Carrot Cake and IPA: A Classic Beer Pairing

Who would have ever thought that an IPA goes perfectly with Carrot Cake? It's true, friends...this carrot cake beer pairing is a classic.

The first time I heard that carrot cake is a classic match with IPA, I was in disbelief. I get why chocolate pairs well with sweet stouts, I get why spicy foods go well with dry lagers...but why would you drink an IPA with carrot cake?!

Let's take a look at how this dessert tastes for two seconds. It may not be the first thing we think about, but carrot cake is incredibly sweet. There is a lot of natural sweetness from the carrots and raisins you may add to it, plus the whole thing is buried under a thick layer of sweet, tangy cream cheese frosting. Carrot cake is not like other cakes my friends. And can I throw in there that having vegetables in your dessert automatically makes it healthy??

The Pairing

So because carrot cake is so sweet and tangy, pairing it with another sweet beer or wine will just overwhelm your entire dessert experience. We definitely don't want to do that. So the key with pairing beer with this cake is balance. Imperial Pale Ales (IPAs) are snappy, bitter beers with lots of citrus or floral components coming from the addition of bright hops. When you pair that alongside a super sweet dish like carrot cake, the bitterness and sweetness of the two contrast one other, balancing the extremities of each. So if you aren't usually a fan of  hoppy beers, this pairing may change your mind since the cake will decrease the perception of bitterness in the IPA.

Recommended Beers to Pair with Carrot Cake

When you're picking a beer to pair with this cake, you want to choose an American IPA, not an English IPA. English IPAs are slightly less bitter and more malty than their American cousins. We want more hops and bitterness in the beer to contrast the cake's sweetness, so American styles are the best. If you like double or Imperial IPA (the hoppiest of all IPAs), that's an even better beer to match this meal. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Anchor IPA
  • Speakeasy Double Daddy IPA
  • Great Basin "Icky" IPA
  • Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA (60 minute is not as hoppy as you want and 120 minute might be too sweet)
  • Firestone Walker Union Jack or Double Jack
  • The Alchemist Heady Topper
  • Harpoon IPA or Leviathan IPA

To make the same carrot cake that I did (so yummy!), head over to SallysBakingAddition.

Other dessert and beer pairings on Care to Pair:

Fudge Brownies paired with Sweet Stout

White Chocolate Cheesecake paired with Raspberry Lambic

Apple Donuts with Maple Glaze paired with Pumpkin Ale