’ve found, and yes…I would pay $3.50 for a slice!


I have changed a few things with the original recipe. Mostly the spicing. (I also reserve the nuts for the filling and exterior and I greatly-disliked the icing recipe that accompanied the original cake recipe and thus found a much better one elsewhere to use). There are some of you that dislike cinnamon-flavoured sweets, but I assure you: if I am able to acquire a taste for cinnamon-infused savories, then it stands to reason that… well….what can I say? I played with the original author/creator’s spicing, so you can too! (But Pel is still thinking that his formula beats all others!)


Beet or Carrot Cake

(inspired by this one from Burt Wolf’s Menu Cookbook)

3 1/2-4 C shreds of peeled beets or carrots

1 C brown sugar,  firmly-packed

1 C ghee (hee-hee… ghee makes this cake most decadent with a rich, browned-butter flavour, but  vegetable oil (soybean, corn, canola, peanut) is the more usual choice. Don’t reduce it: this is divided by at least 20 slices of cake- so splurge a little!)

3 eggs

1 t vanilla extract

3 1/2 t ground cinnamon (I use a mix of true/Ceylon and cassia/Chinese cinnamon)

2 T chopped crystallized/candied”stem” ginger

1/4 t ground cardamom

1/8 t ground cloves

1/16 t ground nutmeg or mace

1 t baking soda

1 t baking powder

1 C raisins, soaked in hot water for awhile and then chopped*

1 1/2 C all-purpose flour/maida (I suppose half-ata would be just fine)

1 1/2 C raw walnuts, pecans or hickory-nuts halves (I used pecans this time, but walnuts are most traditional)

ghee/oil for roasting nuts and greasing pan(s)

Icing-frosting (recipe below)

0)Pre-heat oven to 350 F/175 C. Grease and line the bottoms of 2  8″-9″ round cake-pans, or one 9″ spring-form pan with parchment-paper (use the bottom of the pan as a guide and cut to fit). Grease the top of the paper as well. I’ve tried it without the use of the paper: the cake tends to stick!

1)Roast the nuts in ghee/oil over med-low flame, stirring constantly until nicely-roasted and fragrant. Remove and drain. Reserve intact halves for decorating. Coarsely-chop the remainder for filling.

2)Mix the beet or carrot shreds with the sugar in a large mixing bowl and set aside for 30 minutes.

3)Add the ghee and mix well.

4)Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each.

5)Add the vanilla, spices, baking soda and powder and mix thoroughly. Add the raisins.

6)Add the flour in four parts, mixing just well-enough between each to blend. I try not to exceed 100 strokes of the spoon total.

7)Pour the batter into the pan or pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. (about 30 minutes for two  9″ pans, or 40-45 minutes for one  9″). Place on a rack and allow to cool completely.

8)Meanwhile, prepare the cream-cheese frosting/icing:

1/2 C butter, at room temperature

8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 t vanilla extract

1 pound of confectioner’s/powdered sugar (plus more if needed)

A)Cream (beat well until fluffy and pale) the butter and cream cheese. Add the vanilla; add sugar little-by-little until stiff enough to hold a peak. (If you add too much, a sprinkle of milk will cure it)

9)Remove the cake(s) from the pan(s) and paper. If you baked a single, thick cake: carefully remove it from the pan and paper; slice it horozontally in half to form two layers/rounds.

10)Place one layer on a cake plate. Spread about 1/3 of the icing over the top. Sprinkle the chopped nuts over this and gently press them into the icing.

11)Place the second layer over the first. Press this layer gently, but firmly atop the other. Spread the remaining icing over the top and sides of the cake. Decorate the surface with the remaining nut-halves.

12)Chill for a few hours if you wish (I prefer it chilled), slice and serve with hot tea or coffee.


*I’ve also seen and eaten cakes that contain fresh/canned pineapple and/or coconut- very good. Other dried fruits might be nice too- instead of raisins- like apricots, prunes, etc.)

**P.S. Today is my birthday. I’m really quite old now…  I would like to extend warm gratitude to my dear  friend, June, for not only allowing me to photograph parts of her kitchen, but for the wonderful time I had at a dinner recently had there.)



  1. musy said,

    Happy B’day Pel 🙂 Just for this occassion, i would love myself a slice of your beet cake :).
    and the cake does look lovely! i am not a big fan of carrot cakes, but this one does look different (no kidding)! and like you i shamelessly add ghee to some bakes 😉

    Have a great time for your b’day and enjoy!

    Happy b’day to you,
    Happy b’day to you,
    (Laddoo burfis for you,
    mirchi bajjis for you,)
    Happy b’day to you, dear Pel, happy b’day to you 😀

    Aw….gee, thanks Muse. Mirchi bajis! Now that’s a fine and fabulous idea; I think I shall go chile-shopping in your honour… 😀

  2. Manisha said,

    No wonder you were playing dumb earlier! Jeez!

    What were you wearing? Why is one sleeve black and the other blue? Black and blue? Subliminal message that blends with the theme of your blog? 😆

    I *love* carrot cakes and especially those that do not have sugar frosting. Cream cheese is my frosting of choice, too!

    If you’re old, I am older and Anita is what? Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! (An-eeee-ta! Where are youuuuuu? This is yourrrrr cuuuuue!)

    Oh, and Happy Birthday!! Hope it’s a super day and you feel warm and fuzzy from all the good wishes flowing your way!

    It’s a birthday week for sure!!

    That’s the spirit! Yes, where is that Anita? I hope she hasn’t broken a hip trying to get a piece of cake! 🙂

    Black and blue? Oh!! It does indeed match; I like this idea of photographing food in other people’s homes as there are so few spots here at home that are worthy of exposure… 😉 I must do it more often… perhaps I’ll ask the neighbors!

    Thanks a bunch for the birthday wishes big sister! 😉

  3. Madhuli said,

    Hey Pel Happy Birthday.and you did a fantastic job with the frosting. i have never even attempted doing it! and love the idea of using beets!have a nice time.

    Thanks Madhuli! Hey, if I can get the frosting on there, so can you!

  4. Raaga said,

    happy birthday!! I am going to try this recipe soon.

    Thank you very much Raaga- I treasure this recipe, and feel free to experiment with it!

  5. lakshmi said,

    you’ll get along very well with iyengar maamis – a breed of south indian aunties who swear by ghee. give them any bake and they’ll make it with ghee – and they are extremely generous with the use 😀 lol.

    frankly i dont see the point with icing and frosting (unless one if baking for a toddler who wants cakes in all sorts of shapes) – so i’d never do it :D. i usually top my cakes with fresh cream or nut butter just before serving.

    happy birthday!!

    Thanks Lakshmi! Fresh cream would be great on this for sure! Ghee is such precious stuff, and always makes for memorable sweets; where do I sign up to join the iyengar maamis? 😀

  6. bee said,

    happy birthday, sweetie. i’d pay six bucks a slice for that.

    Awwww….shucks [blushes]. Thanks Bee!

  7. aayisrecipes said,

    Wish you a very very happy birthday Pel. So you and Manisha have same zodiac sign?? that explains the tempo of discussions :). Now don’t tell me Anita has her birthday somewhere around ;).

    Ohh you are making me all shy. My criticism mainly comes from the fact that I have seen in different blogs the great cakes bloggers have created(some of them didn’t even take the class). After each cake, I somehow get hit by series of disappointments. Then my hubby dives in and takes good pictures (donno how he manages to hide the cracks on the cakes and also the tilted cakes :D). Now that I know many people have been encouraged by my “cake skills”, I am feeling so happy. Thanks a lot.

    Your cake looks beautiful….I have baked carrot cakes, but never tried with beets. I thought beet would make the cake red in color. Okay, I agree i din’t even know beets could be use in cakes, but when I read your post title I thought the cake would be red :).

    I too was hoping that it would be more red in colour! But no… the colour fades from baking. Maybe if I try using cherries or cranberries instead of golden raisins?

    I remember one of the first cakes I ever made: an orange cake. I forgot to grease the pans, so chunks of the cake adhered to the pan and I had to piece it together to frost. When I prepared the frosting, I added too much COLD milk which made the butter form little clumps. When I added blue colouring, it formed what looked like a blue sky with little white dots all over. Needless to say, it was not a popular cake! 🙂 But with that one, and each cake since, I’ve learnt a lesson! And no more orange cakes with blue frosting!! 😀

    Thanks for the wishes Shilpa, and for the inspiration!

  8. rinasrecipes said,

    Nice Cake!!!!


  9. sharmi said,

    Hey Pel , Wish you a very happy b’day! now I understand why you said you were so busy. hmmm busy baking huh? I would love to have a piece 🙂 very pretty looking cake.

    Honestly, at times the coming of winter is welcome: no plants to tend, no opening and closing of windows with changing weather, preserves are finished…and then we all travel from closed-up box to closed-up box… 🙂 However, it’s 86 F right now- very odd for October 6th.

    Thanks for the wishes Sharmi, and of course you may have a piece- have two! 😀

  10. neroli said,

    Oh, Dear Pel, Happy Birthday to You!
    I’ve always been a fierce carrot-cake devotee—and a firm believer in the assertion that a proper slice of carrot cake will leave a grease spot on a paper plate—even in the short time it would take me to devour it!
    I’ve never thought to make with beets—but it makes so much sense, yes?

    I’ve a three-day weekend. I think I’ll make gajar ke halwa.
    Again, Happy Birthday. Hoping the best of the coming year for you.

    I often wonder about the connection between gajar ka halvah and carrot cake- too similar to dismiss lightly! And nothing wrong with a little ghee-spot now and then… Thanks for the birthday wishes, and do enjoy your extended weekend!

  11. Suganya said,

    Happy Birthday Pel… Either way its right 😉

    [bows] Thank you very much!

  12. Anita said,

    You are old enough? For what? 😀 Happy Birthday, dear Pel. Indulge – life is too short. Already Manisha is moaning the portion of life that is over…

    But ghee in cake – I don’t think so! Butter, yes. 😀 I always disagree with the younger lot – but then I do have more experience.

    I love carrot cakes, BTW. My early versions used to be quite dry though – wonder why. There is a recipe that I have been meaning to try for years…and now that we have established that cream cheese is nothing but thick chukka…I should. Yours looks quite decadent too.

    Old…older…oldest? Is that where you were going with this, Manisha?…older and wiser…

    I could never moan about the past- I’ve done too many things that would fill a great novel; perhaps I may not be settled in a career I particularly enjoy, but this too will change. I’m right where I am supposed to be- right here, right now, sipping coffee and enjoying these comments. And that relaxed frame of mind keeps me and has kept me sane and open to accepting what comes my way. 🙂 I guess I got my little “2 cents” in eh? 😉

    I forgot to include the link for the original recipe- ah well! It calls for 1 C of vegetable oil…which is nice too, but then I tried it with half butter: very nice. Then with full amount of butter: very very nice. Then ghee. Ghee is by far the best- such a rich, caramel-like flavour that has no equal. I’ve heard it said that if you have a bit of ghee, you may consider yourself rich! And I agree… but yes, butter is most traditional for western cakes.

    Do remember that cream cheese is chakka usually made of whole milk plus cream; Funny, I was just explaining our past group-research on the subject to someone just two days ago- hardly is cream cheese an American invention! 🙂

    Thanks for the birthday wish, and advice of course! 😀

  13. Manisha said,

    Wiser, of course! What else! 😉

    Add ghee, your cake won’t be dry! What, Pel?

    My neighbor is crazy about ghee or GEE as he calls it. He loves the smell, the flavor it imparts and he once asked me about using ghee in cakes. I had only ever used butter in my cakes till I saw box cakes, that call for vegetable oil. Ghee in a carrot cake would give it a halwa type flavor with a cake-like texture. It’s the best of both worlds…(I hate Hannah Montana. And Medha has this song as her alarm. I wake up to it everyday. Groan! Is there any wonder that I find it hard to wake up??)

    Is this the neighbor with the corn? And you must try to wean Medha off of this bubblegum doo-doo Britney-wannabe! eee-gads…

  14. Cynthia said,

    I think you are being modest too, particularly as it relates to the finished product.

    Well of course, Cynthia! 🙂 That’s how I get nice compliments! 😀

  15. Manisha said,

    I’m pretty sure my parents felt the same way when I was crazy about Barry Gibb. 😀 And it’s hard to wean her off when other parents seem to go to Hannah Montana concerts with their children! It’s worse than egads!

    But I must also tell you that she loves songs from the 70s as well. I bought John Denver’s Hits for pure nostalgia. Now it makes me want to throw up as it’s the only CD that is played in the car, at home, in her boombox and when it’s not playing, she’s singing Country Roads and Rocky Mountain High all the time.

    When you think about it – wouldn’t waking up to a horrid song make you want to get out of bed and turn that alarm off? In our home, it’s a rule that devices that double as alarm clocks are not kept next to the bed. If you don’t get up to switch it off, you have to suffer through it. Or your mother does cos she has to get up, come to your room and turn the darned thing off! Hmmmm! Maybe she is smarter than I give her credit for!

    And, no, it’s not my corny neighbor, who incidentally has a pumpkin growing in his aspen tree. It’s the one on the other side whose taste buds were honed by a Fiji Indian who was his neighbor in CA.

    That’s so freaky Manisha: my mother handed me, just a little while ago, her old copy of The John Denver Songbook…and stated that she doesn’t want it anymore (had found it while cleaning/sorting) and could I check the going price on Ebay!!! “Rocky Mountain High” is raining down on me! Help!!!!! Get me outta here…

    However…Barry Gibb. I’m with you there. I spent an hour on Youtube with the brothers one fine afternoon… 😉 And yep! Sounds like Medha has you well-trained!

    A pumpkin in an aspen… hmmm. I’m not saying anything because I trained a squash-vine to grow up a large, dead and discarded- but very lovely- branch I found. However, I shared my squashes… 🙂

    Tastes honed by a Fijian Indian who was his neighbor… see, see? Food brings people together; I knew it! 😉 I’ve gotten my mother enraptured with patrode/patra bajia, but Danny is still saying, “Does cumin have to be in EVERYTHING?!”
    Then I say, “No, not at all…and it’s not in everything…”
    D: “Well, most things!”
    P: “Yes. It is used quite often…”
    D: “I just can’t stand that flavour.”
    P: “You like your mom’s chili (con carne)…and it has center stage there.”
    D: “True…but do you have to use it in every single dish?”
    P: “It’s not in every dish Danny, but I’ve been on a “northern kick” lately…but I’ll tell you what: I’ll leave it out from now on.”
    D: “No you won’t.”
    P: “You’re absolutely correct… ”

  16. Anita said,

    Serves you right for not trying my alu wadi recipe again – it has no cumin, only sesame :sulk:

    After you are over your northern kick, try some Maharashtrian food with Danny – it rarely uses cumin.

    Oh, I’ll definitely tell Danny about that! I was actually wondering if goda masala is ever used for arbi rolls. Ever hear of such a thing?

    What’s this? I didn’t use your recipe once again?!!! I feel so ashamed…. 😉 If it’s any consolation, Danny just tonight tried your kadhi- LOVES IT! He said it was too hot of course (I may have used more chiles than you suggested), but he didn’t say anything about the cumin… 😀

  17. Mona said,

    Hello ! Belated Birthdaywishes !! 🙂 And that cake looks Fab !

    • Elaichi et Cetera said,

      Why, thank you m’dear!

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