Is carrot cake really a cake or is more of a bread like (banana or zucchini bread), I just can’t get behind the notion it is a dessert, it is totally a breakfast food. What is your learned opinion?
The answer really is how a person defines a cake and that isn’t really an easy question. At various points of history, there was precious little difference between cake and bread: Example Marie Antoinette’s late 18th century uttering about telling the hungry to ‘Qu’ils mangent de la brioche’ is often translated as ‘let them eat cake’. You would be hard pressed to find someone who thought brioche was a cake, despite the 4 building blocks of cake - flour, sugar, fat and egg all being in place.
The cake/bread dispute is an old one. In 1440 the new guild of French pastry cooks deprived the older baker's guild from baking cakes. Pastry cooks who began their trade group in medieval France as the makers of pie – meat and fish not sweet – also sold wine, made a pear tarts, marzipan, cream cheese cakes and biscuits (In the English sense of the word, bis cuit, twice cooked). How well the guild’s monopoly as the sole legitimate producers of cake was enforced is questionable, because it wasn’t until 1718 when both the bread and pastry guilds presented King Henri with a King Cake, 12th Night Cake or en francais, gorenflot. The pastry guild sued successfully to prohibit the baker’s from producing a braided yeasted, sweetened cake baked in a mold.
Even at that point of the game, cake would have looked different than modernity’s cake. The introduction of sugar helped the evolution of cake, the genoise method was developed around 1800, but it was the arrival of chemical leaveners like baking soda and baking powder in the mid 19th Century followed shortly thereafter by white flour and shortening – a-soft-affordable-malleable-at-room- temperature fat – that changed the way cakes looked, tasted and were baked.
So, back to the carrot cake – cake or quick bread? Cake. First of all, the presence of a thick layer of cream cheese frosting on the outside of a raw carrot could arguably make that a cake. Secondly, carrot cake is made using the creaming method, which is 1 of the 4 methods of cake-making (whisking, creaming, rubbing in and melting/muffin). Third fat, flour, sugar and egg are pretty much the hallmark of cake ingredients – discounting carrot cake because of baking powder would discount almost all cakes. Plus: a bonus point, carrot cake appears in the cake chapter of Bo Friberg’s Professional Pastry Chef. Banana Bread appears in the 'Tea Cake, Pound Cakes, Muffins and other Quick Bread' chapter. Okay, the appearance of Tea and Pound Cake in the chapter heading doesn’t really clarify the issue as much as I hoped.
But if Master Baker Friberg and the internet dude you wrote to hoping for perspicuity can see a distinction, hopefully you can as well.