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How to make a Carrot Cake 3 Ways

carrot cake recipe Sep 26, 2023

Carrot cake fans seem to fall into two categories: those who insist their carrot cake should be light, fluffy and cloud-like; and those who prefer a believe the perfect carrot cake is dense, moist and rich. I fall into the latter. The only thing the two camps seem to agree on is that the cake should definitely include a thick layer of cream cheese frosting with a citrusy hint. Historically carrots were a good source of sweetness when sugar and dried fruits were extremely expensive. Carrot cake seems to have its roots in a sweet meat dish. Much like mincemeat, it slowly lost its meat and gained sugar over the centuries. During the second world war, carrot cake took off, making the best use of a home grown source of sweetness. The oil in the mixture means this is a beautifully moist cake which will keep very well. Once the frosting has been added, the cake should be refrigerated. A butter-based cake will firm up in the fridge, but the oil in this cake means it will stay moist even when cold. This cake looks good simply decorated with extra nuts, grated carrot or orange zest. I also think it makes a wonderful celebration cake or dessert for a garden party (I’d put a punt on al fresco dining being this summer's major trend). While you have time on your hands and if you have fruit trees in the garden, it would look absolutely beautiful decorated with crystallised apple blossom. Pick the flowers on a dry day when they are fully open, gently brush with egg white, dip in caster sugar and leave to dry on baking paper for a day or two. 

This recipe can be adapted to whatever bakeware you own. Convert it seamlessly into a traybake (using a rectangular baking tin) or use half the ingredients and bake it in a 2lb Loaf tin (for a loaf you'll need to increase the oven temperature to 180˚C and add 15 mins to the baking time). The video in this blog shows how you can use half the recipe and create delicious carrot cake muffins. 

Makes a 20cm Sandwich Cake

200g caster sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
200ml unscented oil (sunflower)
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bread soda
pinch salt
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
250g carrots, grated (approx 3-4 carrots)
75g sultanas, soaked in orange juice, tea or water for 30 mins
50g pecans (or walnuts), chopped
Cream Cheese Frosting
100g butter, softened
200g full-fat cream cheese, chilled
250g icing sugar, sieved
zest of 1 lemon

  1. Preheat oven to 170˚C. Grease and line two 20cm sandwich cake tins with baking parchment. Soak the sultanas.
  2. To make the carrot cake: In a mixing bowl, use an electric whisk to combine the sugar, eggs and vanilla extract until well combined. Whisk in the oil until the mixture is thick and pale.
  3. Sieve together the flour, baking powder, bread soda, salt and spices. Fold the sieved ingredients into the wet mixture.  
  4. Drain the sultanas (discard the liquid and pat dry with kitchen paper). Add the carrots, sultanas, chopped pecans (or walnuts) into the batter and stir until well combined.
  5. Divide the mixture evenly, between the lined sandwich tins and bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 30 mins, until risen and a skewer inserted into the centre of each sponge comes out clean.
  6. Leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool fully.
  7. To make the cream cheese frosting, beat the butter until pale and creamy, next beat in the cream cheese (until lump free). Add in the sieved icing sugar gradually. Lastly incorporate the lemon zest (adjust amount of lemon to your taste). Refrigerate the icing for 20 mins.
  8. Ensure the sponges are cool before icing them. Peel away the paper lining from each sponge. Use a spatula to spread half the icing on a layer of sponge. Spread remaining icing on the second layer and place it on top.  Return the cake to the fridge for 1 hour. Serve chilled.

The course features some fantastic online modules for beginner home bakers.

Happy Baking!

- Vanessa Greenwood, Founder


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