|Carrot Cake with cream cheese|
There is something about a cake containing vegetables which appeals to me. Probably because I grow vegetables and am always looking for ways to use them. When you've worked your way through a glut lasting more than a couple of weeks, even the most beauteous crop of beetroot starts to look ugly unless you can ring the changes in the recipe department. Oh yes, I am on familiar terms with Nigel Slater's Chocolate Beetroot Cake and I make a mean Courgette and Lemon Cake too.
Not just any vegetable will do, of course, and I'm not prepared to get too wacky in the name of experimentation. If you stick to vegetables which have a high natural sugar content you can't go far wrong - parsnips, beetroot, pumpkin or sweet potato for instance. I'm prepared to at least entertain the idea that fennel could work but haven't yet plucked up the courage to try. To be honest I haven't yet had a glut of fennel and don't hold my breath that I ever will.
I'd love to be able to say I'm pulling carrots from the allotment right now but, though the seeds have germinated better than is normal on my soil, harvest is some way off. In any case you don't want to use your best carrots for this recipe. Whatever you can find is fine here, but the better the carrot, the more nutritious the cake. Carrot cake is arguably the most obvious 'vegetable cake' but search as I would, I never managed to find a recipe that delivered on its promise. Clearly I'm being very difficult to please as there are hundreds of recipes out there. In fact I do know in which kitchen my perfect recipe resides. The cake has everything I am looking for - moist, light, properly spiced and not too sweet. Sadly, the baker is not yet ready to share it with the world. Until that day, I still I have this masochistic urge to try again.
This recipe is based on Rose Carrarini's Carrot Cake in her first book Breakfast Lunch Tea. I've changed the sugar from caster to a light muscovado, upped the amount of cinnamon and added a little orange zest. It's less sweet than most carrot cakes and it keeps really well. Next time I plan to make it a day ahead of icing it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the original recipe so I apologise for changing it, but I just can't resist. I'm searching for that extra something, and it's worryingly possible that when I find it, only I will appreciate it.
Carrot Cake with cream cheese
Makes a deep 18cm cake - (double the quantities for a 23cm cake)
125g light muscovado sugar
150ml sunflower oil
2 large carrots, grated
75g chopped walnuts
Zest of half an orange
150g plain flour
1 level teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 level teaspoon baking powder
¼ level teaspoon bicarbonate of sodaPinch of salt
Icing for an 18cm cake - (for a 23cm cake x 1.5):
200g cream cheese
100g unsalted butter, softened
50g icing sugar
Half tsp natural vanilla extract
A few whole or chopped walnuts (optional)
Heat the oven to 180C (Fan oven 160C)/Gas 4. Using a deep 18cm cake tin, butter and line the base with parchment.
Beat the eggs and muscovado sugar well, until light and fluffy.
With the mixer still running, pour in the oil fairly slowly until all is well mixed.
Fold in the carrots, walnuts and orange zest.
Sieve together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt and fold into the mixture.
Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 35-40 minutes (about 50 minutes for a 23cm cake), until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Cool the cake in the tin before turning out.
To make the icing, beat the softened butter with the cream cheese until you have a smooth mixture. Mix in the icing sugar and vanilla extract.
Once the cake is cold, spread the top with icing. Decorate the top with walnuts if desired.