The Real Reason Carrot Cake Can Be So Greasy

Technically speaking, the more slices of carrot cake you eat, the closer you are to getting your daily serving of vegetables, right? If only! Despite the amount of carrots a slice actually contains, carrot cake is still a sweet treat best enjoyed in moderation — and it actually happens to be one of the greasiest cakes. According to Bon Appétit, this phenomenon is due to the fact that the batter used in this type of baked good is oil-based rather than butter-based.

According to the article, butter-based cakes achieve their moist texture by creaming or beating butter and sugar together, a process that aerates the butter and adds volume. But, carrot cake achieves its texture through the oil and sugar, and grated carrots. Though oil does help keep a cake moist for longer than butter would (so it's slower to stale and turn hard), "unfortunately, it also means you lose the leavening power that creaming butter and sugar would bring," Bon Appétit points out. Carrot cakes therefore require more baking soda and baking powder, but the proportions are key to ensuring no chemical taste or greasy mess.

What happens if you use butter in a carrot cake?

As the magazine further explains, "carrot cake is ultimately a spice cake." So between the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, carrots, whatever nuts or mix-ins you decide to add, and not to mention the cream cheese frosting on top, there's a multitude of flavors present. Butter just adds another one, according to Tasty's guide to making the best carrot cake on YouTube. And, in terms of baking, it's not even structurally necessary as long as you use the right oil and don't overload on the baking powder. Just make sure to "use a neutral oil like vegetable oil or grapeseed. You can even use sunflower," Tasty advised. That way you won't overpower the cake.

Though you'd assume oil, being a liquid, would be easier to incorporate into cake batter compared to butter, but it's actually a bit of a challenge, as Tasty demonstrated in their video. That's because it doesn't readily mix with the wet ingredients. In most baked good recipes, butter is usually the first ingredient in the bowl and is added all at once. But for carrot cakes, the oil is added gradually. Add too much too fast and you could end up with an extra greasy end result. Luckily, all it takes is a bit of patience, and as long as you're "slowly and gently streaming in the oil," Bon Appétit assures your carrot cake will be moist and delicious — no butter necessary.