Has it ever happened to you to see a recipe or a dish made somewhere, whether online, on TV or in a restaurant, and to desperately want to make it at home? Well, this is the story behind this recipe. Jo Pratt made it on Perfect… and it hit me immediately because, let’s be honest, it’s very impressive. A carrot cake on three layers of thick sponge with a creamy zesty filling and caramelised pecans on top? I’m very easy to convince. The thing is, it took me an entire afternoon scavenging the Internet to actually find the recipe. As always, I only vaguely remembered where and when I’d seen it and the world wide web is full of carrot cake recipes. Anyway, this is a very indulgent, spicy and comforting one, which promises to be a showstopper if you have people for dinner or simply as a centerpiece.
A couple of recommendations. First of all, grate your carrots by hand using a grater. I’m all for simplicity in the kitchen, but if you use a food processor it means you’ll have more washing up to do and your carrots will also end up being more damp and wet. Stick to the old method, trust me. Secondly, this recipe is highly customisable. In fact, the one below is not the original one you can find online. If you don’t like the caramel on top (my partner didn’t), then simply swap it for toasted pecans/walnuts/hazelnuts or choose a topping of your choice. You can also change the spices in the cake. My best friend will probably try and replicate this in Italy, where you can’t get allspice: you can use clove instead. Lastly, weigh your carrots before you peel them and average by excess. If you end up with more carrots than necessary it’s not the end of the world.
Ingredients (for the cake)
- 300ml flavourless vegetable oil (sunflower, not olive oil)
- 4 large eggs
- 200g soft light brown sugar
- 150g golden syrup
- 345 wholemeal plain flour
- 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp each of ground ginger, allspice and ground clove
- 150g sultanas
- 400g carrots, grated
- 50g desiccated coconut
Ingredients (for the orange cheese frosting)
- 100g unsalted butter, softened
- 200g cream cheese, at room temperature
- 500g icing sugar
- 1 tbsp honey (optional)
- zest of 2 oranges
- 1 tsp orange essence or liqueur
Ingredients (for the pecan topping)
- 100g pecans
- 1/2 tsp allspice
- 75g caster sugar
- Grease and line 3 x 20cm sandwich tins and pre-heat the oven to 180C.
- In the bowl or a freestanding mixer, whisk the eggs, light brown sugar, golden syrup and oil together for a good 5 minutes on high speed, until light, fluffy and pale in colour.
- In a bowl, mix all of the other ingredients together. Once the egg and sugar mixture is ready, fold in the rest of the ingredients and mix to a smooth batter. Don’t be over concerned about knocking the air out. The cake contains plenty of raising agents anyway and the sponges will turn out just fine.
- Divide the mixture evenly in the three tins, smooth out the top surface, then bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Check with a skewer for doneness before removing the sponges and allowing them to cool completely on a cake rack.
- While the sponges are cooling, make the caramelised pecans. Toss the nuts with the sugar and the allspice in a shallow non-stick pan, then place over high heat and cook, tossing frequently, until the sugar has caramelised. Tumble on a tray lined with oil baking parchment or a silicone mat, then leave to cool completely. When cold, use a knife to break the brittle into rough pieces.
- Wait until the sponges are ready to assemble to make the orange cheese frosting. In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, add the softened butter, the cream cheese and the orange zest, then beat on low speed with the paddle attachment until creamy and combined. Add the icing sugar in two batches, mixing carefully on medium speed to incorporate it all. You can add the honey in between the two batches, but make sure you do add the orange essence or liqueur then. Give the mixture a final beating to make it into a smooth, creamy and fluffy icing.
- To assemble the cake, position the first of your sponges upside down on your cake board or serving platter, the cover the flat surface only with a third of the orange cheese frosting. Repeat with the two remaining sponges and the rest of the icing, then top with the caramelised pecans.