story & photos by Bakery Boy
It takes gumption to name any business “world’s best.” Avi Sommerville and her husband Morgan showed just such spunk when they launched World’s Best Carrot Cake from their home in Asheville, North Carolina. “We feel very confident in that name,” says Avi, who comes from a long line of foodies and was a professional cook, baker, and caterer before discovering her calling with carrot cake. “The idea actually started with our customers. We kept hearing over and over about how we made the best carrot cake they’d ever eaten, how it must be the best in the world, so we decided to go with that as a company name.”
Based on a recipe from her mother-in-law, Juanita, Avi developed several variations and tinkered with them until she was satisfied. “We only use organically grown carrots,” she says. “All the ingredients—the milk, eggs, tree nuts, wheat, and soy products—have to be the freshest and the best available, especially the carrots,” she says. “The proportions have to be just right. That’s what took the most effort to figure out. And moisture is key. I don’t like a dry cake and won’t ever make a dry cake. The carrots themselves provide the moisture that makes our cakes so good.”
The bold name seems to be holding up over time. “In the five years we’ve been doing this,” Avi says, “we’ve had countless people agree that we make the world’s best carrot cake and maybe two people say, ‘Well…maybe.’ But in those cases, they were siding with a wife’s or a mom’s cake.”
Each 8-inch-round, 3-layer cake weighs 5 pounds. There are 6-inch, 4-inch, and cupcake versions too, all made from scratch, daily, in small batches, by hand.
• ORGANIC CARROT CAKE The bakery’s original and still bestselling online cake has rich vanilla cream cheese and walnut icing between layers and covering the top and sides. It’s garnished with crushed walnuts ($49.99 plus shipping).
• GLUTEN FREE CARROT CAKE Carefully processed brown rice flour from a gluten-free mill forms the basis of this version produced for gluten-free purists. Again the use of fresh, organic carrots and the same vanilla cream cheese-walnut icing as in the original keeps both moisture content and taste factors high. Garnished with a few walnut halves ($35 plus shipping).
• CHOCOLATE GLUTEN FREE CARROT CAKE This one contains no wheat—for gluten-free fans—but plenty of carrots plus melted chocolate in the batter as well as in the velvety cream cheese icing. It’s garnished with an equal mix of chocolate chips and crushed walnuts ($38 plus shipping).
• ORANGE CITRUS VEGAN CARROT CAKE This version is entirely dairy-free (no eggs, butter, milk, or cream cheese), features natural orange oil, and is garnished with hand-grated orange zest ($38 plus shipping).
For more about these and other products visit www.worldsbestcarrotcake.com.
DELIVERED FAR & WIDE
Anyone can walk in and buy a carrot cake from the small retail counter at the front of the World’s Best Carrot Cake production facility in Woodfin just north of Asheville. Or find a slice at local health-oriented eateries such as The Green Sage Coffeehouse & Café downtown. Or mail order home-delivered cakes via phone or web site. But by far most of the hundreds of cakes produced each week supply two key wholesale accounts that distribute them all across North Carolina and neighboring states.
“Our carrot cakes go to 21 Earth Fare stores and 21 Whole Foods Markets in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee,” Avi says. “An Earth Fare representative found us at the Organicfest one September in Asheville’s Pack Square, started ordering a lot of cakes, and asked us to develop the gluten-free option.”
A FAMILY AFFAIR
Avi’s daughter Hannah Layosa joins in as production manager. She previously worked at the now-defunct Picnics Restaurant & Bake Shop and as a short-order cook at Nick’s Grill, both nearby in the Woodfin community just north of Asheville. “I’ve been baking carrot cakes now for five years,” Hannah says. “My mom and grandmother come in every day. My dad [who works as regional director for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy] is involved in the operation. My husband Jason is the purchasing manager. Our friend Heather is our ‘icing master’ and handles retail sales. We all manage to have fun doing what we do—making cakes by the hundreds.”
As for the family business’s super-confident name, Hannah says: “When you have something that’s really the best, that’s all you need. We believe in our cakes and we stand by the name.”
Avi harbors ambitions to expand the family’s line of food products. “I want to be the New Age Sara Lee,” she says. “I’ve always been a food person. I cut back on cooking and catering to concentrate on carrot cakes, but eventually I want to add other healthy and all-natural lines and get them into as many stores as possible.”
BAKERY BOY WEIGHS IN
So are these indeed the world’s best carrot cakes? I’ll say this: I thoroughly enjoyed the ones I sampled at the World’s Best Carrot Cake headquarters. They were, as advertised, perfectly moist, plenty tasty, stacked high, and beautifully presented, both the whole cake and the cupcake versions. Because I haven’t personally tasted every carrot cake in the world for comparison (which sure would be a fine goal to pursue!) I can’t say with absolute certainty. Still, I firmly believe these desserts rank way up high in the hierarchy of carrot cakes. Here’s my suggestion: Order one or two and decide for yourself.
175 Weaverville Hwy, Suite V
Asheville, NC 28804
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For more about North Carolina: www.visitnc.com