8oz / 225g carrots (about 2 good sized carrots)
1 2/3 cups self raising flour
1/2 cup golden syrup
1 cup dark brown sugar
4oz / 1 stick/ 125g soft butter
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 tspn baking powder
2 tspn cinnamon
1/2 tspn ground ginger
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
8oz cream cheese (at room temperature)
2oz butter, soft (not melted)
zest 1 orange
zest and juice 1 lemon
1 cup (plus a little more) icing / confectioner's sugar
freshly grated nutmeg
you will need:
time: 10 minutes mixing, 40-45 minutes baking
galileo, the genius carrot cake
My issue with carrot cake is that it is seen as this vaguely healthier alternative to an experience which simply isn't about health...
A good slice of cake must always be accompanied by that naughty tingle of indulgence. There should be a guilty thrill sinking a fork into a slice of cake.
But carrot cake with its grated goodness and no- cholesterol oil and wholesome nuts and raisins...well it sometimes has all the sanctimonious posturing of a televangelist.
And for what?
Nine times out of ten, the vegetable oil simply gives you a damp, greasy and heavy slab. The spices overtake any carrot flavour and you are left in no- man's land; you didn't get a fruit cake and you didn't get a sinfully rich cake. So let's see how I came up with a recipe that I must admit tastes 'closer to fine'
Oil vs Butter: hands down, canola oil gives a moist cake, but it can also give you a greasy finish. So I compromised: half oil, half butter.
Sugar and spice: to keep it nice, I split the spices and separated some of the flavours. I put cinnamon and ginger into the cake, but kept the nutmeg, lemon and orange zest out. I saved these flavours for the cream cheese frosting. And I brought in my stand-by secret ingredient: Golden Syrup. I have waxed ecstatic over this product before, but in a carrot cake it truly soars.
Golden Syrup is the love child of honey and molasses. It has the texture and depth of flavour of honey, but as a sugar cane derivative, it has a faint molasses taste which bakes into the cake, giving it a summertime echo of the pumpkin pies and gingerbreads that you'll be baking in Fall and Winter. It is widely available across the US; my standby supplier is Cost Plus / World Markets.
But the best bit of this cake (other than sitting down to a big helping) is how easy it is. Like Coco and most of my other cakes, I whacked all of the ingredients into the food processor, gave it a blitz and put it straight into the baking pan.
Here you go: pre-heat your oven to 400f. Spray some non-stick cooking spray into a 8x11 pan, then line the bottom with paper / parchment. Put the grater disc into your food proccessor and feed 8oz/ 250g carrot chunks down the tube (about 2 good sized carrots; don't bother peeling them, just top and tail them). Remove the grater disc and insert the standard blade, and add all of these ingredients in with the grated carrots: 1 2/3 cups self raising flour; 2 eggs; 1/2 cup golden syrup; 1 cup dark brown sugar; 2 tspns ground cinnamon; 1/2 tspn ground ginger; 1 1/2 tspns baking powder; 1/2 cup buttermilk; 1/2 cup canola oil; 1/2 cup soft (not melted) butter (that's 1x 4oz stick / 125g); pinch salt. Pulse for 20 seconds, scrape down the sides with a spatula, pulse for another 20 seconds then add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts and 1/2 cup of raisins. Stir the nuts and fruit in with a spoon then pour the batter into your pan and bake for about 40 minutes. Check at 30 mins, you might want to lower the temp to 375f until the cake is cooked in the centre.
This cake is pretty delicate straight from the oven, so I usually let it cool a little in the pan before turning it out onto a wire rack. It is fine to be made a day ahead.
For the platter in the photos, I made three lots of the batter; one for each layer of the birthday cake and one for the cupcakes around the side. Kate, like some of her guests, is allergic to nuts, so I made nut-free cupcakes for them. Her daddy is quite nutty though, so the big cake was choka-blok full of walnuts.
st clements cream cheese frosting
(it's got oranges and lemons!)
Super easy: put an 8oz slab of (room temperature) cream cheese into the food processor. Add 2oz of softened butter and the grated zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon. Add the juice from the lemon and pulse until the cream cheese is blended with everything else. Add 1 cup (maybe a little more) of icing / confectioner's sugar and pulse about 10 seconds. You have just made a super cream cheese frosting.
I use this much frosting for the top of the carrot cake. If you are baking two layers, you will need to double the recipe so that you have plenty of frosting for the middle of the cake as well.
Grate a little fresh nutmeg over the top (ignore this, Mary Beth) and you will have a fragrant, cream cheese frosting which is so much more than the standard sweet/cheesey frosting that you get served. By taking these ingredients out of the cake and into the frosting, it also leaves a little more room for the gorgeous flavours in the cake to dance around on the tip of your tongue.