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
1 tsp vanilla extract
200ml unscented oil (sunflower)
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bread soda
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
The course features some fantastic online modules for beginner home bakers.
- Vanessa Greenwood, Founder