- Food & Drink
Are you watching the Great British Bake Off? Of course you are. Nigh on 8 million people are sat on their sofas every Wednesday, goggling at a tabernacle of nervous bakers as they wrestle with their piping bags, and thinking to themselves: “Why the bloody hell don’t I have any cake to eat while I watch this?”
After fours years of drooling my way through #GBBO, I’ve got wise to this. For the first week I baked Mary Berry’s perfect Victoria sandwich cake. We managed to eat half of it in one sitting, prompted to have just a little more every time there was a lingering shot of a Swiss roll being rolled or cherry cake being sliced open. Week Two was biscuits, but I almost never hunger for biscuits unless someone puts a packet of chocolate digestives by my cup of tea. Then I can eat a packet.
So, lead by the vast amount of carrots in my fridge, I decided to nibble my way through this week’s Bake Off in the company of a carrot cake. Mostly because of the cream cheese frosting (I bloody love cream cheese frosting) but also because there’s only so much carrot salad I can eat without developing a TOWIEish orange glow. From the inside.
Rooting through my spice cupboard, I picked up a neglected jar of allspice. A berry that mixes the flavours of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, it makes me think of Christmas biscuits and great big bricks of gingerbread.
Stirred into this carrot cake mix with an extra pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, it gives the cake a gingerbready flavour without needing the ginger itself. Warm and spicy, with a creamy slick of frosting, it’s a good cake to eat alongside a cup of thick, black coffee and a TV show that’s mad about baking.
Carrot Cake with Gingerbread Spicing
Serves around 10
2 medium eggs
175g light brown soft sugar
150ml sunflower oil plus extra for greasing
200g plain flour
2 heaped tsp baking powder
1 heaped tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 heaped tsp ground cinnamon
1 level tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cloves (little pinch)
Good grating of fresh nutmeg
75g butter, softened
150g icing sugar
200g full fat soft cheese
Heat your oven to gas mark 4/180°C/fan 160°C. Grease an 18cm x 28cm cake pan with a little sunflower oil. Line the base with baking parchment.
Peel and finely grate the carrots. Put them to one side.
Crack the eggs into a large bowl. Add the sugar. Beat them together with electric beaters (or hand whisk if you’re feeling vigorous) till they are thick and a pale tan colour. Add the oil and whisk that in.
Sift in the flower, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda with a pinch of salt, Add the spices. Fold into the mixture with a flexible rubber spatula, trying not to be too rough with it and knock out lots of air. Add the carrots. Fold them in.
Scrape the mix into the baking pan. Bung in the oven for 30-40 minutes till the cake is risen, golden and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes.
Take the butter and soft cheese out of the fridge about an hour before you want to make the icing (depending on how hot your kitchen is. You want them room temperature and soft, not melting). Beat the butter till it’s creamy. Sift in the icing sugar. Beat with the butter to make a smooth mixture. Add the soft cheese. Beat everything together to make a thick, smooth icing.
Carefully turn the cake out of the tin. It’s a fragile thing, so be gentle. Peel off the paper. Spread the icing over the cake. Cut into slices and serve. Best eaten within a couple of days of baking – if you’re putting it into a box, slice it first. You won’t be able to move it in one piece. If you want it as a centrepiece, make sure you turn it out onto the serving plate.