Recipe of Family Folklore

A great recipe is one with a story attached that has been handed down through the generations.

It seems that every family has one. The recipe is slightly modified and the story more embellished as it passes through from generation to generation. It evolves from a simple tale to the current prominent status. As the recipe is put together time after time, the story is retold and morphs into it’s current state. Nobody questions the origins as it is accepted for what it has become.

In our family it is the classic carrot cake. A simply devine dessert that doesn’t sound very appetizing to a kid. Who would put carrots in a cake? What is wrong with having chocolate instead? As you grow up and gain an appreciation for the rustic characteristics. The moist carrots melting in the rich aroma of the cinnamon and nutmeg. The woodsy crunch of the nuts as you take a bite. You can not pass up the change to dip a finger just to get a taste of the sweet tangy cream cheese icing. It is the crowning glory of the cake.

I am sorrowfully disappointed in a carrot cake that does not offer cream cheese icing.

Our family carrot cake recipe has similar origins to others out there. It may have been the running joke of the time but I carry a glint of hope that their is the smallest bit of truth to it all. It is the famously fabulous – Waldorf Astoria hotel recipe. Yes. That one. My great Aunt and Uncle had visited and stayed at the hotel, ordered the famous cake, asked for the recipe, was billed a large amount of money for it at the time ($50) and she passed it onto all our relatives.

No matter the origins, it has been a staple in our kitchen growing up. Reserved for special occasions, birthdays and company it has developed over the years. It is my Dad’s favourite cake and a special request is made to have it on his day. As time goes by, it never falters. My Mom can make it in her sleep.

Her recipes card has the basic ingredients and very limited instructions that only a seasoned baker can read between the lines.

Years of working side by side in the kitchen helps me ‘translate’ her recipe book to my siblings and others trying to decipher what seems like a top secret concoction written in code. It is like our very own language that we speak. Steps that are not written are maneuvered like a dance. You know what is to come by following the rhythm.

I have customized it with my take on the classic. There is no resentment for this, but celebration in coming into my own. Finding my path and respecting the past.

My parents had come down to our home to celebrate Easter this year. The glazed spiral ham, the homemade scallop potatoes and the brussel sprouts were all perfection. It was enjoyed by all, but there was not one of us (including my 3 year old) that could not wait for dessert. I was happy to provide another chapter to our family recipe tale this year. A celebration of the love we share of the unspoken tradition that is our carrot cake.

I have included the original cake recipe and my adaptation of the classic for your enjoyment.





  • Jessica says:

    What a wonderful story! Like you, I never was a fan of carrot cake when I was a kid and now as an adult, I love, love, love it. And yes, carrot cake made without cream cheese icing is a crime against nature. I’m a big fan of nuts in my cake too and your description had my mouth watering. 🙂

    • Crime against nature – agreed! Homemade carrot cake definitely has to include the nuts the cream cheese or it just doesn’t seem right. Nice, but not right. This is definitely a tribute to my Mom and is fitting with Mother’s Day coming up. Thanks for your comments!

  • Megan says:

    I love these kind of family recipes! In our family,
    It’s apple crisp. And I totally agree that carrot cake just isn’t carrot cake without cream cheese icing. That’s my favourite part.

    • Apple crisp was a stable in our home growing up and we all loved the way the ice cream melted on top. I carry on the tradition in our home to the delight of my family. Your comments are appreciated!

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