When I first ran the bun scuffle cafe, carrot cake was an absolute favourite on the counter and I must admit, a great favourite of mine. However, I have a confession to make; it was the only cake on the counter that I didn’t make myself. I used to ask my friend Lisa to make it for me.
I had made carrot cake on a number of occasions, from a number of different recipes, but it always turned out a little heavy. Eventually, Lisa came to work with me at the cafe and so the carrot cake was made in house – but still not by me.
Then, the fateful day came when Lisa left for pastures new, taking her carrot cake recipe with her. I was on my own and determined to get past my mental block about this cake. I spent a happy Sunday, when the cafe was closed, experimenting with a variety of recipes until I hit upon this (which is actually a combination of 3 different recipes).
We were away, carrot cake no longer held any fears for me and it joined the serried ranks of home made regulars on the cafe counter.
This week I was making carrot cake at home for a friends birthday and I thought I would share a few tips with you.
Lots of recipes use the all-in-one method but I find you get a much lighter cake if you whisk the oil, eggs and sugar together first before adding the carrots and dry ingredients. Keep whisking until the mixture thickens and the whisks leave a trail.
Some recipes suggest that you grate the carrots coarsley but I find that this can also lead to a dense cake so I prefer to grate them more finely.
It is essential that you use full fat cream cheese for the icing, low fat will go runny. The butter adds a little stability to the icing but do make sure that it is well softened and the cream cheese is at room temperature, otherwise the butter will solidify giving you a lumpy icing. You can sweeten the icing with icing sugar but I like to use maple syrup as it adds extra flavour as well as sweetness. Experiment a little with the amount according to your taste. I like the sharpness that the cream cheese adds; a nice contrast to the sweet cake, but you might have a sweeter tooth than me.
For an every day cake I make two 8″ round cakes and sandwich them together with the cream cheese icing. In the cafe I made more icing than this and you can too if you want to be generous.
For this cake I made three 6″ cakes. This gives a smaller but taller cake which I think is more elegant for a special occasion cake. If you only have two 6″ cake tins you can divide the mixture into three and bake two cakes first. Keep the remaining cake mix covered with cling film – it will be fine whilst the other cakes bake and cool enough to remove from the tins.
I also made three times the amount of icing for this cake so that I had enough to fill the cake and coat the outside. I decorated it with caramelised hazelnuts, orange zest and pistachios. You can be as creative as you like.
This cake is so simple and so tasty that I can’t believe I ever used to delegate it. Please let me know what you think.
For the Cake
250ml (9fl oz) Sunflower Oil
4 Large Eggs
225g (8oz) Light Muscovado Sugar
200g (7oz) Carrots (peeled and finely grated)
300g (10oz) Self-Raising Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp ground Mixed Spice
1 tsp ground Ginger
Grated zest of one Orange
75g (2½ oz) chopped Walnuts
To decorate – 8 Walnut Halves or Caramel Hazelnuts plus grated Orange Zest
For the Icing
50g (1¾ oz) Butter (softened)
25g (1oz) Icing Sugar or 1-2 tbsp Maple Syrup
280g (10oz) Full-Fat Cream Cheese (at room temperature)
A few drops of Vanilla Extract
Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4).
Grease and line two deep 20cm (8in) round sandwich tins (or three 6” tins).
In a large bowl, combine the oil, sugar, orange zest and eggs and whisk until thick and creamy.
Stir in the carrots. Fold in the sifted flour, baking powder and spices. Once combined, stir in the walnuts.
Spoon the mixture evenly between the tins.
Put the cakes in the oven and bake for about 35 minutes (25-30 minutes for 6” cakes) or until golden brown, risen and shrinking away from the sides of the tins.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
To make the icing
Measure the butter, icing sugar (or maple syrup), cream cheese and vanilla extract into a bowl and whisk until smooth and thoroughly blended. Taste and adjust the sweetness according to taste.
Spread half the icing on one cake, sit the other cake on top and spread the remaining icing on top to make a swirl pattern. Decorate the top of the cake with the halved walnuts and orange zest.