Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Carrot cake and chat

Afternoon tea is possibly one of the best things about Britain. I'm not talking about those fancy affairs in hotels. (Though they are awfully splendid too.) No. I'm talking a few homemade sandwiches, a jolly good cake, plenty of tea and a good natter. Embroidered tablecloths, napkins and glass cake stands are very, very lovely but very, very optional.

All this in mind  and with plans for a nice cuppa and a catch up with a friend there was only one thing to do. Make a cake! Now with this particular friend my chocolate and whisky brownies go back a long way. However as they were my offering last time I visited it was time to dust down my carrot cake recipe.

The recipe is truly an amalgamation of trial and error over the years. Having made loads back when I was a student I felt that there was one major flaw. They were all dreadfully wasteful, leaving bits of orange unused, a tiny sprinkling of 4 types of spice, a mere handful of fruit leaving a whole packet in the cupboard. Carrot cake is never going to be an ultra cheap cake to make but this recipe aims to minimise expenditure and stop as much wastage as possible. It is also a very dense and rich cake, almost like a fruit cake, so a little slice will go a long way.

150g butter
150g  dark brown sugar
3 eggs
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
1½ tsp allspice
Zest of 1 orange
100g sultanas or raisins
200g carrots, peeled and grated
100g chopped walnuts  (you can leave these out if you want to cut costs or really don't like walnuts)

Top Tip: Weigh out the carrot, raisins and walnuts before you start. For this recipe it makes life a lot easier later on.

For the icing:
75g butter
200g icing sugar
Juice of the zested orange

1. Turn your oven onto 180C and pop the walnuts in to toast while it is heating. (Toasting the walnuts gives an amazing taste to the cake so it is worth doing. Just don't let them burn!) Grease your tin(s).
2.  Melt the butter and let it cool a little before adding it to the sugar and eggs into a large bowl. Whisk until everything is well mixed in and the mixture is almost twice the size.
3. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and spices into the bowl and fold into the mixture.
4. Still being gentle fold in the zest, carrot, raisins and walnuts.
5. Place in the tin and bake for 50 minutes, until a knife/skewer stabbed into the middle comes out clean.
6. Allow to cool.

The icing you may well raise an eyebrow or two at. Buttercream icing is yummy but it really is pure sweetened fat on top of a cake, I find it can be all a bit too much. My way of doing it is with much less butter and a drizzle of milk or in this case orange juice. It behaves in almost the same way as traditional buttercream, is just as tasty, but is a lot lighter and cheaper to make.

7.While the cake is cooling make the buttercream by mixing the icing sugar with the butter and a drizzle of juice. If it is still a little crumbly add a little more juice until is nice and smooth.
8. Ice the cake and add a a few walnuts on top to make it pretty.

Top Tip: Using a piping bag to pipe the icing on makes life a lot easier to get an even coverage. Once the icing is on you can rough it up a bit with a knife.

This recipe is enough to make one 8 inch loaf cake and six mini cakes (cooked in 15 minutes). You can of course make this cake round and layered. Just keep an eye on the cooking time if you divide the mix between two tins and put some of the icing between the layers.

These mini cakes were made rather hastily, partly because my loaf tin wasn't quite big enough for all the mix but mainly because my Matey looked a bit big eyed when I told him that I was making yet another cake for somebody else.

You may have noticed that I have a tendency to make cakes in a loaf tin. There are three reasons for this:
a. I currently rather like the homely look of a loaf cake.
b. It seems less naughty to tuck into a loaf cake on an ordinary day.
c. On the whole I make cakes to take to a friend and a loaf cake is a lot easier to transport successfully.

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