Saturday 8 February 2014

I've been on a quest...

to find the perfect carrot cake.
Most cakes are based on four essential ingredients... eggs and flour to give structure... fat and sugar to give flavour. So even before additional ingredients are added there are many decisions to be made. Caster sugar or muscavado sugar, plain flour or self raising, white or wholemeal, butter or oil.

And then come the additions. Do you grate the carrots finely or coarsely, what spices should be added - cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger or allspice or perhaps a combination and do you add sultanas or nuts or both and if so, walnuts or pecans or perhaps something else?
So many decisions to be made. And that is before the frosting and decorating takes place.

Over the past couple of weeks I have made four different carrot cakes with various ingredients in different combinations including one that seemed to contain about half a bottle of brandy (Very good but not really what I was after!)

After my family gallantly took to extensively tasting and giving feedback, (they do suffer for me you know) this is what I ended up with. I decided to keep the decoration simple depite having an urge to create bunnies and carrots. And this is the one that I took into Cambridge this morning as my entry in the first round of the Cambridge Bake Off. Yes, despite my "spongy sponge" experience of last year, I decided to give it another go and was one of 48 contestants selected for this first round to bake a carrot cake.

And after the judges had tasted I was delighted to be one of 24 selected to go through to the next round where I will have to bake 'live' in the kitchens of the Cambridge Cookery School. Although I was given good marks for presentation and texture they thought the taste was lacking and did not taste of carrots. Personally I'd rather my cake did not taste of vegetables and that the carrots were there to add moisture and sweetness... but what do I know? And anyway, I'm through to the next round so I don't care! And should you want to try it yourself... the recipe is below.... do let me know if it is carroty enough for you!


150g light muscavado sugar                                                            
80g dark muscavado sugar                                                              
3 free-range eggs                                                                              
175g rape seed oil                                                                            
250g self-raising flour (white)                                                                                  
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
40g plain yoghurt
Zest of 1 satsuma
260g carrots (peeled weight) peeled and finely grated
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
100g pecans, toasted and roughly chopped, plus extra to decorate

1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line the bases of 2 x 18cm sandwich tins.

2. Put the eggs and sugars into a large mixing bowl and whisk well until the ingredients are thoroughly combined and the mixture has almost doubled in volume. This can be done in a free standing mixer. Gradually add the oil, mixing well.

3. Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder salt and spices and then fold very gently into the liquid mixture, being careful to knock as little air out as possible. Fold in the yoghurt and the remaining ingredients and divide between the tins. Bake for about 30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool for 10 mins in the tins and then turn out onto a wire rack.

4. When cool decorate with cream cheese icing and the remaining nuts. I used this recipe for the icing.


  1. As always, I am in awe of your culinary prowess. I'm not sure I've got the stamina to try and get the zest from a satsuma!!! I'm trying to work out how to zest such thin skin, but that's by the by as the main thing is to say well done for getting through to the next round, Do you know what you have to cook? If so, prepare those testers for the weeks ahead. It's them who'll need the stamina then!

  2. Funnily enough I made carrot cake this weekend, and we declared the recipe I used this time as "definitive" - and of course it's different again from yours! I've got about four different recipes as well. We went for raisins (no sultanas in the cupboard), "brown" self-raising, over half a pound of carrots coarsely grated, mostly nutmeg with a dash of cinnamon, and grated orange zest, but slightly reduced sugar, only two eggs and melted butter not oil. I'll have to give yours a go now! (Any excuse for more cake...)

  3. My carrot cake doesn't taste of carrots either - I didn't think it was supposed to. I have trouble with the frosting in spite of following the recipe - it always seems to be too wet but it tastes alright and that's what matters most.

  4. Oh wow congratulations sounds a lovely recipe. I always use a Mary Berry recipe with bananas in it Good luck in the next round x

  5. Congratulations on getting to the next round. Good luck.

  6. That does look rather good, and I'm so pleased you're through to the next round.
    Like Heather, I don't expect a carrot cake to taste of carrots... I think your recipe is very similar to my favourite, and I usually add figs or dates to the mix.
    C xx

  7. Ooh, I do like a good carrot cake and that looks like a very good carrot cake. Can't try the recipe yet, though, as for some reason I decided to go vegan for February. Good luck with the baking competition, btw.

  8. well done Gina. I agree it doesn't necessarily have to taste of carrot. it all adds to the taste and texture generally. I'm working my way through Yotam Ottolenghi at the moment (on a slightly different note!)

  9. You go Gina!! I watched a repeat of the first GBBO this afternoon and thought of you.

  10. Congratulations and good luck in the next round. Xxx

  11. Well done Gina for getting through to the next round. I wonder what your next challenge will be?

  12. Congratulations on getting through Gina. I never knew carrot cake should actually taste of carrots either. I'm with you on expecting it to add sweetness and moisture not vegy flavour. It's a bit like expecting a Farmhouse Tealoaf to taste of farmhouse ;-) or even tea!

  13. It looks gorgeous. I've never made it but a friend and I rate our local tea rooms by the quality of their carrot cakes!

  14. Thanks for sharing Gina! I too have never found a recipe I really liked, I do know though I wouldn't really want it to taste of carrots.
    V xxx

  15. Well done for getting through! That's fantastic news!!

  16. Oh well done! Thanks for the recipe - but no thanks. However, if you have a spare slice knocking about ......

  17. Sitting here in Paddington basin wishing I were sitting there being a taster for you carrot cake :-)

  18. I never knew a carrot cake was supposed to taste of carrots either - I don't think I have ever tasted one which did! Good luck with the next round - do you know what you will have to cook? I am sure your cake testers are glad you need to do some more practising! Cheers

  19. Well if your Carrot Cake wasn't carroty enough for goodness sake don't try and wow them with a Black Forest Gateau!

    Good luck!


  20. well done Gina. I am starting to doubt the capabilities of the judges since they don't want a sponge to be spongy but they do want a carrot cake to taste of carrots...

    Ah well, good luck anyway!

  21. Your cake looks amazing and I'm sure tastes wonderful too! Good luck in the next round

  22. Oh, that looks delicious! But I'm on a gluten-free diet (and sugar free) these days, so no cake for me......and my taste buds really perked up when I saw this photo!
    What is it with these judges?? A too-spongy sponge cake and now not enough carrot flavour in the carrot cake??? What do they want-- a floured carrot salad? lol
    Anyway, congrats on getting through to the next round!

  23. Congratulations Gina! Like others who have commented, I do wonder about the judges....When carrot cake first became popular, I tried cakes that various friends had made, that did taste of carrots, and I wasn't keen. But now it's one of my favourites - without the taste of carrots, but I like the way they give it texture and moisture.

  24. Gina, it's great (or should I type grate) that your carrot cake has taken you on to the next round of the Bake Off.

    When I was over there in the UK last October, I did watch the two final GBB on my hotel room tv. It was very interesting to see how the pendulum swung back and forth, with all the "back story" stuff added to the cakes.

    I am so curious to know more about the judges at the competition level you are testing. I'd want to know more about their expertise, tastes, personalities, and more.

    What I do know is that you are a fine baker. And a generous baker, too.

    Gina, I've got so many more questions and comments for you...they just won't fit in this box.

    May I just wish you best of luck for now. xo

  25. It certainly looks delicious! Yum!!

    Good luck in the next round Gina x

  26. Honestly, my mouth is watering just looking at these photos ... does that count? Congratulations on being sent through to the next level. I think I'd be too nervous to bake "live". Good luck with it!! Wendy x

  27. Well done Gina, let's hope you go further this time. Do the judges really know what they should be looking for.

  28. Well done Gina, let's hope you go further this time. Do the judges really know what they should be looking for.

  29. congratulations on getting this far - do you feel like an Olympian?


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