Grandma’s old fashioned carrot cake is made special with crushed pineapple, a delicious frosting, and you got it, a whole lot of love.
Usually, I’m not one to pour out all my feeling and emotions, but a couple weeks ago, our family lost an amazing woman, wife, mom, grandma, great grandma. My grandma (or “halmuni”) was a pillar of strength and love, and we will miss her dearly. This one’s for you, Halmuni.
It’s no secret in our family that my grandma wasn’t the best cook. I mean, Grandpa ate everything she made him, and when she cooked for us, we ate with great appreciation – we knew how much effort, time, and love went into those dishes. That being said, she did make one thing that was a crowd favorite- carrot cake. She made the same carrot cake for all holidays since I could remember. If I’m being honest, I really did not like the cake as a kid. I mean, really, what kind of kid wants carrots and nuts in their cake? It was an imposter of a cake to me – I was always somewhat disappointed when she would unwrap the foil and reveal that same carrot cake. Plus, Grandma made it with no frosting and with huge pieces of carrot in it. The recipe calls for grated carrot, which should be understood to be finely grated, but Grandma just bought pre-shredded carrots (yes, the ones that you use for coleslaw and such) and threw it in the cake batter. However, as I got older, I slowly warmed up to this funny dessert she kept calling cake, and grew to love it (with its obscenely large shreds of carrot and all). Every holiday we would ask Grandma to bring the cake, and she would. She brought it with pride, knowing that we all loved it enough to request it. She probably thought to herself, “finally these kids understand what a great cook I am!” This cake holds such a special place in my heart because of all of her love, compassion, joy, and care that’s associated with it. I will forever think of you when I have carrot cake. So here’s to you, Halmuni. Thank you for always pouring your love over all of us. We miss you already.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Mix vegetable oil, white sugar, brown sugar, eggs, crushed pineapples, and pineapple juice. In a separate bowl, mix flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Mix in the grated carrots and walnuts if using. Pour into a prepared 9 x 13 pan and bake for 40-45 minutes. Let cool completely. I found these adorable tiny loaf pans at Homegoods (I’ve also seen them at Target and random places too). I used 6 individual loaf pans, and divided the batter evenly among them. I found the cooking time to be the same.
Make the cream cheese frosting. (If you like your desserts less sweet, or maybe want to eat this in the morning, you can just eat the cake without the frosting. However, the flavors and textures work so well together, I recommend you take this extra step). I used the same frosting as I did for my layered birthday cake and mini churro cupcakes. I know, I know – you’re thinking, “when will this girl stop using this same frosting recipe?” When it’s not delicious anymore, that’s when. It’s seriously such an easy frosting recipe and pairs well with so many desserts. It’s a keeper for sure. For this recipe, I skipped the vanilla and added one tablespoon of reserved pineapple juice just because I had it, and to add a little extra pineapple-y flavor. Make the frosting, and slather it on the cake. You can decorate with extra walnuts if you’d like.
Carrots are naturally sweet and add a lovely texture to this cake (when shredded finely; again, nothing against grandma’s huge shreds of carrot, but I think it’s worth the extra step to grate it yourself). The crushed pineapple adds an element of natural sweetness and makes the cake exceptionally moist. The walnuts give the crunchy texture element plus an extra flavor addition. Finally, the smooth cream cheese icing ties everything together. Everything just works in harmony to make the most perfect dessert!
ODE TO GRANDMA
Halmuni, I’m sad I won’t hear you telling me how much weight I’ve gained. I’m sad you won’t force me to eat more food 15 minutes later. I’m sad that I won’t get an envelope of 20 crisp $1 bills on my birthday this year. I’m sad I won’t get random phone calls from you checking up on how the whole family is doing. I’m sad that you won’t feel my boyfriend’s forearm to see if he’s husband material when the time comes. I’m sad you won’t see me walk down the aisle.
Halmuni, I’m happy you got to see Esther get married before you left. I’m happy that hide and seek is such a fond memory in my heart because of you. I’m happy that I’ve been showered with your prayers my whole life. I’m happy that you’ve made countless lives so much better in ways that you probably didn’t even know. I’m happy that I was one of those lucky people. I’m happy that you’re now in a place that you’ve been looking forward to going to for a long time; that you’re with your heavenly Father and that you’re happier now than ever.
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup canned crushed pineapple, juices drained
- 2 tbsp reserved pineapple juice
- 2 cup all purpose flour*
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 cups finely grated carrots
- 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
- 8oz block cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
- 4-5 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp reserved pineapple juice
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Preheat oven to 350F
- In a bowl, mix first 6 ingredients (vegetable oil, white sugar, brown sugar, eggs, crushed pineapple, pineapple juice).
- In a separate bowl, mix flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
- Mix the wet ingredients into dry ingredients until combined.
- Add grated carrots and walnuts. Mix.
- Pour batter into prepared 9 x 13 pan (or 6 individual mini loaf pans). Bake for 40-45 minutes. Let cool
- Beat cream cheese and butter until combined.
- Mix in vanilla extract and salt.
- Add 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time and beat. Add until desired consistency is reached.
- Spread frosting over cooled cake. Top with additional walnuts if desired.
- *Her original recipe calls for 1/2 AP flour, 1/2 whole wheat flour, which you can do