I am not a fan of those carrot cakes that are overly laden with spices, resulting in a cake that tastes almost medicinal. This carrot cake is gently spiced, has a very moist sponge and the most luscious melt-in-the-mouth icing that is slightly sweet with a hint of sharpness.
This cake has always proved popular whenever I have made it and is an adaptation of a recipe I jotted down decades ago in my “to make” folder! I have made it scores of times over the years, adapting it from time to time.
It also makes a great traybake: just spoon the mixture into a lined tin and bake for about 30-35 minutes.
A gluten-free alternative
I often make this carrot cake using gluten-free plain flour – without the need for other additives that people often include when making a gluten-free cake.
There is no significant difference between the taste and the texture with this cake as a gluten-free version or not.
The most luxurious icing
This rich, silky icing is based on the standard cream cheese and icing sugar mixture, but I add melted white chocolate and mascarpone which makes it so much more special.
It is the white chocolate that helps it keep its shape as with just icing sugar and cream cheese, it can all collapse into a runny mess if you over-beat. Mind you, the chocolate also adds an extra lusciousness – and that is surely no bad thing!
Recipe: carrot cake with white chocolate & cream cheese icing: makes one 9″ cake
- 140ml vegetable oil
- 40ml walnut oil (or use 180ml vegetable oil in total)
- 160g plain flour
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 220g soft brown sugar – light, dark or a mixture
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- generous pinch salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- a few gratings of nutmeg (about half a teaspoon)
- finely grated zest of one orange
- 200g carrot, peeled and grated
- 80g walnuts or pecans, chopped into small pieces
- 80g full-fat cream cheese, ideally at room temperature*
- 80g mascarpone, ideally at room temperature*
- 80g very soft unsalted butter*
- 80g icing sugar, sieved
- 80g best quality white chocolate, melted and cooled
- 3 tablespoons good quality lemon curd or the juice of the orange used in the cake
- 1-2 teaspoons teaspoon vanilla extract
*if the butter is very soft and the cheeses are at room temperature, rather than chilled, then when you mix everything together, it will blend smoothly. If the cheeses are too cold, the chocolate will start to set soon as you add it, giving small chunks of set chocolate in there; not the end of the world, but it is nicer having it smoothly blended.
To finish (optional):
- a few walnuts or pecans, (can be halved or toasted and finely crushed)
- a few small chunks of dark chocolate, finely chopped or grated
(1) Preheat the oven to 160C (fan). Line a deep 9″ cake tin with greaseproof or pop a large paper cake tin liner inside. You can also make this in two 1lb loaf tins.
(2) Mix together all of the cake ingredients, except for the carrots and nuts, in a large bowl until well combined. Don’t over-beat: you want a thick batter. Stir in the carrots and nuts.
(3) Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 50 minutes to an hour, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing the cake from the tin to cool completely.
(4) For the icing, beat butter and icing sugar together, and add the remaining ingredients. Beat well with a wooden spoon, or whisk with a balloon whisk, until smooth.
(5) Spread or pipe the icing over the cooled cake. Sprinkle over the chocolate along with the pecans/walnuts.