Sunday, 26 June 2011

Carrot Cake

Cinnamony, slightly sweetly acidic (thanks to the chunks of pineapple) and, of course, decked with swathes of carrot. That is how a carrot cake should be, and that is how this one is. This has got to be one of my favourite recipes. It comes from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook
 - admittedly version from 1976, so I have no idea how it's changed. 

Carrot cake, for me, absolutely has to have mountains of freshly grated carrot in it - none of this 'I'm-a-slightly-spiced-with-two-measly-shards-of-carrot--in-the-whole-entire-cake-excuse-for-a-carrot-cake'. This is certainly a cake that evokes a myriad of childhood memories, namely of a period of obsession involving my dad making one of these babies every weekend possible in a bid to perfect it. He was also famed amongst the primary school mothers and Parent-Teacher Association for making the world's best carrot cake ever, and there wasn't a school fête that went by without a special request for it . You could say he was crowned the King of Carrot Cake. I intend to steal that crown from him. And might just be on my way to doing so.

I made this for yesterday to give to my friend Julia's  for her 18th birthday, and she just sent the loveliest thank you text. It read like this:
'My mum is so in love with your cake she thinks you should go on masterchef and open a patisserie. Seriously. It's the best carrot cake in my life, and I have tried quite a few. Then again you know of my love for your family's food. Yummy.'




Enough rambling. Here's the recipe.

Preheat your oven to 180C/350F
Line a 9x9x2 inch tin, or an 8 or 9 inch springform cake tin.

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinammon (I always add in around 1 1/2 tsp, I think I've made it pretty clear I love mine really cinammony)
1/2 tsp salt

Sift all of these together into a large bowl

In a separate bowl, whisk together
2 large eggs
2/3 cup salad oil
1-2 tsp vanilla extract

Beat the wet ingredients into the dry (stir in gently to start with just to avoid an explosion)
Make sure everything is really well combined and don't worry if your batter looks, well, less like batter and more like a sticky, goopy, can't-decide-if-it's-cake-batter-or-cookie-dough mess. This will be sorted out by the addition of
1 very very generous cup of grated carrot (I find this normally takes 2 1/2 large carrots, 4 small ones)
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, drained

The moisture from these two ingredients will, I promise, turn it into quite a wet, bubbly mixture that promises to fill your house with the most beautifully spiced aroma, and later, your belly with an equally gloriously fluffy yet moist sponge. And not forgetting the swathe of slightly-orangey cream cheese frosting.
(I know, I know, more Nigella-esque descriptions, but they are certainly necessary here)

Bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until a skewer stuck in the deepest part of the car comes out clean. Just to warn you though, the more carrot and pineapple you put in, the longer it will take.



Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes or so, then transfer to a cooling rack. Once completely cold, then slather in cream cheese frosting. This is from the same book as the cake, but I quite like the Hummingbird Icing too.

3 oz/ 85g cream cheese, room temperature
1 tbsp butter, also at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups sifted icing sugar


Cream together the butter and cream cheese for a minute or two until light and fluffy. Then beat in the vanilla. Sift in the icing sugar in small additions, ensuring it's well combined so you don't end up with lumpy frosting. When this is done, I always like to grate in the zest of about half an orange, to give a very subtle zingy citrus kick. Slather over the top of your cake.

If you're making a layer cake, double the frosting and sandwich the two layers with about 1/3 of the icing.

In the words of the aforementioned pal of mine, 'yummy.'

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