Salted caramel spiced carrot cake

At a glance

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Carrot cake is a great way to pretend you’re eating something healthy even though any nutritional benefits are inevitably swept away by the sugar, the oil and the all-important cream cheese frosting. And this carrot cake recipe is no exception. It’s an over-the-top blast of sweetness, saltiness and spiciness – the idea came to me in the shower, where I have all my best ideas, after someone on Facebook mentioned that they had to get rid of a load of carrots.

When I lived in Dubai, Lime Tree Cafe, one of those yummy mummy cafes of choice, was well-known across town for its carrot cake. And, it must be said, it was a mighty fine carrot cake to accompany the decaf skinny soy lattes and chais that seemed to be consumed in industrial quantities there. I’ve just Googled “Lime Tree Cafe Dubai” and the carrot cake empire has expanded to seven cafes. Good for them! I’ll pop by next time I’m in town to see if the carrot cake is still up to scratch.

In the meantime, give this epic brick of a cake a go. And count your blessings that you don’t have to see the behind-the-scenes debacle when I was working on this in the South London Munching Matilda test kitchen. If, like me, you are cursed with a terrible oven that runs too hot and you make this cake in one big tin rather than two sandwich tins, it might be a wee bit gooey in the middle. To prevent further outbreaks of carrot cake-fuelled foul language in the kitchen, I looked up how to solve this problem, apart from getting a new oven. I know I need a new damn oven. If, like me, you are not in a position to buy a new oven right now, the best advice I can give is to pop a sheet of baking paper or foil on top of the cake so the heat isn’t too intense. This way, you should avoid the calamity of a carrot cake that is like the surface of Mars on the outside and festival mud in the middle.

Ingredients

For the cake

250ml sunflower oil

4 eggs

200g brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons ground allspice

300g self-raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

80g crushed walnuts (I like to put them in a ziplock bag and beat them with my meat tenderising hammer or a rolling pin)

200g carrots, peeled and grated

 

For the cream cheese frosting

50g soft butter

30g icing sugar

250g full-fat cream cheese

A dash of vanilla extract

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Walnuts to decorate

Instructions

For the cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and grease either two sandwich tins or one round cake tin. (I used one that was 20cm across and 7cm deep). Put some baking paper on the bottom of each tin.
  2. In a mixing bowl, use an electric beater to combine oil, eggs, sugar, spices, flour and baking powder until it lightens in colour and starts to pleat like whipped cream.
  3. Mix the grated carrot and crushed walnuts through with a wooden spoon.
  4. Pour the batter into the tin or tins and cook for 30-40 minutes until it is golden-brown, shrinks away from the sides of the tin, and a skewer comes out clean when it’s poked in the middle (this is a very important test – I write from bitter experience!).

For the cream cheese frosting

  1. Use an electric whisk to combine all the ingredients well.
  2. When the cake has cooked, leave to cool before frosting. Do not try to frost the cake before it has fully cooled – the frosting will melt and slide off.
  3. Swirl the frosting on with a table knife and decorate with walnuts.