Pretty brilliant carrot cake

We’ve got a bit of a thing about carrot cake, and how it hits the spot without making you feel too quesy. Over the years we’ve tried many different recipes and narrowed the winning formula down to two fabulous variations. One is a Gordon Ramsay recipe, which makes a dark, raisin-filled, extra spiced loaf cake, dressed with a syrup rather than icing (we’ll post that recipe another time). The other, our all time favourite, is this, below. We heard about this version from an American friend who told us about having memorable carrot cake somewhere fancy in San Francisco. The cake came with carrot sorbet and cream cheese ice cream (must try that), candied carrot shavings and various other Michelin star-deserving accessories. It sounded delicious, but the detail that made our mouth water most was that the cake, cut into triangles, was made up of many layers, each one sandwiched together with cream cheese icing – so delivering the perfect ratio of cake to icing. After all, half the point of carrot cake (the whole point, even) is its icing. So here, below, is our take on that San Francisco fancy carrot cake.

Note: The instructions look long. Don’t be put off – most of them are about the assembly. The cake itself is incredibly easy and foolproof to make, as is the icing, and both are delicious without any special effects. So you could just spread the icing on and around the cake, then stick it in the fridge for a couple of hours to set. But it’s quite fun doing the layers. We did it with the help of a two year old, which added drama. Each time we make this cake, we strive to get the slices neater and cleaner, but never manage it. But oh, it tastes so good.

Carrot Cake:

  • 210g white flour
  • 1 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 250ml sunflower oil (or other flavourless oil)
  • 190g light brown muscovado sugar
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3-4 medium sized carrots (about 365g before being peeled etc).

Cream Cheese Filling:

  • 450g cream cheese
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract

Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees C. Line a 23 x 23 x 5cm baking tin with baking parchment paper.

Peel the carrots, cut off their ends, and grate using a coarse grater.

Sift the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl and set aside.

Whisk the oil, brown sugar, caster sugar, eggs and vanilla together in an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. If you don’t have a mixer, you can whisk it all by hand.

Add the flour mixture and continue whisking till the flour is completely incorporated into the mixture.

Stir in the grated carrots. Then scrape the mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake for about 45 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool completely in its tin.

Meanwhile, make the cream cheese filling by beating the cream cheese in a mixer (or by hand) until smooth.

Add the icing sugar, and beat on low speed. Add the vanilla and beat again till the filling is smooth and free of lumps. Keep the cream cheese at room temperature so it is spreadable.

To Assemble:

Place a cutting board on top of your cake tin and, gripping the board and pan together securely, invert the carrot cake onto the cutting board, then peel off the parchment.

Use a serrated knife to cut the cake lengthwise in half. Slice each half into 3 thin layers to get 6 layers in total.

Place a sheet of parchment on a dry work surface, and use two large spatulas to lift up the first cake layer and place it on the parchment. Spread about 1/2 cup of the cream cheese filling over the layer.

Alternate the cake layers and filling, ending with a cake layer. (Press down lightly on each cake layer as it is added so the cake will be compact.) Transfer the filled layers with the parchment onto a baking pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Use a serrated knife to cut the cake in half again and then crosswise on the diagonal into alternating triangles, to make about 20 triangles in total.

Ta da!

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