Food I cook for my family, baking recipes, cookbook reviews, and your cooking questions answered
The Ultimate Carrot Cake
Carrot cake is one of those cakes that even die-hard chocoholics seem to like, and is universally popular with adults and children. I have tried many a different recipes, and have concluded that a modified version of Ina Garten’s carrot & pineapple cake, is the best. I find Garten’s a bit dense, but the addition of pineapple is lovely. It’s not noticeable, but adds a subtle background tang. I have also dispensed with the raisins as I find them too sweet. You can of course add back 1/2 to 1 cup of raisins if you like.
Separately, I have also tried Delia Smith’s low fat moist carrot cake, and it tastes well…low fat. The truth is that for a truly moist carrot cake, you can’t skimp on the amount of oil. Definitely one that I would expend some precious calories on!
For the topping and decoration, I have taken a leaf out of Baker & Cook’s carrot cake, and used chopped apricots & pumpkin seeds for decoration. I also use a fraction of the frosting from Garten’s recipe, and prefer just to cover the top sparingly and leave the sides bare.
The Ultimate Carrot Cake
A moreish, delicious cake, that keeps really well. Without the topping, it is dairy free. If you are new to baking, this is an excellent recipe to attempt as you literally have to beat everything together and bake. Cake baking doesn't get easier. The cake freezes well (see notes below). This recipe makes a 9" cake.
Prepare a 9" cake tin, by lining the base (with parchment or greaseproof paper) and greasing it with some oil. Also grease the sides. Preheat the oven to 175C (160C fan).
Sieve the flour, baking soda, salt, spices and cinnamon into a mixing bowl.
In a stand mixer or a large bowl with a handheld beater, beat together the eggs, light brown sugar & sugar until light and creamy. This should take about 3-5 minutes. Then add the oil and beat again for 2 minutes.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Finally add the carrots, nuts and chopped pineapple. Beat on low speed until everything is well combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin, and bake for 1 hour - 1 hour 10 minutes. Check with a skewer for doneness after 1 hour. The skewer should come out clean.
Allow the cake to cool completely in the tin set over a wire rack. Turn out onto a serving plate and frost. Easiest to use a palette knife, else a spatula is fine too.
To give a nice finish to the frosting (and far easier than trying to smooth it), I use a simple plastic icing comb. Just pull the comb through the frosting for a textured ridged look. Decorate the cake with finely chopped apricots, pumpkin seeds, and black sesame seeds, if desired.
Place the softened cream cheese and butter in a small bowl.
Beat together with a whisk or a hand beater until smooth and fluffy. Add the sieved icing sugar and lemon zest or vanilla extract. Taste for sugar, and add more if you prefer it sweeter. The frosting should be like whipped cream. If your kitchen is warm, and it's too soft of runny, refrigerate before spreading on the cake.
If you don't stock all spice powder, swap it for additional cinnamon powder or even a dash of 5-spice powder.
It's easiest to weigh everything, including the oil, straight into the mixing bowl directly, to save on washing up.
Sieving the icing sugar for the frosting is important, as the lumps will make the frosting grainy.
The cake freezes well. Let the cake cool completely, wrap airtight with cling wrap, and freeze. Defrost in the fridge overnight, complete the frosting before serving. You can freeze the frosted cake too, but it's easier to wrap and freeze it unfrosted.