Carrot cake is one of my favourite cakes, with the natural sweetness of the carrot working with the spice and the tanginess of the cream cheese frosting. This vegetable cake is incredibly light and moist because of the use of oil instead of just margarine, allowing more air to be incorporated. Although the classic carrot cake uses brown sugar for the dark caramel flavour, I prefer lighter carrot cakes so I stick to granulated sugar with the main colour coming from the mixed spice.
I don’t just stick to grated carrot and sultanas, which can be quite boring. I mix things up by adding chopped apricots, mixed peel and some crystallised ginger. However the carrot should be grated by hand; if you use a machine, it tends to be quite wet and the cake will not bake evenly with the extra moisture. I also toss all of the dried fruit in some of the flour to prevent it sinking. Do not worry if you cannot add ground almonds, the cake is still just as good without them.
You can make a cream cheese frosting but I didn’t have any (!) so I made a lemon glace icing instead by simply mixing lemon juice and icing sugar until it had a thick consistency before drizzling them randomly over the cakes once cooled.
175g carrot, grated by hand
30g mixed peel
30g crystallised ginger, finely chopped
50g dried apricots, finely chopped
50ml sunflower oil
150g granulated sugar
150g self-raising flour, separating one tablespoon to coat the fruit in
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
40g ground almonds
60g icing sugar
Around 1 – 2 tbsp lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with cupcake cases.
In a separate bowl, place the grated carrot, sultanas, crystallised ginger, mixed peel and apricots. Add the reserved 1 tablespoon and toss to coat in the flour, which will prevent them sinking to the bottom.
Put the margarine, oil, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, mixed spice and ground almonds into a bowl and beat together by hand until it is smooth and creamy. Make sure there are no visible lumps of flour or margarine. Stir in the dried fruit and carrots until just incorporated. Do not overwork.
Divide the mixture between the 12 cupcakes cases evenly and bake for 18 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack and cooling completely.
Make the lemon icing by gradually adding lemon juice to the icing sugar until it has a thick consistency, capable of drizzling. When the cakes are cool, drizzle over the cakes randomly and serve alongside a cup of tea.