A VERY GOOD SIMPLE CARROT CAKE

A VERY GOOD SIMPLE CARROT CAKE

Although I'm a fairly experienced baker of cakes, I've never really got into making carrot cake before – until a couple of weeks ago when it came to baking Adam's birthday cake. 

We both love carrot cake, but we always find that when we buy it out and about in coffee shops and so forth, it is never quite as good as a particular version we ate many years ago in a now-closed tea room in Nottingham. It was TOTAL perfection. Rich, moist, spicy, not too sweet...and so not exaggerating, just the best cake I've ever tasted.

Without sounding like Goldilocks {am totally going to} a lot of carrot cake is either very dry, waaaay too moist and greasy, contains far too many fussy bits of fruit and nuts {ugh to huge chips of bitter walnut} or is just lacking in any depth of flavour. 

Setting about baking one therefore slightly filled me with fear, since I could well be throwing a load of effort into a mixing bowl to end up with exactly the sort of cake that neither of us likes. I did lots of research into different recipes and versions to try and figure out what to include in mine and where to tweak the ingredients slightly to get the kind of moistness and flavours I had in mind. For example, I didn't want to use nuts or fruit in mine, and I was keen to bring out the strong notes of molasses and spices. Clearly sometimes this approach doesn't always work first time – believe me I've made some real duds over the years – but on this occasion we've landed ourselves a keeper. Hurrah!

This cake is perfect if you don't have a lot of time and just want simple but delicious cake to serve after lunch or to have in the cupboard to snaffle and snack on at your whim. It also tastes better on day two and three if you can make it last that long.

Serves 8-10

INGREDIENTS

for the cake

  • 160g self-raising flour
  • 2tsp mixed spice
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • large pinch salt
  • 160g light brown muscovado sugar
  • 2 heaped tbsp ground almonds
  • 130ml sunflower oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 200g carrots, peeled and grated
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 1 tbsp date nectar

for the icing

  • 85g full-fat cream cheese
  • 30g butter, unsalted
  • 230g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas mark 6. Using a little butter or oil, grease a 23cm/9 inch springform cake tin and line with baking paper.

Sift the flour, spices, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl and combine with the sugar and almonds. In a seperate bowl, whisk the eggs well and then add the oil. Gently combine the egg mixture with the dry ingredients, then fold in the carrots. Finally, mix in the honey and date nectar, ensuring all the ingredients are well combined – but do not over mix.

Tip the cake mixture into the prepared tin and spread evenly. Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes clean when inserted into the centre of the cake. 

Allow the cake to cool in the tin slightly, then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

In a bowl, beat the butter, cream cheese and vanilla extract until smooth. Sift in the icing sugar, mixing until you have a whipped cream cheese icing.

Spread the icing over the top of the cake using a palette knife or spatula. 

RECIPE NOTES

  • Date nectar is a really deliciously rich syrup, readily available in major supermarkets – you can usually find it in the sugar/sweetener aisle.
  • I strongly recommend using a proper muscovado sugar for the cake {rather than a regular golden or white caster sugar} for maximum flavour.
  • This recipe gives you quite a good size cake, but if you want to create a bigger and deeper carrot cake sandwich, simply double the ingredients and fill the inside of the cake with half of the icing.
  • AIthough I kept my cake simple on top {we added candles later for the birthday boy} if you want to decorate the top you could perhaps use some grated orange zest and/or chopped pecans or hazelnuts.
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