If you enjoy carrot cake on even a somewhat regular basis, there is a good chance that you have sliced into a fresh, hot carrot cake and something doesn’t look right. The carrots, normally orange in color, look to have turned green.
This can be a concerning experience. After all, when things are different than what we know them to be, it can be disconcerting. But it turns out that there is a reasonable explanation for this occurrence and it is totally normal.
Why Are the Carrots Turning Green?
The short answer is that when carrots turn green in the batter, it is because there is too much baking soda. It could also mean that the baking soda isn’t mixed evenly throughout the batter.
A further explanation is that carrots have pigments in them that are actually very sensitive when there are changes in pH balance. So whenever the carrot comes in contact with baking soda (which is an alkaline), there is a chemical reaction that takes place. This reaction will cause those pigments of orange in the carrot to change its color, switching to green in some spots.
So no, the carrots aren’t bad and there isn’t anything concerning happening. It is actually simple science and it is totally normal.
If you make a carrot cake and the carrots turn green with a recipe that you have implemented many times before, the most likely explanation is that the mixing process didn’t disperse the baking soda evenly throughout the batter.
If you notice that the carrots turn green every time that you make carrot cake, it is more likely that your recipe is off in terms of the amount of baking soda being used. Try to cut some of the baking soda out (a quarter-teaspoon or so) when you make the carrot cake the next time.
Even if your carrots are turning green, it is totally fine to eat. Sure, it may not look as appetizing but it will taste the exact same as any other cake. If the color doesn’t bother you, you can simply keep going as you normally would and enjoy the carrot cake.
What you may not have known is that sunflower seeds, blueberries, and walnuts will also react to alkaline. Not only that, they will experience very similar changes in color whenever the distribution or amount of baking soda isn’t quite right.
Of course, that isn’t the only explanation for why your carrots may be turning green in color. The baking soda is generally the culprit and the first thing to try differently the next time. But there are some other explanations for why the carrots in your carrot cake are turning green.
The first is that the cake can turn slightly greenish if you leave it to cool off in a metal pan. Why is this? Well, the oxidation of the metal is what causes the change in color. You can prevent this by taking the cake out of the pan and putting it onto a cooling rack. You can give it around 10 minutes to cool enough to handle but anything more could see the oxidation occur.
There are also instances where carrots can turn green if they have been pre-grated and sold in packaging. There is a chance that oxidation could be the culprit here so if you don’t like that green color, you may want to consider grating them on your own to prevent that oxidation.
The color change can depend on the metal pan that you use. There are some stainless steel or aluminum dishes that can result in the carrots oxidizing and turning that green color. To combat this, make sure that you use a glass or plastic bowl for mixing and then line your baking pans with some parchment paper. This should prevent the oxidation from occurring and creating that green hue.
Of course, oxidation can occur in other ways. Again, the most likely cause is using stainless steel or aluminum bowls while mixing or baking in an aluminum pan. Typically, you can try to switch up where you mix the next time out to see if it has an impact on the color.
Let’s Get Scientific
For a deeper explanation, we need to look at the science behind the color change. A slice of carrot generally will not change its color even when mixed with a solution of 0.1 M sodium hydroxide. Without knowing the precise recipe of a carrot cake, it can be difficult to pinpoint the issue.
A color change can occur with metal ion and pH, especially if some of those ingredients contain anthocyanins. These are water-soluble pigments that can be found in most vegetables. Generally, those pigments are contained in the outer layers of the vegetable.
Baking soda, which is in the recipe for carrot cake, can have an impact on the color of fruits and vegetables. It has a chemical classification as a base, which means that it needs to be above 7 pH for it to work and that it has to be combined with an acid under 7 pH. When there is too much baking soda mixed in, this is where the greenish color comes in.
Try Different Things
If you’ve happened to notice that your carrot cake has a greenish hue to it but haven’t really paid much mind past that, try a few different things as you prepare the dish again. This way, you can narrow down what is different and what changes eventually lead to the color change.
When you’re starting to figure out where the problem is, start by lessening the amount of baking soda by a half-teaspoon. If the carrots look orange in color as they should, you can feel confident knowing that there was too much baking soda involved in the first place.
If this doesn’t do the trick and your carrot cake still has a greenish hue to it, try changing up mixing methods. When the amount of baking soda is correct, you may not be mixing it evenly enough. Give it a good, thorough mix to ensure that it distributes evenly throughout the mixture. This could also resolve the greenish hue in your carrot cake.
Should you come to the point that neither of these things get rid of the greenish hue in your carrot cake, there is one more thing to try. The first is to change your mixing bowl if you are using a metal mixing bowl. Continued exposure and contact with these metal bowls can lead to oxidation, which causes that green color.
In addition to changing up the mixing bowl, try to line your baking sheet with parchment paper. Ultimately, you are trying to minimize the amount of contact that your cake has with these metals that can oxidize.
One of these three things should resolve the issue with green in your carrot cake. If it doesn’t, the very last thing could be that you are buying pre-shaved carrots; try buying fresh ones and shaving them down yourself. One of these things will result in those orange carrots that we all know and love in our carrot cake.