Carrot Cake & Cream Cheese Icing

I used to dislike carrot cake intensely.  I simply couldn’t see the point of it.  Why use up all those calories on something that makes a pathetic attempt to appear vaguely healthy, when you could use them on some perfectly decadent chocolate-y goodness instead?  I held fast to this opinion for a very long time, until my dear, dear friend Sara asked me to bake a carrot cake for her birthday a few years ago, and I took a slice – largely to check that I hadn’t done something stupid like use salt instead of sugar.  As it turns out, carrot cake is delicious, and it has since become one of my most popular cakes, converting many a carrot cake cynic along the way.

Some may find it controversial that I omit walnuts from my carrot cake but I tend to avoid using nuts in all situations in which I don’t know each and every person for whom I am catering.  One only need accidentally feed someone with a nut allergy pesto (which contains pine nuts) once to learn that particular lesson.  She was fine, incidentally, but I shaved a good decade off my own life expectancy with that particular moment of idiocy.

300g soft light brown sugar (sifted – it can get lumpy)
3 large eggs (from happy chickens, please)
300ml sunflower oil
300g plain flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp baking powder
1tsp ground cinnamon
½tsp ground ginger
½tsp salt
¼tsp vanilla extract
300g fresh carrot, peeled and finely grated (approximately 3 medium-large carrots)

100g unsalted butter (room temperature)
600g icing sugar
250g full fat Philadelphia cheese (straight from the fridge)

Preheat the oven to 170C and base-line three 20cm sandwich tins.

Weigh out the dry ingredients (sugar in one bowl; everything else in another), and grate the carrot very finely in a third bowl.  I use a Microplane fine grater so that the carrot is reduced almost to mush, and it melts into the texture of the cake.

Carrot Cake - kit form

Carrot Cake – kit form

Throw the eggs, sugar and oil into the mixer and blitz it until it looks a bit like glue.

Carrot Cake - glue

Carrot Cake – glue

Add the other dry ingredients in three batches, beating thoroughly after each addition.  When everything is in, fold the carrot in thoroughly with a rubber spatula.  The mixture will be much more fluid than most.  Pour into the three tins, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the sponge bounces back when touched.

Carrot Cake - batter

Carrot Cake – batter

Carrot Cake - ready for baking

Carrot Cake – ready for baking

Leave the cakes in the tins to cool slightly before turning out on to a wire rack.

Carrot Cake - cooling

Carrot Cake – cooling

When you’re ready to make the icing, put your icing sugar in the jug, and chuck in the butter in little blobs. Cover the top of the bowl with a tea towel before setting the mixer running on its slowest setting. Mix until it looks like the texture of sand / breadcrumbs. Throw all the cream cheese in at once, cover the bowl again and mix on slow until combined. Then remove the towel and hike the speed up to medium-high for 3-5 minutes until the icing is lovely and fluffy. Watch and listen to it carefully, and be VERY careful not to over-mix it, as it will become sloppy.

Before you start with the icing, I’d recommend cutting up about 6 pieces of baking paper and slotting them between the bottom sponge and the serving plate.  This way, you can slop it about to your heart’s content and you won’t have to clean the plate when you’ve finished.

Carrot Cake - construction

Carrot Cake – construction

Carrot Cake - look at that lovely texture

Carrot Cake – look at that lovely texture

I’d also recommend doing a thin layer of icing over the whole cake and refrigerating it for 15 minutes or so before doing the final layer.  This way, you’re less likely to have sponge crumbs ruining the appearance of your silky icing.

Carrot Cake - crumb layer

Carrot Cake – crumb layer

Carrot Cake - swirly

Carrot Cake – swirly

Carrot Cake - complete with little pearly bits

Carrot Cake – complete with little pearly bits

Carrot Cake - jus' chillin'

Carrot Cake – jus’ chillin’

Carrot Cake - slice

Carrot Cake – slice

This cake was for a photo-shoot, so I hope to be able to half-inch a professional shot of a slice or something when the results come in – watch this space.

Update (1 April 2013):
And here it is, as part of the Scarlett Willow photo-shoot…

Personalised Aprons from Scarlett Willow

Personalised Aprons from Scarlett Willow

 

Chocolate Guinness Cake

February is a big month for birthdays in my office. I baked a carrot cake with cream cheese icing for Tash (and failed to photograph it, hence the lack of blog post) and, when I asked Lisa what she would like for her birthday, her first response was “something with that icing – I love that icing”. I selfishly took advantage of her non-specific request to make something I’ve long been wanting to try: Chocolate Guinness Cake.

Many wonderful bakers have created recipes for this, but none was quite what I wanted, so I selected bits from three recipes to create my own:

Ingredients:
250g unsalted butter (soft)
200g soft, dark brown sugar
100g Green & Black’s 70% cocoa solids chocolate
2 large eggs (from happy chickens, please)
200ml Guinness
275g self-raising flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp baking powder
30g cocoa
50g unsalted butter (room temperature)
300g icing sugar
125g full fat Philadelphia cheese (straight from the fridge)

Preheat to 180C, and grease and line a 23cm spring-form or loose bottomed tin.

Guinness Cake - kit form

Guinness Cake – kit form

Beat the sugar and butter until it is fluffy and pale, then keep mixing on a slow speed while you pour the chocolate in.

Guinness Cake - silky smooth

Guinness Cake – silky smooth

When fully combined, add one egg, mix thoroughly, then sift in a third of the dry ingredients and mix in. Add the second egg, mix thoroughly, then sift in another third of the dry ingredients and mix. Add the Guinness, mix thoroughly, and sift in the remaining third of the dry ingredients and mix. Scrape down the edges of the bowl and give it a final whizz. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 30-40 minutes (check at 30 and if a skewer comes out gooey, put it back in for five minutes). Allow the cake to cool in the tin.

Guinness Cake - oven ready

Guinness Cake – oven ready

Guinness Cake - baked

Guinness Cake – baked

Put your icing sugar in the jug, and chuck in the butter in little blobs. Cover the top of the bowl with a tea towel before setting the mixer running on its slowest setting. Mix until it looks like the texture of sand / breadcrumbs. Throw all the cream cheese in at once, cover the bowl again and mix on slow until combined. Then remove the towel and hike the speed up to medium-high for 3-5 minutes until the icing is lovely and fluffy. Watch and listen to it carefully, and be VERY careful not to over-mix it, as it will become sloppy.

Guinness Cake - iced

Guinness Cake – iced

Guinness cake - sliced

Guinness cake – sliced

Verdict: D-e-licious.