The BEST carrot cake recipe ever

 As you might have heard, I held a bake sale to raise money for the British Hen Welfare Trust (where I work) on Good Friday. I’ve never baked so much in so little time! I planned my menu in advance and knew what I had to make when. There were a couple of tricky, fiddly items on the menu but one thing I knew I HAD to include, especially as it was Easter, was a carrot cake.

I’m not one for being big-headed, but I know my strengths and one of them is a delicious, moist carrot cake with a cream cheese frosting. Heaven! I must admit the whole reason this cake turns out so great is because I have a fail safe recipe, once again from the wonderful Hummingbird Cake Days book.

This cake does take a bit of time, not least because you have to finely grate 450g of carrots! But my god is it worth it when you taste the end result. Seriously, I cannot bang on about this cake enough! Just go make it. Please.

Ingredients

450g finely grated carrot

Roughly 2tbsp finely grated fresh root ginger

80ml buttermilk

3 large free range eggs

1tsp vanilla essence

350ml vegetable oil

420g caster sugar

500g plain flour

2tsp baking powder

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

1tsp salt

1tsp ground cinnamon

1tsp ground ginger

80g chopped pecans

For the cream cheese frosting

100g butter (I used Stork)

600g icing sugar

Zest of half an orange

200g cream cheese (the original recipe uses 250g but I found 200g was plenty to make a nice smooth frosting)

Orange zest and chopped pecans to decorate

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C and grease and line either four or two 20cm tins. (If you use two you’ll just have to keep an eye on the rise and then cut the cakes in half if you feel so inclined so you end up with four cakes – I just opted for  two very big halves!).
  2. Mix together the carrots, root ginger, buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, vegetable oil and sugar until well combined.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarb, salt and ground spices then slowly beat into the carrot mixture, adding in three batches. Mix in the chopped pecans.
  4. Stick your head in the bowl and revel in the smell for a second. Mmmm.
  5. Right, back to it. Divide the batter evenly between your tins and bake for around 30 minutes or longer if you’re using two tins. Keep checking them with a cake tester until it comes out clean. Leave to cool.
  6. To make the frosting, mix the icing sugar and butter on a low speed until combined but still powdery. Add in the orange zest and cream cheese and beat again until you have a silky smooth, light frosting.
  7. Spread some of the icing between the cakes, then smother the rest over the top and sides of the cake. Decorate with the orange zest and chopped pecans and enjoy!

Oscar was hugely helpful and decided to jump in the cupboard every bloody time I opened it. He swiftly got bored of this and then tried eating the bits of grated carrot which had dropped on the floor before deciding that, in fact, he did not like carrot.

Working with fondant

When I started this blog I had no preconceived ideas of getting shed loads of orders in, or making any money from it whatsoever. I was happy enough baking and blogging and anything else would be a bonus.

So, when a friend contacted me and asked if I could make her some engagement cupcakes, I was pleasantly surprised and excited. Then I experienced another feeling altogether. Fear. What if I couldn’t do it? What if they turned out like a dog’s dinner? What if I made them and she refused to accept them because they were so god damn awful?!

I had never worked with fondant before but, luckily, I had over a months’ notice which meant plenty of time to prepare. Which leads me on to my first bit of advice for anyone embarking on something like this…

  1. Prepare! If you have a recipe, designs and all the right equipment before you begin you’ll hugely minimise your chances of things going wrong.
  2. Seek inspiration! My friend had left the designs completely up to me, so my first step was to get on Pinterest and start looking for ideas. And there were plenty!
  3. Pick designs within your skillset. I was under no illusion that I could make a cupcake look like a work of art. However I was confident I could produce some very cute, engagement-themed cupcakes with a bit of flair.
  4. Draw your designs out (they don’t have to be a work of art!) so you have guidelines to work from as you go.
  5. Use plenty of icing sugar when you roll out your icing. This is common sense really but if you don’t do it everything will just stick to your worktop.
  6. Put each fondant decoration in the fridge once it’s done to chill it and give it more structure.
  7. Maintain a delicate hand. Fondant isn’t particularly flimsy, but if you’re too heavy handed you’ll end up squashing your pretty shapes.
  8. Use edible glue! This stuff is brilliant and holds everything in place perfectly. Here’s a link to the one I bought.
  9. Be flexible. Something might not end up going the way you thought it would, so just adapt and try something else.
  10. Give yourself plenty of time. I knew it would take a while to get all my designs sorted and looking the way I wanted them, but I did underestimate just how long I’d spend doing fiddly things like making rings and marking the quilt on the fondant.
  11. Have fun! Above all, just enjoy it and remember the beauty of fondant is that you can just squash it back into a ball, re-roll it and go again!

Here’s how my cupcakes ended up. They’re not perfect by a long shot, but for a first attempt I was pretty chuffed. I had good feedback from the bride-to-be as well, which was as much as I could have hoped for.

Needless to say Oscar just slept through the entire process. At one point I think I actually stood on his tail and he barely flinched. Maybe it was his ‘couldn’t-give-a-shit’ attitude that kept me calm…