Ottolenghi Carrot Cake

“Gilbert reached across the aisle, picked up the end of Anne’s long red braid, held it out at arm’s length, and said in a piercing whisper:“Carrots! Carrots!”

Then Anne looked at him with a vengeance!….Thwack! Anne had brought her slate down on Gilbert’s head and cracked it – slate, not head, clear across”

L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

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I do love a good dollop of nostalgia. Passages from childhood favourites make me laugh again, and I once again become enveloped in a tiny world where all that matters is becoming Top Swot of the class, having a dress with the puffiest of puffed sleeves, and beating that Gilbert Blythe.

Whilst Anne Shirley might not have been a big fan of carrots, I most certainly am. Carrots in cake? Even better.

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I must own around ten or eleven different recipes for carrot cake, all so varied and manifestly separate – from the easy children’s cookbook recipe, to the fruity slabs from Geraldene Holt’s book, the trendy Ottolenghi version, the triple layered offering from the Hummingbird Bakery, then Peggy Porschen, and Dan Lepard’s Arabian Nights version to name but a few.

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With so many carrot cake recipes, seriously, how’s a girl going to choose? I fancied something airy rather than dense, yet still full of flavours, chopped nuts, and shreds of finely grated carrot.

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So Ottolenghi it was.  It looked straightforward, airy, and more importantly, everybody online raved about how good it was. Although many Ottolenghi cake recipes in that cookbook have been hit-and-miss for me, I knew that I had to give it a go.

Others online commented how easily it sank in the oven, but thankfully, this one didn’t! I piped on some dots all over the top at first, but it didn’t look quite right, so away with the palette knife, and sweeping swirls was the icing order of the day.

I was tempted to adapt the recipe, but stuck to my guns and followed it exactly as written. I’m extremely pleased at how it turned out – both light, fluffy, and satisfyingly substantial.

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I’m in a really spring-ish frame of mind, now that the snowdrops are everywhere, the daffodils are blooming, and I’m actually seeing a spot of daylight during the morning and evenings! Being my favourite season of the year, I’m going to relish it and make the most of it.

Just for fun, here are some other great spring-themed baking bits and bobs to get you into the mood:

This amazing bee-hive shaped lemon cake, complete with cute marzipan bees

Duck egg-blue, egg shaped measuring cups from Anthropologie

Creme egg brownies, perfect for Easter

Currant-dotted Easter biscuits perhaps using this rabbit-shaped cookie cutter?

A Little Carrot Cake

Pah, after all my screw-ups with Reader and Bloglovin’ this week, dear readers, you deserve a decent recipe. So hooray for this latest acquisition into carrot cake territory!

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Originally I had grand plans. I was going to make a wonderful cake, and it would be stunningly cheap at under £1. However, I really failed at being economical. Gotta say, those free-range eggs aren’t cheap.

Fortunately, in the process, I discovered this dreamy cake recipe along the way!

First, I’ve got a confession to make. I previously tested out a bunch of carrot cake recipes to find the perfect one, and I thought I’d got that nailed. But hmmm, now I’m not so sure which one deserves the crown. But take it from me, both of these recipes are yummilicious in their own way. This one has no nuts, and proportionally less sugar, and more carrot – so the allergy-suffers, nut-haters, and ones pretending carrot-cake-is-one-portion-of-daily-veg may prefer this recipe.

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This is not a dense, heavy slab of cake that you could throw as a weapon. It’s light, fluffy, and full of bright flavours. I tested out both milk and yoghurt, and yoghurt definitely won for texture. There’s just a hint of cinnamon to let the other flavours jump in the limelight too, and I’ve topped it with my favourite mascarpone cheese for some zesty goodness.

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A Little Carrot Cake

Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Serves 6

For the cake:

  • 133g light brown sugar
  • 120ml vegetable oil
  • 40ml yoghurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 166g self-raising flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 carrot, finely grated

For the icing:

  • 150g mascarpone cheese
  • 30g icing sugar, sifted
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Grease and line a 15cm cake tin. Sift the flour, cinnamon sugar, and salt together. In a jug, mix together vegetable oil, yoghurt, and eggs. Pour the liquid ingredients into the flour, and fold together, along with the grated carrots, just until no trace of flour is left. Pour the mixture into the cake tin, and bake for 40-50 minutes until springy and a knife inserted comes back clean. Unmould the cake from the tin, and pop onto a cooling rack to cool.

Trim the top of the cake flat with a sharp knife. Mix the mascarpone cheese together with the icing sugar and lemon zest until smooth, then add enough lemon juice to loosen the icing to piping consistency. Pipe onto the top of the cake in a swirl, then use a palette knife to smooth it out.

The Return of the (Carrot) Cupcake

Currently re-reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It’s amazing how many new layers you can uncover about a book when you pick it up again after years. I’d never noticed before quite how funny Austen’s satire genuinely is.

Going back to oldies but goodies, after a long hiatus, I baked cupcakes. As anything with a bit of autumnal spice is floating my boat at the moment, it was time to grate the carrots!

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The first time I made these carrot cupcakes, I forgot to add any baking powder. They’d already been in the oven, so cue gnashing of teeth and googling “what-to-do-with-unrisen -cakes” (but in the end the family human dustbin ate them). Batch 2 fared better, I didn’t forget any raising agents, and they puffed up like little cakey beauties.

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The Hummingbird recipe remains my favourite – see this post for all the reasons why. I got 7 cupcakes out of my mixture, which is based on one third of all the ingredients in the full carrot cake recipe.

Carrot Cupcakes

  • 1 egg
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 75ml vegetable oil
  • 25ml milk
  • drop of vanilla extract
  • 100g plain flour
  • 1/3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/3 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of ground ginger
  • pinch of salt
  • 100g carrots, grated
  • 30g walnuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Beat the egg, sugar, oil, milk and vanilla extract together with a whisk until smooth. Sieve over the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, ground ginger and salt, and fold in with a large metal spoon. Fold in the carrots and walnuts. Fill the cupcake cases, and bake for 20 minutes until springy and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Ice when cold, I used the standard Hummingbird Bakery cream cheese icing. I’m a bit weird, and it’s a real waste of food, but I’m one of those people who love slathering a cupcake with icing (it looks prettier, see?) but then I scrape it all off when it comes to the eating. Sorry.

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Despite the cream cheesyness of the icing, do not refrigerate these cupcakes. The cooler temperature for some reason I cannot fathom, makes the sponge lose some of its light fluffiness. You have been warned.

The Perfect Carrot Cake

With autumn, it’s all about the spices, and the cakes made out of the allotment glut. While I have, as yet to bake anything with courgettes, pumpkins, or squashes, I am very fond of good old carrot cake.

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The recipes I tested were stupendously varied. And here they were:

  1. The Hummingbird Bakery carrot cake
  2. The Hummingbird Bakery carrot cake, adapted
  3. BBC Good Food yummy scrummy carrot cake
  4. Ottolenghi’s carrot cake
  5. Geraldene Holt’s Cakes

The first recipe I made was the Hummingbird Bakery one, which I enjoyed very much, although the quantities did make for the most enormous cake of truly American-sized proportions. This was a few years ago, when I first started baking, and although I loved the recipe, one niggle was the large volume of oil that was going into the cake. I read on the internet that others had managed to cut it down substantially, so I did that, replacing the lost volume with milk instead. It worked beautifully – I had a light risen sponge, with shreds of carrot running throughout, studded with walnuts.

BBC Good Food have a recipe that has hundreds and hundreds of positive reviews. Not all that different from the Hummingbird recipe, I was anticipating great things. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.   Like the Hummingbird Bakery recipe, it relies upon a very large volume of oil, and here, I could really taste it. Eau de vegetable oil was not appealling. Plus points – it was indeed moist and fluffy, and certainly had potential for improvement.

Ottolenghi obviously always gets thumbs up all over the internet, and his carrot cake has been cited as a favourite by loads of food bloggers out there. It was a nice sponge, but I just didn’t think it was as tasty as the Hummingbird recipe. I did make a very small sponge (what with testing so many recipes) so perhaps I shall try and make a full-size version in future and see what that is like. Additionally, I also feel many Ottolenghi recipes improve with keeping, so this may be a cake to make, and wait, before judging.

Geraldene Holt’s recipe looked promising. It doesn’t use oil, which is a change from the recipes above, instead relying upon melted butter. The cake is packed full of orange zest, dried fruit, and nuts, and at the end, is much denser than any of the recipes above. My testers liked it, but I felt that it didn’t seem like carrot cake anymore, and seemed closer to a Christmas fruit cake, or a hot cross bun. I did use the wrong sugar, and perhaps a lighter one would have produced a more desired taste, but this wasn’t what I was looking for from a carrot cake.

So final verdict? Well, it was overwhelmingly in favour of the Hummingbird Bakery recipe, in its adapted form, which got the most ticks in the box.  I really love, love love this recipe, and will be posting it up soon!