Applesauce Carrot Cake with Colorful Lemon Glaze


May 4, 2021

Many of our infamous apples on the grocery shelves these days made their way to North America by means of colonialist Europeans and were, in fact, spread in no small part by John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed) and other nurserymen. Seeing as Turtle Rock is anchored upon a venerable apple orchard, we have an incredible variety to choose from. For our applesauce, we fancy Macoun—a cross between McIntosh and Jersey Black—and Gala for their intrinsic sweetness plus straight-up McIntosh for a little tartness. We supplement our bushels with a mix of heirlooms from surrounding orchards, rendering each batch unique. We simply cook ’em down into submission with a splash of Organic lemon juice, then use a food mill to remove the cores and peels. Voilà. 

But what, pray tell, is applesauce? In vogue since Medieval times (and—sidenote—it’s also a synonym for malarkey/fiddlesticks/poppycock), is it a condiment? A dessert in and of itself? A literal sauce for meats and poultry? For us it’s all of the above, as well as a remarkable ingredient in cakes. Our favorite applesauce cake recipe is below for the taking. 

Applesauce Carrot Cake with Colorful Lemon Glaze

Replacing dairy or other fats with applesauce when baking lends an incredible moistness, natural sweetness, and binding quality that we adore. You can take this a step farther and make the cake entirely vegan by using flaxseed “eggs,” beet sugar instead of honey, and nondairy milk. Use whole vanilla beans or check to see that your vanilla extract (and powdered sugar) is vegan friendly as well. 

Yield: Two 8-inch cakes or 18 cupcakes


For the Cake:

1 3/4 cups (7 ounces) all-purpose flour (or Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 gluten-free baking flour)
1 cup (5 3/4 ounces) buckwheat flour  
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 cups honey
1/2 cup sunflower oil (or other neutral oil)
2 duck eggs (or 3 chicken eggs)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste (Nielsen-Massey paste is a chef’s fave)
2 cups (~1 jar) unsweetened applesauce
3 cups shredded carrots
1 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts, chopped (or pecans, cashews)

For the Glaze:

2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk, any kind (oat used here)
2 tablespoons purple cabbage extract*
1 tablespoon lemon juice

*To make cabbage extract, boil a large handful of red cabbage with 1 cup of water for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, strain liquid, and let cool completely before using.


For the Cake:

1) Preheat oven to 350 F (177°C). Prepare pan(s) by buttering and dusting with flour or lining with parchment/cupcake liners.

2) Mix together the dry ingredients (flour through ginger).

3) In a large bowl, whisk honey and oil together until blended. Add eggs and whisk until blended. Add vanilla and applesauce and stir until smooth. 

4) Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir JUST until combined. Do not overmix! 

5) Fold in the carrots, raisins, and walnuts. 

6) Scrape batter into prepared pan(s) and bake 40-45 minutes for cakes and 24-28 minutes for cupcakes, rotating halfway through, until a tester inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.

7) Allow cake to cool to room temperature, then remove from pan(s). Place on parchment paper or a rack set over a sheet pan before icing.

For the Glaze:

1) Put the powdered sugar into a small bowl and mix the wet ingredients in. If necessary, add more milk by the teaspoonful to thin to a pourable consistency.

2) Drizzle glaze over cooled cake(s) and let sit till set, or until you can’t resist any longer. Feel free to garnish your cake with edible flowers for a true springtime celebration! Store at room temperature, covered, for up to 1 day or refrigerate for up to 3.

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