February 3 – Carrot Cake Day
Ah, the carrot cake. One wouldn’t think shredding a root vegetable into cake batter would make for a particularly yummy dessert, but the natural sweetness of carrots adds to the mix and makes for a dense, moist cake that’s been loved for centuries. (Makes me wonder if some desperate chef longago had attempted the Rutabaga Cake.) Nowadays we don’t need the carrot for our sugar fix, but in recent years the carrot cake has had a resurgence in popularity, prompting gourmet versions with fanciful variations on the cake formula and the icing.
I didn’t end up liking carrot cake (I always thought it would taste grainy, as if someone put a big lump of cole slaw into cake batter) when I was a kid, but in high school the local bodega had these tiny squares of super-sweet cakes for sale, pinch-wrapped in cellophane and less than a dollar per cake. I started becoming addicted to carrot cakes at that moment, savoring the slightly sour cream cheese icing and enjoying how the carrot kept the cake moist, even throughout a day in my backpack. Ever since I’ve been a fan of the humble carrot cake, even if it’s not my first choice on a dessert menu. It’s always connected in my mind with memories of tennis class and surreptitiously licking the icing off the cellophane when no one was looking. 😉
About two years ago the website Serious Eats did a taste test for the best carrot cake in New York. It held up then, and still holds up now: Amy’s Bread is still one of the best slices of cake you’ll get your hands on in Manhattan. The cream cheese icing is sweet yet also holds a tartness to it that helps balance out the rest of the cake, so it’s not overly sweet. Nicely spiced as well as fluffy and moist, Amy’s Bread wins well above the rest of the competition. Get there early, so you can choose your slice from a freshly baked cake right at the counter.
672 9th Ave (between 46th St & 47th St)
75 9th Ave (between 15th St & 16th St)
250 Bleecker St (between Leroy St & Cornelia St)
“The carrot cake here is nothing short of sublime with its plush and tender crumb made moist by an abundance of shredded carrots. Generously studded with large chunks of black walnuts and enrobed in a velvety cream cheese frosting, each slice is perhaps a bit larger than one person would be advised to consume in a sitting. The best part? A light hand with sugar and emphasis on quality leaves you more than satisfied, without the toothache.”–Serious Eats
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“My favorite was the carrot cake. The consistency of the cream on top went perfectly with the cake. Great texture.”–Annie T.
“Carrot Cake by the slice — the cake isn’t terribly dense or heavy; the crumb is actually pretty light and very moist; the taste of carrot is certainly present, lightly sweet and vegetal. Spice level of this cake is rather mild, which I don’t mind as it lets the natural sweetness of the carrots shine through. I quite like the cream cheese frosting – its not too sweet all, well balanced by the tang of cream cheese. It’s silky smooth (in that curiously vegetable-shortening kinda way), and fluffy.”–Tiffany Y.
Are you a carrot connoisseur and disagree with Serious Eats’ verdict? Have you found an even better carrot cake than Amy’s? (Does it come wrapped in cellophane?) Let us know about it in the comments!