Sunday, 6 April 2014

Carrot Cake

Although I do like chocolate as a special treat, I have always been much more of a “cakes and pastries” type of gal! If made to choose between a bar of chocolate and a slice of cake I inevitably opt for the slice of cake… and to be honest, as far as I’m concerned nothing beats homemade cake. When you make your own cakes, you can be sure that the best quality ingredients have gone into them.

I always like to have a homemade cake in the house so that I can offer a slice or two to any unexpected visitors or to friends and neighbours who might call by. And yes…  I also like to have home-baked treats on hand to satisfy my taste for something delicious to eat when having a cup of my beloved tea!

I think that one of the most delicious of cakes is carrot cake. The inclusion of carrots adds an extra natural sweetness, but perhaps most importantly, a pleasant moistness to the finished cake. I get extremely annoyed when I taste dry carrot cakes and wonder how they could possibly have ended up like that as the carrots really should keep everything nice and moist without the cake being soggy or damp.  I have tried many carrot cakes over the years and I regret to say that far too many of them are dry and quite tasteless.

I have also baked many recipes for carrot cake and have had varying success. Some of them have been over-spiced; others have been too soggy but after many years of tweaking recipes I think that I have finally hit upon a recipe that I am really pleased with and this is the one that I present here.
 
Perhaps the most surprising thing about this recipe is that it uses oil instead of butter. I have tried variations using butter, but this is one time, despite my addiction to butter, where I will actually recommend that you use a good sunflower oil INSTEAD of butter.  Those who know me or have read some of my previous posts will find my butter rebellion with regard to this recipe somewhat alarming, but never fear… the cream cheese icing which I suggest you top the cake with includes some! Speaking of icing, some people hate carrot cakes to be iced, but I love the creamy, tangy sweetness that this icing gives to the finished cake. Omit the icing, if you wish… But I urge you to try it out, at least once.
 

Ingredients:

265g soft brown sugar
265g sunflower oil
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
265g self-raising flour
2tsp baking powder
2tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
265g coarsely grated carrots
100g roughly chopped walnuts (optional)
100g sultanas
Icing:
75g butter, softened
150g cream cheese
300g icing sugar
1tsp vanilla extract/paste
 

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 150C/Fan Oven 130C/Gas Mark 2. Line a 25cm square cake tin with baking parchment and set aside.
2. Put the sugar and sunflower oil in a large mixing bowl and using a hand-held electric mixer, beat together for a couple of minutes until well mixed. Add the eggs and continue to beat for about 5 minutes until the mixture has lightened in colour and increased in volume.
3. Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together and fold into the egg mixture. Add the grated orange rind, grated carrots, chopped walnuts and sultanas and mix together until everything is well incorporated.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 1¼ to 1½ hours or until a fine skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes and then remove from the tin and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
Icing:
6. Place all the icing ingredients in a bowl and beat together using a hand-held electric mixer until light and fluffy. Using a palette knife spread the icing evenly over the cake, or as I have done place the icing into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm plain round nozzle and pipe small blobs of the icing on top of the cake.

Serves 12-14.