One of my friends has a passion for carrot cake and claims that after trying and testing numerous ones, her favourite is from the Dover Street Market cafe in London. Apparently it's the creamy lemony cream cheese icing which seals the deal. I plan to test this theory next time I visit London but for now, the best carrot cake I have tried in Edinburgh has been the carrot and lime cake at Mimi's Bakehouse, on the Shore in Leith, which had a similarly divine lime cream cheese frosting. I have to admit, I have not exactly extensively tested carrot cakes across town and mainly for this reason - my favourite carrot cake is the one that I make. I've been making it for years and have tried others but this remains my favourite.
After my friend had planted the idea of the best carrot cake, I knew I had to make it. I did consider trying a new recipe; I thought long and hard about baking the carrot cake from Red Velvet Heartache, Harry Eastwood's baking book which uses vegetables in places of fats and ground almonds in place of wheat flour - a healthy eating cake book if you will. But the description of the book was so painfully twee I couldn't bring myself to make it: "This cake is the great-great-aunt of all the ones in this book. She has lived through several wars, and likes to read her newspaper in bed with lace gloves so that she doesn't stain her fingers with the ink" - urgh! A rant on this book where all the cakes have "personalities" is due in another blog post someday. Also, I just really wanted to eat my lovely cake. Taking inspiration from Fee's favourite cake, I used a lemon cream cheese icing which cuts through the sweetness beautifully - I will definitely match these up from now on.
1 cup self raising flour
1/2 cup plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup soft brown sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup golden syrup
3 carrots, peeled and grated (pat with a paper towel to remove some of the moisture)
1 cup walnuts (dusted with a little plain flour so nuts suspend better in the batter)
zest of 1 orange
1. Preheat oven to 180C / 160C fan forced. Grease and flour a 20cm round cake pan and line the base with non-stick baking paper
2. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and ginger into a separate bowl.
3. Put the sugar, oil, golden syrup and eggs in a large bowl and whisk together.
4. Mix the flours into the sugar and oil mixture with a spoon in two batches.
5. Fold in the grated carrots, walnuts and orange zest.
6. Pour the mixture into the cake pan and bake for 1 hour. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely before covering in lemon cream cheese icing.
Lemon Cream Cheese Icing
150 g cream cheese
1 cup sifted icing sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
1. Mix the lemon zest with icing sugar.
2. Using an electric whisk, mix the cream cheese and icing sugar together well (this is the secret to getting a light creamy icing)
3. Mix in the lemon juice slowly, don't add all of it if it looks the right consistency or it will become runny.