The idea for this cake originated from a tattered copy of Company’s Coming: Cakes, which I sometimes riffle through because of the sheer volume and variety of classic and old-school recipes. I baked this cake as written the first time, and then ate a quarter of it while thinking about what needed to be changed. I settled on several adjustments to bump up the flavor and modernize the recipe, while retaining the sweet and earthy beet flavor that makes it memorable.
Like many classic carrot cake recipes, the batter was heavy with an enthusiastic cup of oil. This amount of fat produced a moist cake but one with a very greasy crumb. Substituting unsweetened applesauce for a quarter of the oil evened the balance of fat and flour, resulting in a lighter, fruitier cake without sacrificing the moisture. I also found that using equal amounts of carrots and juicy beets made an overly strong beat-flavored cake, tinted somewhere between orange and pink. Shifting the ratio from 1:1 to 3:1 in favor of carrots, draining the shredded beets, swapping white sugar for dark brown, and adding vanilla and spices all helped to transform a heavy bland cake into the adventurous carrot cake-lover’s dream.
Carrot & Beet Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour (250g)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon + 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, or 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie or chai spice mix
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup flavourless cooking oil
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups lightly packed grated carrot
1/2 cup lightly packed grated raw beet, drained of excess juice
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter two 8 inch cake pans and line with parchment paper.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, spices, and salt.
Grate the carrots, and then the beets. Make sure to squeeze all the excess juice from the beet shreds with your hands or a fine mesh strainer.
With a handheld or stand mixer, beat together the brown sugar, oil, and applesauce on medium speed for 30 seconds until well combined. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla extract.
Sift the dry ingredients over the mixing bowl and then stir with a rubber spatula or the lowest setting on a stand mixer to combine. Stir only until there are no streaks of flour remaining. Add the carrots, beets, and chopped walnuts. Stir just until all ingredients are combined and evenly dispersed. Do not over mix.
Divide the batter between the cake tins and spread evenly with the back of a spoon.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the middle springs back when lightly touched.
Let the cakes cool completely in the pans, then turn out and frost with your favorite cream cheese icing.
I used this recipe on Food52 for a light, creamy frosting, and the only change I made was to use brown sugar. You will have more than enough for this cake, but it never hurts have extra frosting in your freezer.