Years ago I loved being invited for dinner at the home of the late journalist Robert Saint John and his wife, Ruth, who curated salon-like events in their cozy house outside Washington, D.C., where journalists, Israeli diplomats, and government officials discussed politics as insiders. No matter what else was on the menu, the Saint Johns always served a flavorful, cakelike carrot ring. I asked for the recipe, but Ruth would never give it to me; the secret of this dish died with her.
Recently I asked members of my Jewish Cooking group on Facebook if they knew about such a dish. To my surprise, many people remembered the recipe from their childhoods. Dana Levin Schrager, on her blog Foodie Goes Healthy, found the ring in the 31st edition of The Settlement Cookbook in 1954. In 1958, the recipe appeared in Thoughts for Buffets, the Chicago Jewish Community Center’s fundraising cookbook, and in 1967 a simpler version emerged in Elegant But Easy, a cookbook by Marian Fox Burros and Lois Levine.
As I tracked cooks who made it, I found that this was a classic mostly Midwestern recipe popular in the 1950s, made mostly in a ring mold. The carrot ring was, essentially, a modern kugel. According to my friend Lynn Blitzer, who grew up in Buffalo, New York, it was eaten by her family at both Jewish and secular holidays—like Thanksgiving. And it will grace her table again this week.
Adapted from Lynn Blitzer
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter or coconut oil, room temperature
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups (packed) coarsely grated peeled carrots
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1. Preheat the oven to 350° and grease with some of the butter or coconut oil and flour a 12-cup ring mold or Bundt pan.
2. Sift the remaining flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together into a medium bowl and set aside.
3. Using a stand mixer at low speed, beat the sugar, cinnamon, allspice, and butter or coconut oil together until well blended. Next, beat in the eggs until fully incorporated and then add the sifted dry ingredients, again beating until blended. Lastly, stir in the carrots, the lemon juice, and the grated lemon peel. Transfer the batter to the ring mold.
4. Bake the carrot ring for approximately 40 minutes. You will know it is done if a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the ring from the oven and set on a rack to cool for at least 15 minutes.
5. Serve warm, ideally with its center filled with cooked green vegetables, such as peas, broccoli, or Brussels sprouts.
Yield: at least 10 portions
*This dish can be made one day in advance. Once baked, cover the finished ring with a cake dome and let stand at room temperature. Rewarm the ring in a 350 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
Joan Nathan is Tablet Magazine’s food columnist and the author of 10 cookbooks including King Solomon’s Table: a Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World.