"Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie." – Jim Davis
If you love carrot cake, you’ve come to the right place. If you are a hater, look away now … because this article contains little more than carrot cake commentary and pictures of some of the most delicious shredded orange vegetable cakes in the city.
But first, a bit of inconclusive history: According to the folks at the virtual World Carrot Museum (yes, there really is such a thing), no one really knows the origin of carrot cake. There’s speculation that it’s a descendant of carrot puddings that were enjoyed in the Middle Ages, a time during which sugar was uncommon (and prohibitively expensive) and carrots were prized for their innate sweetness.
But if you are a lover of carrot cake, its origin doesn’t matter. It’s all about the tender spicy cake, the succulent raisins (or not) and the amazingly tangy cream cheese frosting.
But where do you find the most delicious carrot cake in the city? Well, it just so happens that I ate a multitude of slices of carrot cake this week, all for the benefit of the carrot cake lovers among us.
Here are five of my favorites, in alphabetical (not ranked) order.
801 N. Cass St., (414) 277-1111
The carrot cake at Buckley’s is one of my perennial favorites. Made by co-owner Pam Buckley, the scratch-made cake is dark and rich with a flavor that’s redolent with baking spices, along with bits of fruit and nuts. The generous frosting is tangy, buttery and sweet with a vanilla-forward punch that sets it apart from many others. It also gets points for being exceedingly attractive. $8
There’s nothing better than a cup of coffee with your carrot cake. And maybe that applies the other way around as well. Fortunately, the folks at Troubadour Bakery (the bakery for all Colectivo Cafes) lay down a pretty good carrot cake game. The cake itself is tender and moist. It’s chock-full of nice things like petite pineapple chunks, chopped walnuts and sweet raisins. And it comes in a rustic little paper baking cup topped with the prettiest cream cheese frosting on the block. $4
3. The Fire Pit Sports Bar & Grill
Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, 1721 W. Canal St., (414) 847-7993
Let’s be frank. A sports bar is one of the last places I’d ever think to go for carrot cake. But I’ve learned not to be a skeptic when it comes to seeking out good food. So, when a local pastry chef recommended the cake at the Fire Pit...well, I had to try it. I was pleasantly surprised. The recipe, which was created by the late Chef Michael Stadler has been served at the sports bar for over a decade. It comes as a generously sized individual cake, which is tender, mildly flavored and not too sweet. It’s also served served slightly warm, so the cream cheese frosting gets just a little bit soft and it’s creaminess soaks into the top of the cake. $6
4. Mason Street Grill
425 E. Mason St., (414) 298-3131
The carrot cake at Mason Street Grill has been a favorite among diners for years. Built upon Chef Mark Weber’s grandmother’s recipe, this carrot cake is rich, homey and dense. The batter contains both hand-shredded carrots and zucchini—along with coconut and sweet dried fruit —and when the cake is baked, it’s treated to a special glaze, which keeps the interior of the cake ultra-moist. It’s topped with classic cream cheese frosting that’s as classic as it gets. $8
5. Outpost Natural Foods Cooperative
7590 W. Mequon Rd., Mequon (262) 242-0426
100 E. Capitol Dr., (414) 961-2597
7000 W. State St., (414) 778-2012
2826 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., (414) 755-3202
Carrot cake slices that come in little plastic cafeteria boxes typically don’t scream "amazing" to me. But in my carrot cake eating adventures, I've quickly learned to shelve my judgment. Outpost, which sports some of the best cream cheese frosting I’ve ever tasted. It’s rich and creamy and very cream-cheesy. It’s sweet enough to be indulgent, but not so sweet that you can’t eat it by itself (and trust me when I say that I’d totally eat it by the spoonful if offered the opportunity). The cake is great too. It’s moderately sweet, very tender and flecked with raisins, walnuts and visible shreds of carrot. Mmm. I’m craving another slice. $4.99 (P.S. A gluten-free version is also available)
Love another carrot cake I didn't mention? Email me at Lori@onmilwaukee.com. I'll make it a point to try it out and maybe even add it to the list.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.