Monday, 24 June 2013

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing (Wheat Free)

Whether you love it or hate it, it must be said that carrot cake is one of the most ubiquitous cakes of all time; a quintessential recipe for any home baker. The idea of grating a root vegetable into a cake may seem unthinkable to some people, but it's something that just has to be resigned to and accepted for what it is. The usual placation of 'But you can't taste the carrot!' never works: it has to be fed to skeptics under the guise of something less offense.

But, more about the recipe itself! Carrot cake is kept wonderfully moist by the addition of oil and carrots, which are full of juices, and as such lends itself very well to a wheat-free rendition, as the gluten is not relied on to maintain the texture. Also, the concoction of spices can be tailored to suit any taste, or even a spoon of a shop-bought spice mixture can be used for those who don't feel confident in mixing spices; I personally like cinnamon, coriander and cloves (3 Cs)

I understand the ingredient list is very intimidating, but it's mostly spices and extras.

For two 9 inch (23 centimeter) round sandwich cakes

  • 6 ounces (170 grammes) spelt flour
  • 3 ounces (85 grammes) cornflour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 medium eggs, at room temperature
  • 7 ounces (200 grammes) soft brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence 
  • 5 ounces (140 grammes) sunflower oil
  • 6 ounces (170 grammes) carrot, grated
  • Optional: 3 ounces (85 grammes) dessicated coconut
  • Optional: 3 ounces (85 grammes) chopped brazil nuts, walnuts or pecan nuts
  • Optional: 3 ounces (85 grammes) raisins or sultanas

For cream cheese icing
  • 2 ounces (55 grammes) butter, at room temperature
  • 3 ounces (85 grammes) cream cheese, from the fridge
  • 8 ounces (225 grammes) icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • Optional: 8 whole walnuts or pecan nuts

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F, Gas Mk.4, or moderate). If I turn my oven on directly before preparing the cake mixture, it's usually preheated by the time the mixture is ready.
  • Prepare your tin for baking by greasing it on all sides then dusting with flour. Alternatively, you can line the tin with non-stick baking paper, or waxed paper. Here in Ireland, we have this marvelous sillicone-greased paper, and it works a treat.
  • Sieve the spelt flour, cornflour, spices and baking powder (and salt, if using) into a bowl and set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together with an electric hand mixer for about 4 or 5 minutes. It's ready when it is doubled in size, pale in colour, and leaves ribbon trails on itself when the beaters are lifted. If you don't have an electric hand mixer, you can use a balloon whisk, just set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Gently heating the egg mixture speeds up the process, and this means you won't snap off your arm by whisking for hours.
  • While still whisking, gradually pour in the sunflower oil until fully mixed in.
  • Add in the desiccated coconut (if using) and sieve in half of the flour mixture and fold in using a spatula, balloon whisk, or metal spoon. 
  • Add all the grated carrot, and then fold gently. Sieve in the second half of the flour, and fold until just mixed. If you're adding nuts and fruit, gently fold them in here.
  • Pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin, and bake in the oven for about 20 to 25 minutes. Don't be tempted to open the door until after three-quarters of the cooking time has elapsed: the cake will sink.
  • When the cake is baked, let it cool completely in the tin then turn out onto a wire rack.

For the cream cheese icing:
  • In a bowl, beat the soft butter with a wooden spoon. You need to use a wooden spoon until the final beating, because cream cheese easily becomes runny on contact with sugar if mixed too much.
  • Beat in a third of the sugar and mix until fully incorporated.
  • Add in the cream cheese and zest and fold through gently. Add in the remaining icing sugar and lemon juice and mix until smooth, then beat very briefly to make it a little creamier.

Assemble the masterpiece:
  • Put the bottom cake on a serving plate and cut off the dome. Save the dome for midnight snacking.
  • Spread with half the icing, then put the second cake on top. Ice with the remaining icing, then streak or swirl on the top for prettiness. Decorate with nuts, if using.

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