Carrot cake – the cake that you can eat while convincing yourself that you’re getting one of your ‘5 a day’.
It’s my lovely husband’s birthday this weekend – 40-something – and he has asked for carrot cakes to take into work. You’re always the right age to take cakes in on your birthday.
Now this is definitely right up there as one of my all time favourite recipes. And it’s and old one too – probably as many as 30 years old. My Mum was a primary school teacher until she retired a few years ago and 30-ish years ago, one of her colleagues did an exchange trip with a lady in the States. She came over for dinner on her return to share stories of her adventures and brought with her some Carrot Cake, which she had learned to make on her trip. I was hooked. It was everything a cake should be … light, moist, with a gorgeous creamy ‘frosting’ – a term that in those days seemed terribly American!
I imagine that back then, Carrot Cake was a new concept to us in the UK – how exotic to have vegetables in a cake. It felt exciting to be pushing back the frontiers of culinary discovery … and I loved it.
In its original form, I baked it in a square tin, but over the years I have moved – as I tend to with most cakes – to making individual cakes. The scope for ‘prettying’ individual cakes is considerable and they are just much more convenient than one large cake to cut and share.
I don’t always love recipes that use ‘cups’ but the ingredients here really lend themselves to measuring in this way and it really does make for super quick and easy preparation.
The mixture is pretty runny – almost a batter – but don’t worry, this is exactly how it should be. I have a small ladle that I use to put the mixture into the paper cases which seems to help handle the runnyness without getting into a right old mess.
So why do I love this recipe so much? Simple – it’s all down to the secret ingredient…. Can you keep it to yourself? Go on then, I’ll share …. it’s a small tin of crushed pineapple. Now there’s a surprise. Thirty years ago, tinned crushed pineapple was fairly easy to find but I must admit that now I come across it less and less. If I’m stuck (which in Dubai, I am almost always), I blitz the contents of a tin of pineapple cubes (in syrup or juice – either is fine) with my hand held blender. Make sure you do include the liquid – the whole lot needs to go in. Crushed or blitzed – both do their job perfectly. I’d be surprised if you go back to Carrot Cake without it.
It really is a gorgeous cake – birthday or no birthday. But of course, now that I’ve told you the secret ingredient, I may need to shoot you …
- 1½ cups SR Flour
- 1 cup caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 227g can crushed pineapple, or pineapple cubes
- 1 cup finely grated carrots (2 medium carrots)
- ²/3 cup sunflower oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC, 350ºF (gas mark 4).
- Line 2 muffin trays with 20 paper cases.
- In a large bowl combine all the dry ingredients.
- Add the undrained, crushed pineapple - if you can't find crushed pineapple you can blitz the contents of the can of cubed pineapple with a hand blender or chop it finely with a sharp knife. Be sure to add the liquid from the can too.
- Add the sunflower oil, eggs and vanilla and beat well to combine.
- Fold in the grated carrot thoroughly.
- Divide between the 20 paper muffin cases and bake for 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
- Cool on a wire rack.
- 85g cream cheese
- 50g margarine or soft butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 400g icing sugar, sifted
- Beat together the cream cheese, margarine and vanilla extract until light and fluffy.
- Gradually add the icing sugar, beating after each addition.
- Pipe onto the cold cakes with a piping bag or spread roughly with a knife.
- This makes enough to ice 20 muffin sized Carrot Cakes.