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Festivals & Celebrations: Spicy carrot cake

By Bake Club

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Preparation time 45 minutes (plus cooling and chilling)

Cooking time 50-60 minutes

Servings SERVES 12-14

Carrot cakes became popular during the Second World War when sugar was rationed and cooks, many of whom grew carrots in their back gardens, needed alternatives to sweeten their favourite bakes. Today, cream cheese frosting adds a touch of luxury as do our spectacular caramelised hazelnuts.

  • For the cake mixture
  • 8 eggs, separated
  • 350g (12oz) soft brown sugar
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 3 lemons
  • 150g (5oz) plain flour, sieved
  • 1tsp salt
  • 25g (1oz) baking powder
  • 4tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2tsp ground ginger
  • 2tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 300g (11oz) ground almonds
  • 75g (3oz) dried cranberries
  • 100g (3½oz) pecan nuts, halved
  • 100g (3½oz) hazelnuts, halved
  • 700g (1lb 9oz) carrots, peeled and grated
  • For the cream cheese frosting
  • 150g (5oz) unsalted butter, diced and softened
  • 190g (6½oz) full fat cream cheese, chilled
  • 550g (1¼lb) icing sugar, sieved
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g (5oz) chopped toasted hazelnuts
  • For the caramelised hazelnuts
  • 3tbsp cold water
  • 2tbsp liquid glucose
  • 125g (4oz) caster sugar
  • 15 whole hazelnuts, skin on
  
  • Making the cake 

     

    6 steps

  • 1

    Making the cake  Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan 160°C)/350°F/gas 4. Grease two 15cm (6in) square cake pans and line with baking parchment, if necessary.

  • 2

    Making the cake  Beat together the egg yolks and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the lemon zest, flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, ground almonds, cranberries, pecans and hazelnuts. Add the lemon juice and stir all the ingredients together until combined.

  • Expert Tip

    The cake mixture will be very dense and compact after you’ve added the dry ingredients and lemon juice but stir as thoroughly as you can so everything is evenly combined.

  • 3

    Making the cake  Stir in the grated carrots. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until standing in soft peaks, stir a couple of tablespoons into the cake mixture to soften it and then fold in the rest until completely incorporated.

  • 4

    Making the cake  Divide the mixture between the prepared cake pans, spreading the tops level with a spatula. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer pushed into the centre of each cake comes out clean.

  • 5

    Making the cake  Cool in the pans for 30 minutes before turning the cakes out onto a wire rack to cool completely. 

  • Making the cream cheese frosting

     

    4 steps

  • 1

    Making the cream cheese frosting Beat the butter in the bowl of an electric food mixer until it is light and creamy. Add the cream cheese and beat until it is evenly combined with the butter.

  • 2

    Making the cream cheese frosting Gradually whisk in the icing sugar. When it has all been added, beat the frosting on how speed for 3 minutes.

  • 3

    Making the cream cheese frosting Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the vanilla and beat for a further 5 minutes. Use the frosting immediately.

  • Expert Tip

    As the frosting needs to be used as soon as it is made, wait for the cakes to cool completely before preparing it.

  • Assembling the cake

     

    4 steps

  • 1

    Assembling the cake If the cakes have peaked during baking, trim the tops level with a sharp knife. Cut each cake in half horizontally to give four layers in total.

  • 2

    Assembling the cake Place the first layer on a serving plate and then sandwich the rest on top with a layer of frosting between each slice.

  • 3

    Assembling the cake Spread a thin layer of frosting over the top and sides and chill the cake in the fridge for 1 hour.
    How to crumb coat a cake

  • 4

    Assembling the cake Spread a second, thicker layer of frosting over the cake and press the chopped hazelnuts around the sides. Chill the cake for 12 hours.

  • Making the caramelised hazelnuts

     

    7 steps

  • 1

    Making the caramelised hazelnuts Put the water, liquid glucose and sugar in a pan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Once the syrup is clear, bring it to the boil and continue to boil until its temperature reaches 155°C/311°F on a sugar thermometer. 

  • 2

    Making the caramelised hazelnuts While the syrup is boiling, push a toothpick into each hazelnut. Lay a sheet of baking parchment on a board alongside the hob and stand a block of polystyrene on top. 

  • 3

    Making the caramelised hazelnuts When the syrup reaches the required temperature, leave it to cool for 3 minutes. Tilt the saucepan towards you, tucking a tea towel under it to keep it in position.

  • 4

    Making the caramelised hazelnuts Holding the toothpick, dip each hazelnut into the caramel, letting a long, thin thread of caramel form on each. Push the toothpicks into the block of polystyrene.

  • 5

    Making the caramelised hazelnuts Leave to cool and then cut the caramel threads to the length you want. Carefully remove the toothpicks. 

  • 6

    Making the caramelised hazelnuts Decorate the cake with the caramelised hazelnuts just before serving.

  • Expert Tip

    The caramelised hazelnuts can be prepared the day before but only place them on the cake just before serving, as the caramel would dissolve if the cake with the hazelnuts on top was stored in the fridge.

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