After an overload on chocolate – alas, even I, a self-confessed chocaholic, must admit there is such a thing – I wanted to get back in the kitchen with ingredients that were more earthy, wholesome & filled with Autumn colour & freshness. The excitement at our house is the our humble home garden is currently producing a little smorgasboard of ripe vegetables & fruit! We love getting out in the garden & ‘hunting’ for treasures to use in the kitchen.
Amongst the most prolific growth at the moment is our carrots – & what better represents Autumn colour & snap than that!! After picking these, I knew immediately I wanted to make carrot cake. Not the most original I know, but a favourite of many, including me. I have used this particular recipe for quite a while, after experimenting over the years with lots of variations – the best recipe I found was by a favourite cook of mine, Bill Granger. His carrot cake recipe is what I was chasing, dense, rich, earthy, warm, moist & spicy good. After adding, subtracting & adjusting some ingredients, I finally settled on a combination I feel makes this cake one of the best in my collection.
For a cake, this is not overly sweet. The earthy taste & slight crunch in the texture of the carrots temper the sugar & sultana sweetness giving a lovely balance when combined with the warm spiciness of cinnamon & nutmeg. The eggs & oil make this cake incredibly moist, with just the right amount of crumble when added to the flour. The sensation of soft is then cut through with the crunchy toastiness of nuts, in my case, macadamia nuts, delicious & native Aussies, along with the pepitas (pumpkin seeds)!
The only slight change I made for this particular cake was the use of coconut palm sugar – a recent addition to my small collection of alternative sweeteners. After reading about this product on my dear friend’s blog, Appetite Affliction – (awesome blog, check it out!!), my interest was piqued & I decided to try it out. As I’ve mentioned before, I am not a nutritionist, but I do understand the need to keep heavily refined products like sugar to a minimum, where possible. After using coconut sugar in this recipe, I am so impressed – it has a rich caramel flavour that adds depth & colour & while not as sweet as brown sugar, the overall flavour is maintained beautifully. I will definitely be using it more in the future!
This is a two bowl, hand mixable cake, so is easy to bring together. Once combined, the batter forms a rich caramel colour, spotted with greens, browns & oranges – all the colours I think of when I think of Autumn. Rich, inviting & laced with comfort – the spices adding warmth & a ‘grownup-ness’ often lost when cakes become too sugary sweet.
Just as I was getting ready to put this beauty in the oven, a little voice at my side said, “I drew you a picture while you were cooking mum. Can you take a photo of it? It’s me, Seth, playing in the rain. “. How could I refuse! He worked so hard on getting the cloud just right & for a three-year old, I reckon he did an excellent job!
After that, it was time to let the oven do it’s thing & for the little ones & I to play outside! Returning inside, the house was alive with the aromas of spice & caramel. I think we all stopped, took a deep breath & sighed happily when it hit us!
Adding a rich, creamy frosting is the pinnacle of a great carrot cake in my opinion. I frown upon butter based frosting in this instance as I think it detracts from the earthy flavours of the cake & makes it all too sweet, with a greasy after taste that can spoil the whole experience. Cream cheese has an indulgent density & mellow flavour that matches this cake brilliantly & I will accept no substitute in my kitchen! 🙂
I love this cake – the colours & textures meld beautifully leaving your mouth tingling with a range of tastes & sensations. It is especially wonderous with a latte & a good friend(s) to share it with. Make it, invite them over & see if it doesn’t add an extra layer of warmth & comfort to your taste buds & conversation – go on, you’ll not regret it, I promise!
I hope you like this as much as we do. Here’s how it goes …
- Carrot Cake
- 1 1/3 cups plain flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch ground nutmeg
- 1 1/2 cups grated carrot
- 1 1/4 cups soft brown sugar – I used Coconut Palm Sugar – (delicious & nutritious - click link to find out more!!)
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup light flavoured cooking oil – I used canola oil
- 3/4 cup sultanas
- 3/4 cup chopped nuts – walnuts are most common, I prefer (& used) macadamias, but you can use what you ever you like!
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
- zest of 1 orange
- Cream Cheese Frosting
- 250gm block room temperature light cream cheese
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup icing sugar
- Making the cake;
- Preheat oven to 170 degrees celcius (non fan-forced).
- Lightly grease & line a 24cm springform cake tin with baking paper – you can use standard one piece cake tin also.
- In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon & nutmeg.
- Stir in the grated carrot.
- Make a well in the centre & set aside.
- In medium bowl whisk sugar & eggs until well blended.
- Gradually whisk in the oil until well mixed & glossy
- Pour wet mix into well in dry mix & stir until just combined.
- Gently fold through the sultanas, pumpkin seeds, nuts & orange zest.
- Pour batter into prepared cake tin.
- Bake for about 1 1/4 hours - keep close check after about 1 hour, all ovens cook differently.
- Cake is cooked when skewer comes out clean.
- Leave in tin for about 5 minutes.
- Run flat blade around the outside of the cake before undoing side of springform & turning out onto wire cake cooling rack.
- Allow to cool completely before adding frosting.
- Adding the frosting;
- Place all ingredients in large bowl & mix together until well combined.
- Spread frosting onto top of cake using icing knife or flat bladed implement.
- Tips / Suggestions;
- Consume liberally!
- This carrot cake will keep in the fridge for about a week.
- Cake without frosting can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Adapted from Bill Granger’s – Bill’s Basics Cookbook
Cook! Eat! Enjoy!