Now carrot cake is perhaps one of the more controversial of classic cakes, but this recipe is bound to win over even the most reluctant of vegetable cake foregoers. This is a delightfully moist sponge with warming spices and crunchy walnuts. The icing for the top and middle is to die for, the zesty orange notes and creamy flavour compliments the sweetness of the carrot cake perfectly. Be careful not to eat the bowlful before it reaches the cake!
Ingredients for the cake:
225g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
1 1\2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp grated nutmeg
Zest of one orange
150 ml cooking oil (sunflower is probably best)
100g walnut pieces
225g soft brown sugar
Ingredients for the icing:
200g cream cheese
150g icing sugar
2 tsp orange juice
- Preheat the oven to 180°C and line and grease two 2×20.5cm round cake tins.
- Sift the flour, all the spices and baking powder into a large mixing bowl.
- Tip in the sugar, the walnut pieces and the orange zest and mix to combine.
- Add the oil, eggs, and grated carrot and stir the ingredients together. Once the mixture is fairly well combined, fold in any flour hidden at the bottom of the bowl, ensuring that the mixture is well combined and also well aerated so that the cake can achieve a nice rise.
- Split the mixture evenly between the two cake tins, spreading it out so fairly flat. Pop the tins into the oven, try to fit them both onto one shelf to get a more even bake between the two cakes.
- Bake for 25 mins, when the sponge is bouncy to the touch and the edges are peeling away from the sides of the tin then you know it’s ready. Air on the side of caution with the baking of this cake, it is much better for it to be a wee bit on the squidgy side than dry!
- When the cakes are done remove from the oven and leave to cool. When cool enough to handle, remove from their tins and cool on a baking rack.
- In the meantime, make the icing by beating together the cream cheese, butter, orange juice and sifted icing sugar. Make sure that your butter is really soft for this, so either use spread or give it a few seconds in the microwave. If the butter is too hard the icing can be really difficult to make smooth and shiny.
- Once all the ingredients are combined and the icing smooth, refrigerate for around 30 minutes just to stiffen up the mixture so it doesn’t all run off the cake.
- When the cake is cooled and the icing firmer, spread half of the mixture on one of the sponges, and then lift the other sponge on top, sandwiching them together.
- Use the remaining icing to cover the top of the cake, spreading it out evenly and neatly. You can decorate the cake with chopped up walnuts or even have a go at some candied carrot curls like I did (the recipe for the candied carrots is below). Happy baking!
Candied Carrot Curls
- Preheat the oven to 110°C.
- Peel off the carrot’s skin and then carefully carry on peeling long strips of the carrot with the peeler.
- Bring the water and sugar to the boil in a saucepan and then drop to a simmer once it reaches boiling point and carefully add the carrots, be careful not to tear the strips.
- Simmer for around 15 minutes and then remove from the heat. Lift the carrot strips out and place on a lined baking tray, ensuring there is space between each strip.
- Bake in the oven for 30 minutes and then remove.
- Work quickly as the carrot strips need to be warm to stay malleable. Use either the handle of a wooden spoon, or a chopstick for a tighter curl, dust the end in some icing sugar and wrap a carrot strip around to form a curl. Slide off the spoon and place on a plate dusted with icing sugar. Repeat with all of the strips of carrot to create a little cluster of curls for the top of your cake.
If quarantine is bringing out your inner baker, then this is the perfect at-home treat for the family, and the candied decorative addition mean you can really stretch your baking skills. Think of it as a bake-off show stopper made in the comfort of your own kitchen.
Image Credit: Mollie Beresford