Carrot Cake Bars


By Joe Drozda and Bob Bley

Marie Simmons in her kitchen.

An experienced restauranteur in southwest Michigan, the late Betty Barker, told us that if a diner serves meat loaf, stuffed peppers or cabbage rolls as their daily special, they must make extra servings because almost all men will order these items.

We checked with restaurant people across most of the country, we found Betty’s statement to be true. These entrees, however, are not conducive to tailgating, requiring foods that can be easily eaten while standing and socializing. So, we kind of forgot about preparing them. But Barker also went on to say, “All men like carrot cake.”

Serving cake at a tailgate requires at least a plate and a fork, but always thinking about good desserts, we decided to search for a recipe to make the taste of carrot cake available to tailgaters in a more manageable way.

Joe Drozda and Bob Bley first communicated with Marie Simmons in 1996 and swapped “The Tailgater’s Handbook” for Simmons’ “Bar Cookies A to Z.”

Marie Simmons is one of America’s great award-winning (James Beard Society) food writers, formerly with Woman’s Day, Cuisine Magazine (editor), the LA Times, Bon Appetit, McCalls and many more. In addition, Simmons has authored dozens of cookbooks. One of her works, Bar Cookies A to Z (Chapter’s Publishing, 1994) became our inspiration for this tailgate dessert. The advantage of this bar is that it can be held in one’s hand and enjoyed with all of the flavor of a carrot cake but without the mess. We first communicated with Marie back in 1996 and swapped “The Tailgater’s Handbook” for “Bar Cookies A to Z.” Marie was very encouraging and thought tailgating looked like a great activity. To our delight, Marie helped us find a bar that made the tailgater feel like he or she was enjoying a piece of carrot cake. Here is her recipe she let us share:

Carrot cake bars are an ideal alternative to carrot cake when tailgating. (Submitted photos)

Carrot Cake Bars

Serves 24 bars

1 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup canola oil
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups carrots, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

6 oz. softened cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. finely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly butter a 13- by 9-inch baking dish. Combine flours, cinnamon, baking powder, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl. Add the pecans. Stir to blend. Place the oil, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla in the bowl of your food processor. Process until blended, then gradually add the carrots through the feed tube while the motor is running. Process the mixture until the carrots are finely chopped. Pour the carrot mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until well mixed. Spread the batter into the prepared dish, and bake for 35 minutes, or until the edges pull away from the sides and you can place a tooth pick into the middle and it comes out dry. Cool on a wire rack.

To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth. Add the lemon juice, nutmeg and vanilla.

Spread the frosting over the cooled bars and then sprinkle with chopped pecans. Cut into bars. Decorate each with an orange icing carrot with green icing leaves, or decorate each with a team letter, like an H for Harvard or P for Packers. Small tubes of decorating icings are available in all colors.


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