Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting: impossible to resist. (Kathy D’Agostino photo)

I don’t know about you, but for me, April is the official start of spring. I know it was slow to arrive, but we now have longer days with warmer temperatures. A walk on the beach has become a more pleasant experience with the warmth of the sun. If you look closely, you will see forsythia buds forming and attempting to open. Daffodils and tulips are peeking out of the ground. The shrink wrap is coming off boats and trailers are moving vessels back into the water. The Sea Dogs and Slugger are in full swing at Hadlock Field. You may see folks enjoying a beer and hot dog at the ballpark, along with a few brave Mainers donning shorts for the first time since last year, showing some very white legs! Folks are opening up decks and patios and pulling out furniture that was stored away from the winter elements. This can mean only one thing … outside gatherings with good friends, laughter, and some tasty food are now in order.

Whatever the menu items you decide to prepare for a warm afternoon gathering outdoors, nothing says spring better than carrot cake. It has been a favorite at our house since I was a little girl. Serving carrot cake was usually saved for special occasions, as making one is truly a labor of love. It requires a bit of preparation and attention to detail. However, the moist, delectable layers of this spiced cake, topped with cream cheese frosting, are worth the effort.

Although carrot cake is not known to be low in calories, I’d like to remind you of an old statement from Erma Brombeck: “Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”




2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

3/4 cup canola oil or mayonnaise

1 cup crushed pineapple (in its own juice)

2 cups shredded carrots

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup coconut

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch round pans.

In a bowl, stir together the five dry ingredients and set aside. In a mixer set at medium speed, beat eggs, sugar, oil (or mayonnaise), and pineapple until blended. Gradually add flour mixture until well blended. Spoon in the carrots, coconut, raisins and 1/2 cup of the walnuts. Mix well.

Spoon into prepared pans and bake for 30-40 minutes. Use a toothpick to check the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s done. Let the cake cool in pans for about 15 minutes before turning out on a rack to cool.

Cream cheese frosting ingredients:

8 ounces of cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla

Pinch of salt

1 pound powdered sugar

Beat other ingredients until very fluffy, then gradually add powdered sugar. Beat until fluffy.

Frost the cake at room temperature and cover the top with the remaining 1/2 cup chopped walnuts. After serving, store cake, tightly covered, for up to five days in the refrigerator (If there are any leftovers).

This recipe originated from my grandmother and has been passed down through the years. She was an extraordinary woman and her ability to find solutions and make things stretch was amazing.

As times changed, there have been substitutions to the original recipe. The original recipe called for vegetable oil, which was eventually replaced with canola oil or mayonnaise. (In my opinion, mayonnaise makes for a less oily texture.) The coconut was later added by my mother to enhance the flavor and add moisture.

The crushed pineapple? A cup of finely chopped raw apple was used instead. When canned pineapple finally came along during World War ll, it was very expensive, but pineapple juice was not. My grandmother’s solution? She would shred excess yellow and green squash from her garden and can it with pineapple juice. This provided a perfect substitution for use in this and other recipes. It was then that the chopped apple was replaced.

The word waste wasn’t in my grandmother’s vocabulary. My grandparents were very frugal. My grandparents and my parents lived through the Great Depression. Their ability to repurpose and reuse was nothing short of amazing. They possessed useful skills and tips that were unfortunately lost over the years because of the availability and pricing of goods, as well as modernization. (Oh, how I wish they had written them all down.) Although the prices of some items at the store today would have them contemplating a second mortgage, those prices make me ponder on whether getting back to those forgotten tips and practices is in order.

Cooking at 43° North, a program of Harpswell Aging at Home, brings Harpswell residents together for cooking programs, in person and online. Watch the Anchor calendar for listings.

HAH always needs cooks for its Meals in a Pinch program, which provides nutritious meals to seniors in need of emergency assistance. For more information, contact Julie Moulton at 207-330-5416 or