Carrot cake… One of your five-a-day!

When I was growing up I think I could comfortably put myself in the picky eaters category. I didn’t like much beyond chicken kiev and chips and preferably without any vegetables on my plate. I remember being made to eat carrots and promptly being sick just to prove a point.

I’m pleased to say that over the years I’ve managed to widen my tastes and now love trying pretty much any type of food, but I still have the odd vegetable that I just can’t stomach. One is beetroot (I think my distaste comes from being fed beetroot soup aged 9 in Russia and thinking it looked like a bowl of blood) and carrots. I used to get given carrots with everything when I was training in Wales and I had to hide them under the mashed potato or preferably feed them to the family dog when no-one was looking.

I think I’ve always steered clear of carrot cake because of this reason and the fear that it would just taste of carrot. No- thank- you! However, I decided it was time to face my demons and embarked on baking my first carrot cake.

I didn’t want to make a massive carrot cake with lots of layers and cream and coincidentally came across Jamie Oliver’s Carrot Loaf Cake  when I was actually looking for a roast to do this Sunday for Easter. I’m not sure Jamie Oliver would be my “go-to” choice when it comes to baking recipes but I thought it was worth a try in this instance.

I followed the recipe to the letter and I was surprised by just how many ingredients were going into the humble carrot cake. I was looking forward to seeing how all the different spices involved would complement the flavour of the carrot. The main surprise I had when adding all the ingredients together was being told to whip the egg whites till stiff before adding them to the final mix. This seemed to give an almost mouse like consistency which concerned me slightly considering how many almonds and wet grated carrot had already been added. My instinct was to add extra flour but I thought I was best off sticking to the tried and tested recipe rather than winging it for my first carrot cake.I poured the mixture into the loaf tin and then discovered it was full with lots left over! I didn’t want to waste all the mixture left, so I grabbed my cupcake tin and poured the remaining mixture into 12 cupcake cases.

The loaf went in the oven along with the cupcakes and I had my fingers crossed it was going to taste good (i.e. not too much of carrot). I took my cupcakes out after 25 minutes as they looked done and left the loaf in for the allotted time of 50 minutes. After 50 minutes the loaf really didn’t look done, so I left it in for another 10 minutes. After an hour (in total) was up, I still wasn’t convinced it was done, so left it for a further 5 minutes before taking it out.

Whilst the cakes were cooling I got on with my topping but realised I didn’t actually have enough full-fat cream cheese and no mascarpone (!) so I made a orange and lime drizzle for the top with the 150g of full-fat cream cheese that I had and 100g of icing sugar. I then added lime juice from two limes and the zest from both along with one orange. This meant it looked more like a drizzle than a thick layer of cream on top, but still gave a nice contrast in colour to the top of the cake.

When the cakes had cooled sufficiently I drizzled the sweet sugary topping and placed a walnut on top of each cupcake and sprinkled walnuts liberally over the loaf.

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It was time for the tasting…. I decided to go for a cupcake… start small to see if I liked it before going for a slab of the loaf.

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Scrummy! Who knew carrots could taste so good whilst contributing to your required five-a-day. The carrots had kept the cupcakes so light, moist and airy that you forgot that the evil vegetable was even involved with making this delightful little cupcake.

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The spices were delicate but gave it a lovely complex flavour which was only enhanced with the sugary zesty layer of drizzle on top.

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My loaf however was not quite so successful. Whilst it was moist, I still don’t think it was cooked long enough and seemed rather dense in the middle. Maybe carrot cake just isn’t meant to be a loaf and deserves to always be a show-stopper cake covered and cut with all the layers of cream. Or, I think it might best to beat in the eggs as one rather than whipping up the whites.

I think next time I delve into the world of carrot cake I’ll go for a Hummingbird recipe rather than Jamie Oliver and give it the full works now that I know carrots aren’t all bad… when baked in a cake of course.

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