Carrot-Beet Cake

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.

Nutty Carrot Cake

Amid an abundance of moist carrot cake recipes, this one stands apart. Tart apple, toasted nuts, brown butter, and warm spices combine to create a memorable cake that you will want to serve again and again. Chose a sour apple, such as Granny Smith, for the most impact, and make sure to use a fine mesh strainer to gently squeeze out any excess water after shredding.

Nutty Carrot Cake

Inspired by:


2 eggs, room temperature
6 ounces unsalted butter, browned and cooled
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine table salt
1 cup all purpose flour (125g)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2/3 cup lightly packed peeled and shredded apple, drained of excess water
1 1/2 cups lightly packed shredded carrot
2/3 cup toasted chopped pecans, plus more for garnish


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and line a square 8×8 inch baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together the eggs and sugar until smooth and lightened in colour. Measure a 1/2 cup of the liquid brown butter (there will be some remaining) and gradually add it to the egg mixture while whisking until well combined. Whisk in the vanilla extract.
  3. Combine the flour, spices, baking power, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Gently and gradually stir the dry ingredients into the wet, just until the mixture is combined.
  5. Fold in the shredded apple, carrot, and pecans.
  6. Spread batter evenly in pan and bake for 35-40 min, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (a few moist crumbs is okay).
  7. Let cool completely in pan, then carefully use the parchment overhang to lift the cake out of the tin, or simply cut and serve.

Quick Brown Butter Frosting


1/3 cup unsalted butter (2.7 oz)
2 cups icing sugar (250g)
tiny pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3-4 tablespoons 35% cream


  1. Melt and brown the butter, let cool slightly.
  2. Stir in the salt, icing sugar, vanilla and enough cream to reach desired consistency.
  3. Spread over completely cooled cake.