Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Recipe: George Washington's carrot tea cake

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When I moved from New York to southern California in late 1993, my wonderful friend Judith gave me a gift I still treasure and likely always will: New York Cookbook by Molly O'Neill. "So you will always have the good smells and tastes of New York at your fingertips," she wrote. It's full of typical New York personalities, and the recipes range from heavy Italian to authentically Jewish to star-studded.

Truth be told, I read this book a lot more than I cook from it. It's quite entertaining on its own. Who wouldn't want to read about Katharine Hepburn's brownies? Or Sylvia's ribs (that's Sylvia as in the legendary eponymous restaurant in Harlem)? Or Eli Zabar's bread?

But there's one recipe I go back to again and again, and it's one of the book's most unusual entries. George Washington's tea cake, says the introduction, "was served on the occasion of British Evacuation Day on November 25, 1783, at the Fraunces Tavern, in what now is the South Street Seaport area." Washington was there, and thus the cake got his name.

I do like it for its heritage, but I also just plain like it. It's a very light cake, with a delicate crumb and none of the health-food overtones one usually associates with carrot cake. In fact, were it not for the orange speckles, you probably wouldn't be able to guess what's in it.

George Washington's carrot tea cake
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups grated carrots
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a Bundt pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, combine the oil, sugar, eggs and carrots, and mix well. Add the flour mixture and stir until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a tester comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool in the pan 2 minutes, then turn the cake out onto a rack to finish cooling.


Esi said...

For such a fabulous looking cake, it sure seems pretty simple to make!

Anonymous said...

I made this recipe this morning, substituting two 8x4 loaf pans for the one bundt pan. It is absolutely delicious, the carrot cake I have been looking for all my life. It is equally good toasted or untoasted, and is especially tasty with a little shmear of whipped cream cheese. I think you might be able to cut back on the sugar slightly, unless you have a serious sweet tooth (or if your carrots are exceptionally sweet). I wonder if you could make this cake with grated parsnips standing in for some or all of the carrot? Could be weird. I also recently made your chocolate zucchini muffins and thought the recommendation to use olive oil was excellent. I may try to use that here as well for a slightly more savory taste. GREAT recipe! Thank you!

Erika Kerekes said...

Anon, I am so glad you liked it. I have cut down the sugar some with good results. I bet small parsnips would be ok, but I wouldn't use larger ones because of their tendency to be woody and fibrous. Great idea for an experiment!

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