Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Tea with George Washington: a 235 year old carrot cake recipe

As someone with a serious sweet tooth, come The fourth of July, while others may be scouting out firework displays, picnic sites or new gas grills, I find myself considering what sort of delicious cake would be worthy of celebrating our country's birthday. Of course, all of the usual desserts featuring fruits and confections in patriotic tri-color red, white and blue predictably came to mind. For many a past year, I admit to carefully arranging rows of berries in neat flag-like patterns on a bed of whipped cream covered cake, but this summer, I thought I'd try something a bit different.
 Being a holiday celebrating our nation's history, I found myself wondering what sort of desserts were popular as our country was just getting it's start? What treats did our founding fathers and mothers enjoy centuries ago? 
Happily there are countless resources available, from books to websites to video tutorials, featuring authentic American recipes from the colonial era. After a fascinating online search, I thought I'd try a rather simple and admittedly bit unglamorous favorite of George Washington himself: a carrot tea cake.

Apparently this is a cake Washington enjoyed at a farewell feast for his officers in Fraunces Tavern in 1783 in New York City after our victory in the Revolutionary War. Washington, who would become president six years later, was so smitten with his meal that he hired the tavern's owner Samuel Fraunces as his personal steward at Mount Vernon.

Washington's Farewell to his Oficers, Alonzo Chappel c1866

"With a heart full of love and gratitude,
                                   I now take leave of you."
                                                         George Washington

Carrot Cake Recipe
While carrots naturally play a starring role, this more basic treat omits the heavy handed helping of raisins, nuts and cloyingly sweet cream cheese icing we associate with today's version.
I found several sources for this historic recipe all very similar to this one from  In Erikas kitchen. I tweaked it slightly by using a bag of matchstick carrots (which I roughly chopped) rather than grating my own 2 cups out of sheer summer laziness. 
Since I noticed several of the other recipes called for cooking the carrots first, I quickly microwaved mine about two minutes, loosely covered on 50% power to soften before baking.
patriotic image above from The Graphics Fairy

Unable to find my bundt pan (how does one lose a bundt pan?) I opted for two layers; a round for the base and square which I trimmed into a circular shape for smaller second layer.
While hardly a beauty, a generous dusting of confectioners sugar, fruit and fresh mint leaves help camouflage imperfections and add flare. 
I served fresh blueberries and, appropriately for George, cherries. 
adding some must-have red, white and blue
While maybe not a crowd pleaser for a lively Fourth of July picnic, this historic cake makes a rustic but flavorful breakfast or afternoon tea treat to enjoy during the holiday week.
just add a dollop of whipped cream and brisk cup of tea

For more July Fourth ideas and recipes simply type "July" into our search box
or for some patriotic decor 
 pop over to our post a-red-white-and-blue-birthday for our easy vintage inspired decorative candy cones  

Wishing our US Readers
A Very Happy July Fourth
 our friends overseas
A Happy Summer


  1. I also have a sweet tooth and would love try your tasty carrot cake with a cup of tea. Happy 4th of July!

    1. I was admittedly surprised - it was a very nice cake - I may try it again and add a little icing lol
      Hope you had a Happy Fourth and thanks for popping by!


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