Carrot Cake with Chestnut Cream

The finale of The Great British Bake Off saw a fantastic series come to an end as Crystelle, Giuseppe and Chigs fought it out over the final 3 bakes to win the series. The bakers had to make their signature carrot cake, technical Belgian buns and a showstopping tea party display with a Mad Hatter theme. Carrot cake is one of my favourite cakes to make but for the final bake for this year’s Bake Along, I wanted to take inspiration from the different flavours that Crystelle used in her cake and try a new flavour here. This is my Carrot Cake with Chestnut Cream and Cream Cheese Frosting!

Chestnut is not an ingredient I have used in my baking at all and I don’t think I’ve even tried them before this! It’s classically used in the dessert Mont Blanc, which is chestnut puree with whipped cream. Since it’s such a classic combination, combining them together into a filling for the cake made a lot of sense. But it also didn’t make sense to have carrot cake without the classic cream cheese frosting and so this layer cake contains both a chestnut cream and a cream cheese frosting. Too much cream cheese frosting can be overpowering and the chestnut cream helps to tame some of the extreme sweetness of the cream cheese frosting, although it does have less sugar than a standard frosting as it uses whipped cream to stabilise it.

My carrot cake uses a mix of margarine (or you could use butter) and oil which gives a very moist sponge. I use both cinnamon and mixed spice for my sponge as I like the rounded flavour that mixed spice provides, but you can leave this out if you don’t have any. The carrots are coarsely grated and tossed through the dry ingredients to ensure they are evenly dispersed in the cake. Ground almonds are used here as I prefer the texture they lend but you can replace this with extra flour if you cannot find them. Sultanas and walnuts are also optional but I love the contrast in textures they provide.

To toast the walnuts, I put them on a baking tray lined with parchment in a 170C oven for about 8 to 10 minutes until the nuts smell fragrant and are warm to the touch. They will take on some colour but shouldn’t be dark or they will be burnt. If the walnut pieces are really small, they may burn so keep an eye on the nuts if you have smaller pieces. Some of the walnuts go into the cake and some of them will be used to decorate the cake, around the entire edge, which means you don’t need perfect icing skills for this cake and some on the top of the cake too.

For the carrot cake:

  • 90g margarine
  • 60ml vegetable oil, or any flavourless oil
  • 150g soft light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 175g self raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp mixed spice
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 75g sultanas
  • 150g carrot, coarsely grated, about 2 medium carrots
  • 75g walnuts, toasted and chopped

For the chestnut cream:

  • 75g unsweetned chestnut puree
  • 25g icing sugar
  • 125ml double cream

For the cream cheese frosting:

  • 180g full fat cream cheese
  • 110g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 175ml double cream

For the decoration:

  • 75g toasted chopped walnuts
  • Ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 170°C fan. Grease the base and sides of two 18cm round springform tins and line the bases of both with a round of baking parchment.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the margarine, the oil and the sugar until they are well incorporated and slightly lighter in colour. Whisk in the eggs one by one, adding the next egg once the first has been mixed in well.

In a separate bowl, combine together all of the dry ingredients with the sultanas, carrot and the chopped walnuts and add all at once to the wet ingredients. Use a rubber spatula to fold through the dry ingredients until the cake batter has come together smoothly and the carrots, sultanas and nuts are well distributed.

Divide the cake batter evenly between the two cake tins and level out the batter. Bake the sponges for around 20 to 25 minutes until they are set on the surface, have browned and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

For the chestnut cream, combine the chestnut puree with the icing sugar in a small bowl until smooth. Whip the cream until it holds soft peaks. Fold about one third of the cream into the chestnut puree until well incorporated and then fold the chestnut cream into the rest of the whipped cream. Place the cream into a piping bag.

For the cream cheese frosting, beat the cream cheese in a bowl until smooth and then beat through the icing sugar and vanilla extract until well mixed. Whip the cream until it holds soft peaks and fold gradually through the cream cheese mixture until the frosting is light and well mixed. Place the frosting into a piping bag.

To assemble the cake, place one of the sponge layers on a serving plate or a cake board. Cut a 1cm hole off the end of both piping bags and using them, pipe concentric rings of the frosting on the sponge working from the outer edge of the sponge towards the centre, starting with the cream cheese frosting and ending with the chestnut cream. Place the second sponge layer on top – if you prefer, you can have the bottom side facing upwards so you have a smooth surface, it can make it easier to frost the cake.

Cover the entire cake in a thin layer of the cream cheese frosting – this is called a crumb coat. Place the cake into the fridge to chill for 30 minutes before frosting the entire edge of the cake with the remaining chestnut cream and frosting the top of the cake with the remaining cream cheese frosting. Press the reserved walnut pieces onto the edge of the cake and make a ring of the walnuts on the top of the cake. Dust the surface with some cinnamon and refrigerate for around 30 minutes to an hour to set the frosting. Slice the cake into 12 pieces and serve.

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