Spring has truly sprung in Christchurch, complete with rain showers every second day that make it hard to know whether to hang out the washing or wait before watering the plants… But spring has it’s beautiful benefits: our garden has been slowly filling with blooms, from a patch where I planted wildflower seeds in autumn, and our lovely Michaelia shrub. And of course, my handsome wee helper gets to wield the watering can (though he doesn’t seem to be interested in watering the plants with it!)
And what dessert is more spring-like than carrot cake?! Although it’s often associated with Easter and bunnies, in NZ it’s a very popular flavour for any kind of celebration because it’s so well loved and tasty. Which is why I chose to make it for a bake sale, and can now share my perfected recipe along with those photos. Because it’s such a rustic, homemade treat I’ve kept the decoration simple so it can be done in any home kitchen in no time at all.
This recipe is for carrot cake as I like it: firm enough to cut cleanly (and therefore totally suitable for wedding cakes or other special cakes) but with the deep caramel flavour (from raw sugar and wholemeal flour) that to me is the essence of a good carrot cake!
In order to make it easy to cut, I haven’t used any mix-ins (chopped fruit or nuts) but feel free to add these in if it’s your preference. I also avoided adding nuts to this one in order to steer clear of the allergen, but I do love a carrot cake with chopped almonds stirred through – since I’m not a fan of the ol’ walnut! It’s also amazing with chopped stem ginger added. And no carrot cake is complete without a generous slather of cream cheese icing, not sweetened too much to hide that tang…
Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing
Adapted from Gimme Some Oven
Makes one 9 inch round cake, approx 2 1/4 inches tall.
- 185g (1 cup) raw sugar
- 260g (1 1/3 cups) brown sugar
- 375 mL (1 1/2 cups) vegetable oil
- 6 eggs
- 240g (1 2/3 cups) plain flour
- 240g (1 2/3 cups) wholemeal flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp (generous pinch) ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 450g grated carrot (approx. 3 large carrots making 3 cups)
- Optional mix-ins: 1/2 – 3/4 cup chopped nuts, dried fruit, stem ginger
- 225g cream cheese (if very firm, soften in the microwave for 30 seconds on high)
- 200g butter, softened to room temperature
- 800g (approx 4-5 cups) icing sugar, approximately (you may need less or more depending on consistency)
- Zest of two oranges
- 1/4 cup each mixed peel, pumpkin seeds, and figs or chopped nuts, for decoration
- For the cake: Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F) and grease a 9″ / 23cm round cake tin. I use spray oil to grease tins.
- Grate the carrots and prepare any mix-ins.
- In a large bowl whisk together the sugars and oil, then whisk in the eggs. The mixture will be thick when combined, and will trail off the whisk when lifted out of the bowl.
- In a separate bowl, sieve together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Add these dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and whisk well to combine.
- Using a spatula, stir in the grated carrot, zest of one orange, and any mix-ins that you are using.
- Pour the mixture into your greased cake tin and bake in the preheated oven until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake (preferably into one of the cracks that forms on top) comes out clean or with just a few crumbs. This took nearly two hours in my oven because the cake is very tall (finished height of more than 2″). You could split the mixture between two tins to create two layers and reduce the cooking time.
- For the cream cheese icing: beat together the cream cheese and softened butter in a stand mixer or using a hand mixer. If the cream cheese is still quite cold the mixture may be curdled (like mine below!). If you are worried about it, you can beat in a couple of tablespoons of warmed milk, but it usually sorts itself out once you start to add the icing sugar.
- Add the remaining orange zest, then beat in the icing sugar one cup at a time, until you are happy with the consistency and sweetness – it should be smooth and thick enough to hold its shape when spread, and sweet enough without hiding the tang of the cream cheese.
- To assemble: if you wish, cut your cake horizontally using a serrated knife or cake leveller, and spread about half a cup of cream cheese icing onto the bottom half before stacking the top half on top.
- Place a large dollop of icing on top of the cake and use a knife or palette knife to spread it out to the edge as you work round the cake, leaving a rim of icing around the edge. Move the knife inwards as you scrape around the top continuously to give it a spiral pattern towards the middle. Sprinkle the decorative toppings around the edge just inside the rim you have made, kind of like a crown!
I’d love to know how you like your carrot cake: nuts or not? Dried fruit added? With or without the icing? Let me know if you give this recipe a try and what you think of it.
Here’s the cake at the bake sale, amidst some lovely homemade preserves:
And because you’ve made it this far through the post, here’s another of my contributions to the Fair, bikkie packets with four flavours, including a vanilla cut-out of either a bunny or T-Rex!