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Eat Like a Freshman: Carrot Rings

Turn this summer’s garden bounty into these 24(ish)-carrot masterpieces.

Megan Provost ’20
May 02, 2023
Two golden-orange bundt cakes sit side by side on white plates on a dark brown counter. The one on the left is taller than the one on the right.

Carrot Ring

Ingredients:

1 cup butter or oleo (no other shortening)

½ cup brown sugar

2 cups raw, grated carrots

1 ¼ cups flour

1 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

2 eggs

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

I Tbsp. grated lemon rind

½ tsp. soda, dissolved in 1 Tbsp. hot water

Procedure:

Cream butter and sugar. Add ingredients in order given. Put in ring mold, which is set in a bowl of hot water. Bake in a moderate oven about one hour.

Notes:

I interpreted a “moderate oven” as one set to 350 degrees. The resulting ring was cooked thoroughly, so I think this was a safe guess.

Carrot Ring Mold

Ingredients:

10 carrots, cooked and mashed

3 eggs

1 onion, chopped

2 cups fine breadcrumbs

2 cups milk

2 Tbsp. melted butter

Salt and pepper

Procedure:

Beat eggs. Add mashed carrots, milk, breadcrumbs, seasoning, and onions lightly cooked in butter. Fill a greased ring mold and set in a pan of hot water. Steam for ½ to ¾ hours at 350 degrees.

Notes:

The recipe does not specify the amount of salt and pepper, so I seasoned it generously. This proved crucial to a flavorful result.

Review:

Carrot Ring

Steamed cakes and casseroles aren’t a hallmark of American cuisine, but they’re beloved in the rest of the world. South and East Asian countries have perfected the mushi-pan (Japan), ma lai go (China), puto (Philippines), and idli (India), and the English are renowned for their steamed puddings. The first of these carrot-ring recipes, another selection from the Friendship Club cookbook of 1951, most resembles the traditional British dessert in its light, crumbly texture and bright flavor. Due in no small part to the amount of butter in what turned out to be a rather small cake, it released easily from the mold and left a greasy, golden residue in its wake.

The cake itself was far from weighed down by its fat content: it was light and dry enough to crumble upon slicing, but it held together well enough to be servable. Its textural levity was mirrored in its delicate flavors: the salty richness of the butter complemented the citrusy lemon zest, all of which was married to an understated sweetness.

I happily polished off my slice that evening and had another with coffee the next morning. Both empty plates bore a greasy residue that, on another attempt, I might remedy by reducing the butter content in the batter. When will this next attempt take place? Probably not anytime soon. The cake was a pleasant surprise and a lovely snack, but I can’t say I’d reach for this recipe over a richer, denser olive oil orange cake or lemon loaf.

Carrot Ring Mold

Speaking of denser dishes, the second, savory rendition of carrot ring is unmistakably American: heavy, hearty, and homey. This recipe comes from Our Mothers’ Recipes, a collection assembled by members of the Alpha Phi sorority between 1951 and 1959. The light batter from the previous recipe scarcely filled the bottom of my Bundt pan; this mixture packed it full. Also, unlike a cake batter — which rises into a golden cake to signal success or, well, doesn’t, indicating failure — this mash of cooked vegetables and raw eggs didn’t change much in color nor in consistency during its time in the oven. The steaming gave this concoction a firm top crust, but what lay beneath I had to leave to faith in the Alpha Phi mother who assured me that 45 minutes of baking time was enough.

It was. The mass plopped out of the pan and rattled my Corelle plate. Skeptical of this sticky dish, I opted for a smaller ridge of the Bundt, and it held together neatly. Before the first bite reached my mouth, the movement of my fork through the slice indicated that this carrot ring was thick and moist, almost to the point of being gluey. The flavor — characterized primarily by the sautéed onions and my excessive twisting of the pepper mill — was familiar when paired with baked breadcrumbs and egg, reminiscent of classic Midwestern casseroles. The carrots were almost decorative.

The texture was not unlike that of a stuffing, and I found myself wanting garlic powder, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Like a stuffing, this likely made a good side dish at a potluck: filling, savory, and simple. Also like stuffing — if you have correct opinions about stuffing — the crispy bits from the top layer were the best.

I dug into this dish warily and finished it triumphantly (and craving green beans and cranberry sauce). Unfortunately, nostalgic flavors will not win this recipe another run in my kitchen, but for a homesick college student in the 1950s, this simple, steamed behemoth of a bake likely filled the appetite for a family atmosphere.

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