If you ask people about their favourite food, there are always the things that they’ve liked ever since they were kids, and the things that they only came to enjoy when they were older. For example, I’ve always loved lemon cake, mainly because my Bubbie would bake one for my birthday when I was small. Other puddings took a bit longer for me to appreciate; anything coffee-flavoured, for instance. But carrot cake has taken the longest.
I stayed away from carrot cake throughout my childhood largely because of cream cheese frosting. I have always believed that cream cheese is like time with an overenthusiastic, sugared-up small child: a little goes a very long way. Cheesecake is one of the few desserts I actively dislike, and I butter my bagels rather than schmear them (yes, that does make me a half-assed Jew.)
So I sing the praises of this particular carrot cake with the enthusiasm of the recently converted. The thin layer of cream cheese frosting adds a lightness and tanginess to lift the earthy, fruity cake. Five people gobbled down the whole thing this past Saturday, crumbs and all. If that’s not a recommendation, I don’t know what is!
Carrot Cake (adapted from Cookery School at Little Portland Street and Nigel Slater’s “A Carrot Cake with a Frosting of Mascarpone and Orange” from Tender Volume 1)
250g/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
0.25 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice (For American readers, substitute pumpkin pie spice.)
150g/0.75 cup light brown sugar
180ml/0.75 cup sunflower oil
4 rings canned pineapple, chopped into small pieces
2 carrots, peeled and finely grated
1 handful walnuts, finely chopped (I blitzed mine in the food processor.)
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Grease a 1lb loaf tin.
Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and mixed spice in a bowl.
In another boil, whisk the eggs well (30 seconds with a hand whisk will do it). Add the sugar and the oil and continue to whisk until well-combined. Then stir in the pineapple, carrot, and walnuts.
Pour the wet mixture over the dry mixture and mix well. Make sure to scrape at the bottom to get at every last bit of dry stuff.
Put the batter into the loaf tin and bake for 1 hour. Leave to cool fully, then turn out onto a plate and ice with cream cheese frosting.
100g/3.5oz cream cheese, room temperature
125g/4.5oz mascarpone, room temperature
75g/0.5 cup icing (powdered) sugar
zest of half an orange
Beat together cheeses and sugar together with an electric mixer. Stir through the orange zest.