When I was growing up, I couldn’t get my head around carrot cake. Vegetables in cake? What’s that about? I’ve also never been a fan of cake with fruit in it, and very often carrot cake would have sultanas in which I just couldn’t get on board with (still can’t!). Carrot cake was a particular favourite of my Nana’s, and if we’d go out on family trips anywhere and we stopped for a tea break she would always be after “A lovely bit of carrot cake” (said in her Irish accent!). Me, I’d be the typical kid and always steer towards the richest chocolate option on offer, a vegetable based cake was never going to get a look in. When my Husband (then boyfriend) told me carrot cake was one of his favourite cakes, I figured I should find a good recipe to make one for him, I thought maybe my tastes would have changed so I should give it a go myself! Being a big fan of Hummingbird I guessed their carrot cake recipe would be a good place to start. Turns out I was right, and not a sultana in sight, thank goodness!
This recipe offers a perfectly moist, slightly spiced carrot cake which is offset by the yummy cream cheese frosting. I made a tiny tweak to the recipe for the frosting to add the zest of one orange which gives it a fresh zing which stops it being a little to rich or sickly. This recipe has become a particular favourite in our household, it’s pretty versatile and can be decorated simply without the sides covered with some walnuts on top, or you can go a little fancier, coat the sides to fully cover the cake and put aside some of the frosting, colour it orange and green and pipe little carrots on top. Below are a few different versions I have done using this recipe.
So here’s my favourite, ever reliable carrot cake recipe:
Equipment – 3 x 20 cm cake tine, base lined with greaseproof paper
- 300g soft light brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 300ml sunflower oil
- 300g plain flour
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 300g carrots, grated
- 100g shelled walnuts, chopped, plus extra, to decorate
For the Frosting:
- 600g icing sugar, sifted
- 100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 250g cream cheese, cold
- Zest of 1 orange
- Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C (325 degrees F/Gas mark 3)
- Put the sugar, eggs and oil in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat until all the ingredients are well incorporated (don’t worry if the mixture looks slightly split.
- Slowly add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt and vanilla extract and continue to beat until well mixed. I find at this stage the mixture looks like gloopy peanut butter!
4. Stir in the grated carrots and walnuts by hand until they are all evenly dispersed.
5. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tins and smooth over with a palette knife.
6. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and the sponge bounces back when touched. Leave the cakes to cool slightly in the tins before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
7. To make the frosting, beat the icing sugar and butter together in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on a medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed. Add the cream cheese in one go, as well as the orange zest and beat until it is completely incorporated. Turn the mixer up to a medium-high speed. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. Don’t over-beat as it can quickly become runny.
8. When the cakes are cold, put one on a cake stand/plate and spread about one-quarter of the frosting over with a palette knife. Place the second on top and spread another quarter of the frosting over it. Top with the last cake and spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides. If you don’t want to cover the sides, then you should use a little more of the frosting when doing the layering. You can finish off by decorating the top with walnuts and a sprinkling of cinnamon.
If you want to do little carrots, put some of the frosting aside before you cover the cake, colour some orange and some green with colouring gel, I use sugarflair,I’d recommend this over liquid colouring which will make the frosting too runny. Use a small circular piping nozzle used for writing and put the orange frosting in, then pipe a line for the top of the carrot triangle, then come back under the line in the opposite direction doing a slightly shorter line and repeat reducing the width of the lines down to a point to create the triangle shape of the carrot. Then using the same nozzle and the green frosting pipe little lines fanning out from the top of the carrot to create the green sprouts of the carrot top! I found it was best to do a couple of practice tries on a plate before piping onto the cake just to get the technique how I wanted it.
I find this cake so versatile, if you didn’t want a 3 tier cake and just wanted a traditional sandwich cake then just reduce the quantities down by a third.