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Bolo de Cenoura vs. Carrot Cake

December 17, 2009

“Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.”

-Jim Davis, ‘Garfield’

When Alex’s brother said he was making a  bolo de cenoura, I got excited – I have always loved carrot cake. I expected something like this:

American Carrot Cake

American Carrot Cake

you know, raisins, nuts, grated carrots, cinnamon, and – the best part – cream cheese frosting.

Instead, this came out of the oven:

Brazilian Bolo de Cenoura

Brazilian Bolo de Cenoura

What? What is this homogenous orange mass, and WHERE is the cream cheese? <cue grumpy disappointed face>

After pondering over the intense orange color and the dripping chocolate covering, I decided to try it… and here’s where my adaptation skills came in. It was good… really good. However, it was absolutely nowhere near what I knew to be a carrot cake. If I looked at it, I started to miss the cream cheese… but when I closed my eyes, it was divine. It’s sweet enough to serve as a dessert, yet savory enough to serve at breakfast.

As usual, I decided to look into how this metamorphosis came to occur. According to Bo Friberg (“The Professional Pastry Chef”), the carrot cake originated some time during the Middle Ages, when sugar was a rare and luxurious treat. Carrots were often used in cakes and desserts due to their high sugar content. In Britain, carrot puddings began to appear in cookbooks in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the use of carrots in desserts was revived in the United States during the 2nd World War, when sugar supplies were scarce.

Bo Friberg states that the carrot cake (with the characteristics of a modern cake) is definitely a North American invention. In this case, it would contain raw grated carrot, raisins, nuts and spices and traditionally would be filled and covered with a cream made with cream cheese base. (HA, I knew it!) The current carrot cake that  Brazilians know gradually became adapted to the tastebuds of the country – which, after being here for a month, I can understand – heavy, overly sweet foods don’t really mix with the oppressive heat here.

I’ll leave you with two recipes – one for American carrot cake, and one for Brazilian Bolo de Cenoura.

American Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1  cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2.5 cups grated carrots
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1/2 cup softened (unsalted) butter
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 3.5 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice and salt. Set aside.

Beat the eggs, oil, sugars and honey and mix until well-blended. Fold in the flour mixture, carrots, raisins and nuts.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until the center of the cakes spring back when touched lightly. Cool in pans for 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks and cool completely.

For the frosting, beat everything together in a mixer until it’s creamy.

Brazilian Bolo de Cenoura com Cobertura de Chocolate

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 cup oil
  • 3 large carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Chocolate Topping:

  • 1 can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 cup of cocoa powder, sifted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 9×13 pan. Put the eggs, chopped carrots, oil, and salt in a blender. Mix on high until homogenous.

In a separate bowl, sift together the sugar, baking powder, and salt. Combine the blended mixture with the dry ingredients in the bowl, being careful to not over-mix.

Bake until a toothpick comes out clean in the center – the recipe doesn’t specify how long, but I’d check it after 25 minutes or so.

For the frosting, mix the condensed milk, cream, and cocoa powder together in a pan. Stir constantly over a medium-low flame until it becomes a creamy, frosting-like consistency.

As usual, if you try either recipe, please comment and let us know how it turned out!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Mom permalink
    February 26, 2010 9:00 pm

    Thanks Heather, now you’ve got me craving carrot cake……and I don’t know which one to start with!
    I’ll let you know which one I like better. Though I will say that any time I’ve ever made it before, I’ve always used walnuts and replaced the oil with plain, unsweetened applesauce. It’s still really moist, but has a lot less fat and is actually healthy for you! Yeah, I know, still not really healthy, but maybe a little healhtIER…..hahaha.
    Miss you!

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