Cake and carrot, cake and carrot, go together like a horse and carriage…
I know what you’re thinking. Carrot cake? You exclaim. But everybody knows how to make carrot cake! And it’s true, the world is awash with recipes for this cafe commonplace. And yet, oh and yet, this cake is the lightest, the moistest, and the most moreish morsel that I have ever encountered. This is my go-to cake; like that pair of shoes or those jeans. This is the only carrot cake for me.
What elevates this cake beyond mere mortal cakes is the process of treating the eggs yolks and whites separately then combining them, fluffed up and silky, right at the end. This may seem labour intensive, and true enough, if doing this cake by hand, equipped with nothing but a whisk, you may have to add ‘blood, sweat and tears’ to the ingredients. With technology behind you (I used an aged handheld whisk, so we aren’t talking rocket science levels of technology here), the results are well worth the effort.
You’ll find no cream cheese icing here (although the cake can take it, if you that is what tickles your taste buds). A simple lemon drizzle works wonders, or, like me, you can just douse the beauty with lashings of icing sugar.
A quick note on the recipe: this cake can be made gluten free by replacing the flour with more ground almonds, or, conversely, nut free by replacing the almonds with flour. Always handy to know these things. Also, if will-power permits, this cake is all the better if left for a couple of days before cutting.
Recipe adapted from A Year of Family Recipes by Lesley Wild
5 large eggs
250g sugar (split into two lots of 125g)
250g carrots, finely grated (it must be finely, otherwise the carrot won’t break down)
250g ground almonds
1 lemon, grated zest and juice
75g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
Icing sugar to decorate
RECIPE (for 1 23cm cake or 2 1kg loaf cakes):
Heat the oven to 160C/ gas 2 1/2
Line your chosen tin, bottom and sides
Split the eggs, so that you have the whites in one large bowl, and the yokes in the another
Add one 125g portion of sugar to the yolks, and whisk until they are thick, pale, and about double in volume
Fold in the grated carrot, ground almonds, lemon zest and juice; when combined, stir in the flour and baking powder (the mix will be quite stiff at this point)
In the other bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt together, until they hold their shape
Add the second 125g portion of sugar to the whites, bit by bit, and whisk until the mix is thick and glossy
Fold the whites mixture into the cake mixture, spoon by spoon, careful not to knock too much air out
Pour the resulting mix into the prepared tin(s), and bake for around 30 – 40 minutes, until golden and risen, and a skewer comes out clean
Allow to stand for a couple of minutes, before turning out onto a cooling rack (at which point the cake will sink a little)
Dust liberally with icing sugar
Well, the results are in and it’s a…2.i. I’m really pleased (although fleetingly frustrated having failed a first by a single mark). So this Saturday was spent in gown and hood, parading around the city and receiving my certificate of graduation.
But what has this got to do with cake?, you greedy gluttons may declare. Well all the carrot cakes that were baked in my oven actually went out to all those who helped me through the past four years. That’s right, I didn’t even get a slice!