Decades of Carrot Cake

by Patricia Tuzzolino
inspired by TBAWP 2020’s Heritage Lunch

A long standing expectation in my family is that all the women can cook the most magnificent foods and bake the most delicious desserts. My Nanny, who I am named after, could cook anything. She would make homemade french fries and fried chicken on Christmas, a traditional white rice and black eyed peas on New Years, and a family recipe of Spanish Rice just because. 

Disclaimer: I am the worst cook. I burn bread and my noodles are always undercooked. 

After Nanny passed in November, I was going through her recipes when a folded piece of paper caught my eye. Inside the folded piece of paper, typed with a typewriter, was a recipe for carrot cake. 

“I can do this,” I thought to myself. The recipe seemed easy enough. There weren’t a lot of ingredients and the directions were simple. 

I was so wrong. What I thought was an easy ingredients list turned into a complex trip at Publix. What does “one box confectionery sugar” mean? How many ounces am I looking for? 8 ounces, 16, or 32? Then it turned into “how long am I mixing for?” Something that I thought was going to be easy quickly turned me into an anxious mess. 

The first time I made the carrot cake myself, I was nervous if my attempt would live up to the original recipe. I carefully followed each step to make the batter, even though it was vague in its directions, and stood over the electronic mixer- tasting the mix every few minutes. 

It was easier than I thought. The shredded carrots and chopped nuts mixed perfectly with the cinnamon and Coca-Cola. The batter was perfect. 

Making the icing was a completely different experience. I, again, followed what little directions I had perfectly. I put everything in the mixer and watched the slow turns of whisk glide against the metal bowl. After five minutes of careful mixing, the “icing” looked just like chunks of wet, white sand. This looked nothing like the smooth icing I had imagined. How did I mess this up? 

I turned the mixer back on to hopefully kick start a baking miracle. I thought for sure that there was no way this disgusting goo was going to turn into sweet, delicious icing. 

While the whisks turned, my mind started thinking about this carrot cake failure. I paced the kitchen, praying that the icing would pull through. Why do I care so much about this carrot cake? Well, I desperately wanted to prove to my family that I could make something. Not because they were pressuring me, but because I was pressuring myself to feel accomplished in something that everyone else is good at but me. 

It turned out that all the icing needed was more time since, fifteen minutes later, I walked over to the mixer to see a perfectly smooth, cream cheese icing. 

1920 Carrot Cake

2 cups sugar

1 ½ cups Wesson oil

4 eggs

2 cups of flour plain

1 tsp salt

2 tsp  soda

2 tsp Cinnamon

3 cups shredded carrots

½ cup chopped nuts

Mix sugar, oil and eggs- add rest of ingredients. Bake in three layers at 300 Degrees for 45 minutes.


Cream ½ stick of butter, 1 large package of cream cheese (8 oz.). Add one box confectionery sugar, 2 teasp. Vanilla and ½ cup chopped nuts.


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