It’s only been in recent years that I’ve developed an appreciation for carrot cake. It was never something I would think of ordering when I was out and I only remember making it at home on a few occasions. But my niece has really turned me on to the beauty of a great carrot cake. It’s one of her favourites, so much so that she requests it for any special occasion – most recently her birthday. She’s a pretty harsh judge too and after the number she’s tasted, I’d say a bit of an afficiondo on carrot cakes. I think she would agree that a good carrot cake is all about the texture – it needs to be moist but not so much so that it doesn’t retain a good crumb. And you can never under estimate the importance of the icing which can make the difference between a good carrot cake and a great one.
I like a carrot cake which has walnuts and raisins added to the mix, which this one does, but all the elements should really blend into one another and no particular ingredient should stand out when you eat it. This particular version includes crushed pineapple as well which really adds to the moistness and because the pineapple is crushed you don’t encounter large chunks of it in the cake, which I personally don’t like. Whilst carrot cakes are pretty easy, in that everything can be mixed together in one bowl, there is a lot of measuring, grating and chopping involved so it can take a little bit of time to prepare, but it’s certainly not a difficult cake to make. An iced double layered cake like this one will easily feed 12 people but it keeps well and can be stored in the fridge for quite a number of days.
1 ¼ cups neutral tasting vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup caster sugar
2 cups plain flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 cups grated carrots — packed, about 3 large carrots
1 cup crushed tinned pineapple — well drained
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup raisins
340g Cream cheese — softened, it’s important for the cheese to be at room temperature so best to leave it out overnight
90g butter — softened, again best to leave it out overnight
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2¼ cups (290g) icing sugar, not icing mixture
Grease and line the base of 2 x 9inch or 22-23cm cake tins. Pre-heat the oven to 180C (not fan-forced). In a large bowl, cream together the oil and sugars, I just do this with a large whisk. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until well blended. In another bowl, blend flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture a third at a time to the oil mixture, beating just enough to blend. Fold carrots, pineapple, nuts and raisins into the batter.
Pour the batter into the greased pans and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes then turn the cakes out on a wire rack and cool completely.
To make the icing, beat the cream cheese and butter in an electric mixer on medium speed, until smooth. Add lemon juice and vanilla and beat until combined. Add sugar gradually, mixing on low until smooth.
To ice the cake, place one layer on a cake platter, and with a metal spatula spread some of the icing over the top to form a thin filling. Place second layer over the first, rounded side up. Coat the top and sides of the cake evenly with remaining icing. Refrigerate for at least an hour to set icing.