For many people, carrot cakes are their go-to dessert. Go to any dessert shop or cake bakery, and you will find that carrot cake is one of their most popular items. But then your mind starts to wonder. If this cake actually tastes like the vegetable it is based on, then how did it become so famous? And if not, what do you taste when eating a carrot cake?
Carrot cakes do not taste like carrots much, if at all. While carrots are present in most carrot cake recipes, their taste is suppressed by other, more dominant flavors. The taste of the cream cheese frosting, spice mix, and other fruits and nuts are all more prevalent than the actual carrots.
But if carrot cakes do not have the taste of carrots, why do we still call them such? Do you even need to add carrots to the mix? Well, this article is here to answer all these questions and more. We will look at how carrot cake is made, the flavor profile it presents, and how you can make yours a healthy and tasty dessert.
Is Carrot Cake Supposed to Taste Like Carrots?
On the surface, this may seem like an arbitrary question. People who have yet to taste carrot cakes will say – of course, it tastes like carrots. But if that were true, this cake would become more of a vegetable dish rather than a sweet treat.
Contrary to what its name suggests, carrot cakes hardly taste like carrots. In fact, in many recipes, you will struggle to find any fragments of the vegetable. Now, this is not because carrot cakes are totally devoid of carrots. Carrots are included in the recipe, hence the name.
But many other flavors often overpower the taste of carrots in the final product. Carrots do not have a strong body of flavor, to begin with. And unless you use it in heavy concentrations, you will not receive the vegetable’s earthy, slightly sweet profile.
This is unlike some of its counterparts such as banana or pineapple. The basic taste of carrots is pretty neutral. So, you really cannot feel it over the other fruits, cream cheese, and sugar.
Of course, a carrot cake that genuinely tastes like carrots will probably not be as popular. For the majority of carrot cake consumers, this dessert is a sweet escape from the taste of vegetables. So, they prefer their cakes do not remind them of veggie roots.
What Is the Taste of Carrot Cake?
So, if not carrots, what is the taste of carrot cake? Well, it depends on the ingredients you put into and their quantity. The most common spice is cinnamon, so carrot cake can easily remind you of apple cakes or pumpkin bread.
For the most part, carrot cakes taste like a spice cake topped off with cream cheese. The caramelized brown sugar gives a sweet taste, cream cheese gives a salty and creamy profile, and spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves provide a richer taste.
The carrots are there to give the cake a bolder, fuller flavor without standing out on its own. The good thing about carrots is that they will not alter the taste of the other elements too much. This makes carrots a good choice for making a rich cake without having it taste like vegetables.
Of course, you can taste the carrots if your particular recipe allows for that. Sugar is likely the main culprit for repressing the natural and more subtle sweetness of the carrots. But if you turn the sugar volume down, your palate will adjust to the lower sweetness level. Then you may get a more prominent carroty taste.
Many variations also call for additional nuts and fruits. The nuts give you a crunch that makes the texture of the cake more diverse. And considering which fruit you use, your cake is going to have a distinct taste. Fruits like bananas and oranges will have a pronounced effect.
What Does Carrot Cake Taste Like Without Carrots?
For the most part, it will taste the same. As we have already discussed, the carrots do not alter the taste of the cake or stand out in the batter too much. Though it is the namesake of the dish, the carrots mostly act as a supporting act, while the cream cheese and spices take center stage.
So, in many carrot cake recipes, the absence of carrots is hardly noticeable, unless you have a very keen palate or are particularly searching for it. The most notable difference is that the cake will not feel as rich or moist as it would have with carrots in it.
Then why do people call it carrot cake or use it in the first place? Well, many consider the addition of a vegetable making it a healthier option over other cakes. Carrots are a good source of beta-carotene, which is the vitamin crucial in keeping your vision normal. So, the carrots are a good choice. In addition, carrot is a slightly sweet vegetable, so it’s not strange that someone decided to make the cake out of it.
But despite playing such a subdued role, carrot cakes are still called carrot cakes and will be called as such in the days to come.
Is Carrot Cake Good For You?
Similar to other candies and confectionaries, most cakes are nightmare fuel for dentists. For many people, carrot is the healthier alternative to delight their sweet buds without doing great harm to the body. After all, carrots are vegetables so they must be good for you. But is this really true?
Sadly, most carrot cakes are not healthier than other varieties of cakes. The obvious culprit here is the sugar. No good carrot cake is devoid of sugar. And an average carrot cake is likely to have the same amount of it as you would find in other cakes.
It is true that carrot cakes contain nutritional ingredients such as carrots and nuts. But other cakes also possess them. This is not the differentiating factor here. Based on the size of your serving, a slice of carrot cake can give you 400-600 kcal. That is a lot of your daily calorie requirement with little nutritional value to back it up.
You also need to consider the cream cheese frosting. Store-bought cream cheeses are full of sugar and saturated fatty acids, which is the bad kind of fatty acids.
If the cake itself is store-bought, then you may have to be even warier. Because they may contain artificial coloring, added chemicals for flavor, etc.
How Can You Make Carrot Cakes Healthier?
Avoid Saturated Fat
Saturated fats have a nasty tendency of clogging your arteries and, therefore, increasing the risk of heart disease. Butter and coconut oil are full of this type of fat. 
So, replacing them with olive oil is a good start. Not only do they reduce the saturated fat load, but also make your cake’s texture lighter and more moisturized.
Reduce the Sugar Content
Sugars do more for your cakes than simply make them sweeter. They are essential in getting light and airy texture due to how they help trap tiny bubbles of air in the cake.
But what might sound like heresy at first, is actually quite possible and can be a healthy alternative. Yes, the cake has to taste sweet. But that sweetness can come from multiple sources other than table sugar.
For example, natural sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup can easily replace store-bought sugar in your cake. They can make your cakes heavier but also add more diversity to the overall taste. And genuine, natural honey or maple syrup is definitely a better source of sweetness than normal sugar.
The natural sweetness in fruits and vegetables is also a terrific alternative. Carrot cakes work well with other vegetables, fruits, and nuts. So, reducing the amount of sugar by 10-30% and using naturally sweet fruits to make the cake can pay great dividends. As a bonus, you receive all the minerals and vitamins in the fruits and nuts as well.
Add More Fiber
The next time you bake a carrot cake, choose wholegrain flour instead of white. This is because the whole grain has the entire grain in the powder, making it more fiber and vitamin-rich.
Another tip is to blend the almonds and replace some of the flour with blended almonds.
Go Easy With the Icing
The icing on top of the cake – we have all heard this saying. But try not to go too overboard with this idea as they are mostly sugar. Carrot cake relies heavily on its cream cheese frosting. So, if you are going to add icing on top of it, make it a drizzle.
The Best Carrot Cake Recipe?
So, with an eye on the health bar, here is a carrot cake recipe that will delight your sweet tooth without making your body feel terrible afterward.
- 200g of self-raising wholegrain flour. You can also opt for almond flour.
- 1 tsp baking soda.
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp nutmeg (grated)
- ½ salt
- 100g raisins
- 200g carrots (grated)
- 50-100g chopped pecans or walnuts for the topping. You can also add extra raisins or coconut shredding.
- 4 eggs
- 150g natural maple sugar. You can use honey or brown sugar as an alternative.
- 50g unsweetened almond milk.
- 1 tsp vanilla extract.
For the Frosting:
- 150g full-fat cream cheese.
- 50g powder sugar (you can use sugar substitutes like Canderel).
- 1 tsp vanilla extract.
- A bit of lemon zest.
- Preheat the oven to 356 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Line the bottom of 2 8-inch tins with parchment paper. Spray it with non-stick cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, raisins, and salt together. Place it aside for the moment.
- In another large bowl, whisk the eggs, natural maple syrup, almond milk, and vanilla extract until the mix is smooth.
- Now gently add in the carrots.
- Combine the mixture from the first bowl into the second and combine them well until you get a smooth texture.
- Pour the mixture evenly into the two trays.
- Bake them for 25-30 minutes. Then let it cool in the tin.
- Meanwhile, mix the icing ingredients and refrigerate.
- When the cakes are cool enough, remove them from the tins. Cover one cake with icing. Place the other cake on top then top it with icing. Finally, decorate with the remaining pecans.
To conclude, whether it be for a birthday celebration, office party, or just to brighten up the afternoon, carrot cakes are a colorful and delightful package that is ready to rock your taste buds.