Welcome to In Season, our series celebrating the juiciest fruit and crispest veggies in Texas. This spring, we asked local chefs to share stories about their favorite items of seasonal produce—and create original recipes that make the most of spring’s bounty. 

Who couldn’t use an extra way to sneak some veggies into their diet? One idea is to use confections like zucchini bread or beet brownies as a vehicle, and while that may seem counterintuitive, hey, you’re still getting some nutritional benefits.

Pastry chef Diana Zamora offers up a recipe for one of the most famous veg-in-dessert creations: carrot cake. In her household, the treat was a staple during birthday celebrations. “My mom was the first one to make this carrot cake,” Zamora says. “My whole family loves it—my grandma, my sister, me. I took her recipe and tweaked it.”

The chef and owner at Nena Postreria in Dallas recalls the root vegetable growing all around. “We had a garden in the backyard, and we grew all sorts of vegetables,” Zamora says. “My grandma made carrot juice damn near every day. We always had carrots in the house.”

While the recipe calls for five layers of luscious, spiced cake, it can be modified for two layers. (We know that not everybody owns five cake pans, so we added additional directions for those who’d rather work with two.)

These days Zamora sources her carrots from Harvest Project Food Rescue, where she serves as executive chef. The nonprofit is fighting food waste by salvaging surplus produce from grocery stores that would otherwise be sent to a landfill.

One person’s waste is another person’s delicious cake.

Carrot Cake

Cake:

4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoon allspice
1 ½ teaspoon nutmeg
2 ½ cups canola oil
2 cups white granulated sugar
2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 eggs
4 cups grated carrots

Frosting:

2 cups butter, softened
2 cups cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoon heavy cream

For the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine oil, white sugar, brown sugar, vanilla extract, and eggs. Mix until creamy. Fold in carrots, then add dry ingredients.
  4. Divide batter among five 9-inch cake pans lined with parchment paper, and bake for 20–25 minutes. (Or, if using two pans, bake for 30–35 minutes.)
  5. Remove from oven and cool on cooling racks.


For the frosting:

  1. In a stand mixer, beat butter on medium-high speed until very creamy and white in color.
  2. Add cream cheese and beat until smooth.
  3. Add powdered sugar in thirds, mixing well after each addition.
  4. Reduce speed to low and, with mixer running, add lemon juice, vanilla extract, and heavy cream.


To assemble:

  1. Frost your cake between layers and spread any remaining frosting on the top and the sides. Garnish with carrot spirals.