The Carrot Cake

I know it’s summer and we’re all meant to be curbing our sinful cravings with salad and watermelon but I’ll be honest, I haven’t had the time, inclination or motivation to get out and about with my camera.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m loving crisp salads, ice cold juices and walking around with the sun on my skin (although, as a glasses wearer, I am struggling with a constant squint!). On the other had though, there is something about working in an office over summertime that means rather than the assumed emotion to break free from my desktop shackles, I just want to curl up on my sofa at home and hibernate until the next morning!

So, this is one of my standby posts. It isn’t the post you deserve but I’m sure if you make it you’ll excuse me. Even if you don’t make it until October I hope you say - ‘hmmm, Kate was right, I forgive her!’.

This is called ‘The Carrot Cake’ because it is The Carrot Cake. It deserves capitals, it is resplendent, it is awesome and powerful. The recipe was given to me by my dearest of friends who honed and tested it long before I did and is inspired my the one and only Mary Berry and the love of all our lives James Martin. I made a few little additions and voila, the only recipe for a carrot cake you’ll ever need. I baked it originally for a lovely colleague’s birthday – the most wonderful woman who deserved far more than cake, but alas it was all I could give. The sweet cream cheese frosting sits perfectly with a cake that despite the vast quantities of dried fruit sits on the savoury side. Moist, delicious and flavoursome, the ginger gives a subtle kick where the slight sweetness of the sultanas ends. Bake it please, share it, give it to your loved ones. Most of all enjoy it and enjoy the sunshine.

Tuesday was St Swithun’s day and the sun shone aplenty so here’s to the rest of summer. Hopefully I’ll be able to share with you some of the delights of my wonderful neighbourhood and the less exuberant intricacies of my diet soon!

For the Cake
175g  soft dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
150ml olive oil (not extra virgin olive oil)
200g  wholemeal self-raising flour
1 tbsp ground mixed spice
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g  carrots, peeled, coarsely grated
75g pecan nuts, roughly chopped
1 lemon, zest only
1 orange, juice only
100g  sultanas
50g candied peel
50g raisins
50g finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 very ripe banana, mashed
2½ tsp ground cinnamon

For the Frosting
200g butter, softened
600g soft cheese
200g icing sugar, sifted
2 tsp vanilla extract
(This is enough to generously frost the two halves and maybe have a little spare so adjust accordingly)

Soak the sultanas and raisins in the orange juice and set aside

Lightly grease two 20cm / 8in round cake tins and line the bases with baking parchment

Whisk the sugar, eggs and olive oil together in a large bowl using an electric hand whisk for 3-4 mins until the mixture is smooth

Sift the flour, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda into the bowl and stir in gently. Fold the grated carrot, pecan nuts, lemon zest, banana and ground cinnamon into the mixture. Then add the raisins, sultanas, ginger and any orange juice left unsoaked and stir gently

Spoon the mixture equally into the cake tins and smooth the surface of each with a spatula. Bake on the centre shelf of the oven for 35-40 mins. They should be nicely risen and feel firm and springy to touch when lightly pressed. If not, cook for a little longer and test again. When ready, cool for 5 mins before removing the cakes from the tin and cooling completely on a wire rack

For the frosting, beat the butter in a bowl with an electric hand whisk for 5 mins until it is light and fluffy. Then starts to mix the icing sugar and cream cheese into the butter a little at a time. Add the vanilla extract before one final whisk. Leave in the fridge until you are ready to ice the cake
Decorate the cake, cut and share!

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