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Heirloom carrot cake

Heirloom carrot cake

It’s been a little over two weeks since I last updated. I never planned to take a hiatus even when everything happened, but in the end, it couldn’t be helped given the circumstances.

My sweet grandmother did indeed leave us on April 2nd, a day that is already unforgettable because it’s my birthday. My eyes had been sore for two weeks as we watched her slip away more and more each day. Then on April 2nd, they were crystal clear. I posted on social media to my friends who wished me a happy birthday that it was a bittersweet day, and I appreciated their wishes but I would not be celebrating in typical fashion. Still, I couldn’t help but think that I was being gifted a remarkable annual reminder from the universe of how precious life is.

Hard as it is to accept, now when I celebrate my birthday, in addition to associations with cake and fun times and love, I will be forever reminded of just how temporary our existence here is. After all birth and death are just different sides of the same coin. No generic platitudes can do justice to the powerful lesson here for all of us—our time really is limited, and life is too beautiful to be wasted. In the time since this great reminder, I like to think that I’ve wasted no time (Pinterest doesn’t count), enjoyed every single moment to its fullest (maybe ate a little more than I should) and never missed an opportunity to tell my loved ones how much I love them.

Carrot cake-1

And it is on that note that I could not think of a better segue back into the pace of normal life than by making my grandmother’s famous carrot cake. Her untimely passing came as a shock to us all–one week she was confused and three weeks later she was gone, although her presence is still very much felt, bringing me comfort.

I did a lot of grieving and a lot of eating and a lot more grieving over how much I ate, but as with everything, life goes on, and I had to come back to Toronto and try to tackle everything head-on as I always do and make up for the time I was out.

The original reason for this recipe is to show my friends and family and readers that grandma’s spirit lives, not only in our memories but also in our recipes. Because of everything that had happened, I even forgot that Easter was approaching. Grandma would have made this for Easter. This year, I’ll take care of it.

Carrot cake 550x550-3

We found the original recipe in her recipe box while tying things up after the funeral. Thanks to my aunts and mother who gifted me both grandma’s grater and one of her cake pans, my cake was almost as good as she always made.

I tried to remain as true as possible to my grandmother’s recipe, resisting the urge to half the white sugar with brown sugar, cut down on the oil (and use canola instead of vegetable), maybe trade some cornstarch for baking soda. It is my instinct to automatically assume there is a better way. The truth is: you can make a carrot cake any number of ways. This carrot cake, however, unlike any other carrot cake I’ve ever had in my life actually tastes like carrot, naturally sweet and subtle and moist.

Heirloom-carrot cake-4

I did use 8 oz. of cream cheese and skipped the business with hot milk because I didn’t have any on hand. Other than that, I was very good at following directions and pulling on memory for the missing bits.

In hand grating the carrots with my grandmother’s Tupperware grater (one like this) that’s probably older than I am, I gained a totally new appreciation for how much a labor of love this recipe was. The preparation time for me was, I’m not kidding, one hour to get the carrots fully grated. Excuse me, Grandma, for the all the cursing I did during this process.

I would maybe think she didn’t use the grater, but I know for a fact she did as I saw her use it with my own eyes. And it makes sense, even in her final week, when all we could is hold her hand, we felt the strength in those fingers, stronger than ours.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Heirloom carrot cake
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Prep time
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Total time
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 15
  • Cake
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 1½ cup vegetable oil
  • Icing
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1⅔ cup 10x sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ½ cup walnuts, chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. By hand mix together all of the cake ingredients in the order listed, except for the eggs.
  3. Beat in the eggs one at a time until thoroughly mixed.
  4. Pour mixture into a greased 9x13 inch pan. Bake in the oven at 350 for 45-50 minutes, until an inserted toothpick stuck into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let cool before icing.
  5. For the icing beat together the listed ingredients except the walnuts until smooth. Spread icing smoothly over the top of the cake. Sprinkle walnuts onto the top of the cake.
Cake stays moist for a long time.

Indeed the cake does stay moist for a long time. I made it on Sunday and as of this morning, the cake is still like the first day. And even though there are carrots, don’t mistake it, this cake is decadent.

Carrot cake nutrition facts

I miss her.  I hope that as the April holidays of Easter and Passover bring you closer to your loved ones that you cherish the time together and celebrate life. We often forget how much of a gift it is to live.



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3 comments… add one

  • Wanda

    Looks delicious honey! Grandma would be so proud!

    • AJ

      Thanks, Mama. Love you!

  • AJ Dahler (@ajdahler)

    Returning to blogging post funeral, I make my grandma’s famous carrot #cake #recipe #Easter http://t.co/b6l4ZHLVKU http://t.co/JYrf9CwseV

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