When Good Carrot Cake Goes Green {It’s the Baking Soda, Stupid!}

Shortly after coming to New Zealand, I noticed something.  There seemed to be a lot of carrot cake – in coffee shops, at restaurants, served at get-togethers, at the hospital cafeteria… you get the idea.  Not surprisingly, I found myself dreaming about cream cheese frosting and nutty, delicious baked goods.   When I mentioned this to a Kiwi, he laughed and said that as far as he was concerned, being able to bake a carrot cake blindfolded while simultaneously trimming a sheep’s hoof and cutting a hole in your wall for a window should be part of the New Zealand citizenship exam.  Apparently, carrot cake is a big deal over here!

So far, I’d managed to avoid falling into carrot temptation.  That all disappeared when I went to my new employee’s welcome day.  There on the sideboard were 5 huge trays of carrot cake.

Oh, snap.

I avoided it the first go-round and held strong during morning tea break.  But my willpower evaporated during the fire-extinguisher demonstration, and by lunch time, that carrot cake was yelling my name!  I snagged a piece and savored it, then promptly thought, “I should make this some time.”

Normally when I eat a scrumptious dessert and think, “I should make this some time”, the thought both enters and leaves my head in a period of about .3 seconds.  This one stuck around.  I went home, pulled out my cookbooks, scoured the various recipes, and finally decided on one from my hometown church cookbook.  I made a few modifications, but stuck to the basic outline.  I defy anyone who says that church-women don’t know how to cook!  If you find a church cookbook, preferably one with a few stains and ragged edges, you hold onto that sucker!

Now that I had my recipe, I set about making the dessert.  I decided to wait till we were having a dinner and serve it to our guests.  I don’t know why I do this to myself.  Everyone knows that you should never try out a new recipe on guests!  About halfway through the cake prep, I thought, “Hmmm… I hope this turns out alright… maybe I should’ve done a test run…”.  Once I pulled it out of the oven I thought, “It looks OK, but what if it tastes horrible?  Maybe I should cut a thin slice off the edge, just to be sure!  I could cover it with frosting…”  Chris had the same idea about cutting a thin slice and hiding it with frosting, only his reasons had nothing whatsoever to do with taste-testing – he just wanted cake!

I figured that if it looked OK and smelled OK, then it probably was OK.  I iced it with absolutely delicious cream cheese frosting, sprinkled chopped pecans on top, and nodded my approval.

Later that night when dinner was over and coffee and tea had been served, I brought out the carrot cake.  I cut up some pieces, put them on plates, and then took a closer look.  What was that?  Were those nuts?  Something didn’t look right…

Excuse the poor photo quality – this is a cropped close-up of another shot!

There were green flecks in my carrot cake!  Carrot cake that I was about to serve to my guests!  Some of whom I’d never met before!  I wondered if they would think that I had made the carrot cake using spinach, or if the carrot cake had mold in it.

It was too late by that point – they had seen the cake.  I had to serve it.  I passed the plates around and hoped that no one would notice {or that if they did notice, they wouldn’t say anything!}.  Thankfully, not a word was spoken about the green flecks, but several words were spoken about how good it tasted.  Whew!  And overall, it did look pretty delectable…

Apparently, the coloring of carrots is very sensitive to changes in pH balance, which in a cake is controlled by baking soda.  If you don’t properly distribute the baking soda in the cake batter, you’ll have large sections of carrot in the cake that have a green color.  Or – and I think that this was the case with this particular recipe – if you have too much baking soda, it will turn a lot of the carrot a dark green color.  The reason why I think that the latter applied to this recipe is because the green flecks were equally distributed {which would indicate that the baking soda was properly mixed}, as opposed to being concentrated in certain areas of the cake.

I think that the next time I bake this I’ll use just a smidge less baking soda and see how that affects the color.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.

If you’d like to make your own scrumptious carrot cake, then just follow the recipe below.  But you’ve been warned – you may have green flecks in your dessert!  If that happens, just tell your guests “It’s the baking soda, stupid!”, and hand them a fork 🙂

Carrot Cake

Cake Ingredients…

  • 2 C flour
  • 2 C sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 C cooking oil
  • 4 C raw carrots, grated
  • 1/2 C pecans, chopped

Frosting Ingredients…

  • 1 package (3 oz) cream cheese + 1/3 of another package
  • 1/2 C butter, softened
  • 4 C powdered sugar
  • 1/2 C pecans, chopped
  • 1 tsp lemon juice, optional {I didn’t use this}

In medium size mixing bowl, thoroughly stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  In larger mixing bowl, beat eggs till fluffy; slowly beat in oil, then gradually add in flour mixture {1/2 C at a time}, beating till smooth.  Mix in carrots and nuts.  Pour into either a greased 9 x 13 inch pan or three 8 inch cake pans.  Bake in 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 30 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool.

For frosting, beat together cream cheese and butter.  Add powdered sugar gradually and lemon juice {if using}.  Beat until frosting is a spreadable consistency.  Ice cake and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 C of pecans.

Note: I made this cake in a 9 x 13 inch pan, which made things a lot easier.  You’ll have extra frosting if you make it using this method, but that never hurt anyone 😉

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  1. Jacqui says:

    The same thing happened to me! and I found out it was just too much bi carb as well… lucky it doesnt affect the taste!! I just blogged about it as well lol yours looks better than mine though!!

  2. Trixie Dorlong says:

    Someone told me once that if you don’t peel your carrots before shredding them (and i didn’t, I only scrubbed them), you will get the green flecks. I think this might be true, as my carrot cakes have been made in the U.S., not NZ, but just a guess!

  3. Sarah says:

    In a carrot cake country – does anyone ever put pineapple in theirs? I’m having a discussion with the new boy about whether or not pineapple bits ever belong in a carrot cake. I say yes. What does New Zealand say?

  4. Erin says:

    Obviously, we didn’t notice! I’m so glad to have the recipe because it was beyond delicious. The extras you so graciously sent home with us were gone quickly too. My mom said she ate a piece for breakfast on Sat 🙂

  5. K.C. says:

    Oh goodness, that’s too funny! I never knew that about baking soda. But, it does look scrumptious and I’m sure your guests loved every bite of it!

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