A One Year Old’s First Birthday Cake, or, Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Our baby is one!

We’ve had her in our lives for a whole year.  And what a year the first year of life is!  A baby grows from a shapeless, snuggly bundle of tiny fingers, big eyes, and warmth into a little person who can play peekaboo and demand bananas.  It’s been a good year.

A birthday, at our house, calls for a cake.  I know there are birthday-pie people and people who think one-year-olds shouldn’t eat sugar (they probably shouldn’t), and we aren’t even really cake people so much but…. Birthday. So cake.  I have made this same cake for all three of my little ones’ first birthdays.  Here it is.

You can think of this particular cake in two ways.  If you want to feel virtuous, you can describe it as a tender, butter-free whole wheat cake, glazed with a maple-sweetened cream cheese frosting, chock full of carrots and tinted pink with beet.  If you want to feel honest, you can describe it as a total sugarbomb of a cake, well-suited to any celebratory occasion.

In the past, I’ve grated a beet and squeezed it in cheesecloth to use as pink food coloring.  This time, I came across powdered dried beet at my spice shop and gratefully took that less-messy route.  I bought about a quarter cup of the stuff.  Achieving the magnificently pink hue below required half a teaspoon.  Oops.  Does anyone need some powdered beet?  What should I do with the rest?A First Birthday Cake, or, Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting: Combine 2 c. flour (you can use half whole wheat pastry flour if you like) with 2 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. cinnamon.  Beat 2 c. sugar with 1 1/4 c. canola oil with and 4 eggs.  When blended, mix in dry ingredients, then 4 c. grated carrots.  Pour into two buttered-and-floured 9″ cake pans (I used two 6″ cake pans and had enough left over to make a dozen cupcakes).  Bake at 350 until a cake tester comes out clean; my cupcakes took about 25 minutes and the cakes about 35 minutes.  Cook on a rack for 15 minutes, then run a knife around to loosen the sides and invert onto the rack to cool completely. Frost with 8 oz. room-temperature cream cheese whipped with 4 Tbsp. butter, 2 C. powdered sugar, and 3 Tbsp. maple syrup.  (If your frosting clumps, as mine did, let the ingredients warm up a bit and whip again.  If all else fails, send it through your sifter, as I did.)


27 thoughts on “A One Year Old’s First Birthday Cake, or, Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

  1. Sarah

    We did a similar cake for our son’s second birthday. I can’t remember what we did for his first. He’s 12 now, so I plead mom-related memory loss! :)

  2. musingmar

    What a sweet cake! First birthdays are so special! And while I agree that babies shouldn’t be eating sugar generally, is there anything as priceless as seeing them have their first taste (i.e., handful) of cake? When my oldest turned one, we had to wipe cake and icing off her, the table, the highchair, the floor, even the ceiling ….. never did figure out how it got up there! Such wonderful memories. And last year, I had the enormous pleasure of enjoying my first grandchild’s first birthday. The fun just keeps rolling round!

    1. emmycooks Post author

      I love it! My baby did indeed dig right in with a big handful of cake, but eventually decided she’d rather gnaw on the paper plate. I’m sure that won’t last!

    1. emmycooks Post author

      Good question! Grate and squeeze red cabbage? Simmer it with a few drops of water first? I’m trying to remember what natural blue dyes I saw for Easter eggs recently. Or, better yet: make him a pink cake! Boys like pink too. :)

  3. Tammy

    What a beautiful recipe and report on your cutie! Wished I’d had that recipe when mine turned one, though I did do the carrot cake/cream cheese frosting route…I believe I’d used applesauce to cut on the sweetness. Seems like a long time ago. Anyway, good job, mommy! And pretty picture, too!

    1. emmycooks Post author

      I have used applesauce in other baked goods to replace both fat & sugar, but never in this recipe. I probably should! I always think it’s funny that carrot cake is a standard first birthday cake, since it’s really not at all as healthy as it sounds. :)

  4. baconbiscuit212

    Happy First Birthday!

    Carrot cake and cream cheese frosting is by far and away one of my favorite desserts. I love that you used powdered beets to achieve that pretty pink! I’m not sure what you would do with the rest . . . more cake!

  5. denaelyse

    I would like some powdered beet, please, because I would like to make that cake. And think about how crazy scrambled eggs would look. And…and…
    We made a vanilla-and-chocolate layer cake for O’s first birthday (from SmittenKitchen, which I know you love); the sight of her first bite of chocolate EVER? Absolutely worth the cray-cray that ensued for the rest of the day.

    1. emmycooks Post author

      I’m so sorry to hear it! I don’t know the first thing about baking at elevation since I live at sea level–are there adjustments you usually make? I’d be happy to add suggestions to the recipe if you have them (and credit them to you, of course). Thanks on advance if you have suggestions, and sorry it didn’t turn out for you!


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