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My carrot cake recipe comes down to me from my Granny in North Carolina. A lot like zucchini ('courgette') bread, it's a very moist bake, in no small part because of the grated vegetable and the addition of crushed pineapple - which both recipes share. When I was growing up we never used cream cheese frosting. My dad has a strong aversion to anything 'creamy', with many and varied exceptions, including ice cream and also buttercream icing... So, for the most part, cakes, including carrot, were always paired with a classic vanilla buttercream. I'm not particularly adverse to cream cheese myself, and my husband is almost addicted to it, so the following recipe includes the more traditional cream cheese frosting for the cake.
Of my family's cake recipes, this is probably one of the more heavily abridged by the constraints of British ingredient options. The original recipe calls for corn oil, but really any flavourless oil will do - I used to use vegetable oil as my go to, but now more often opt for sunflower oil. As with zucchini bread, crushed pineapple has posed a recurring problem for me as it is difficult to find consistently in grocery stores here, so I often 'crush' my own by chopping or crushing with my fingers. Similarly, I've found that my Granny's call for 'flaked coconut' can mean a variety of things - I have a preference for using Baker's Sweetened Coconut Flakes, but the brand isn't available in the UK, outside of occasional import stores, so I rely on care packages from the states for my personal stock. If I'm in short supply, I've found that standard dessicated coconut will work just fine!
You'll first want to pre-heat your oven and prepare a cake tin. This recipe is intended for a bundt pan, but I've made it in anything from a brownie pan, to a round cake tin, loaf tins, or even as muffins on occasion. Do note that the timings below for baking would be subject to change depending on what type of pan you use - especially if using a standard cake tin, it may take longer and you may need to use foil around the edges to prevent catching. Another thing to keep in mind - due in part to the moisture, the cake is prone to sticking, so be sure to grease and flour any pan very well!
Whisk together your sugar, oil and eggs. In a separate bowl, sift your flour, bicarbonate (baking) soda, salt and cinnamon. Once your sugar is well blended, add your dry ingredients and combine. Then add your vanilla extract, mixing well.
Next, add in the remaining ingredients - grated carrot, crushed pineapple (well drained), coconut and walnuts (for a long time I hated nuts, so I consider the walnuts completely optional in this recipe and have made the cake, recipe otherwise as is, without them with no issue). Fold together until well mixed. Pour into the prepared pan and pop in the oven!
The bundt pan version of this should take you roughly an hour to bake. Start checking around 50 minutes and wait until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Once out of the oven, I would recommend you leave the cake to cool for a little while in the tin (10 to 15 minutes) as this will help it to start pulling away from the sides of the pan. When it is time to flip out, I usually need to loosen around the sides (and the interior hole) with a spatula or a skewer. Then hope for the best in tipping it onto a rack to cool! Unfortunately, I've found it often sticks a bit, but if you're planning to use frosting, most sins are easily covered! Let cool before moving on to icing.
As I said, we used to use a buttercream icing on this cake (and I can vouch for it working well as a pairing!). Carrot cakes, however, are traditionally associated with a cream cheese frosting. For my cake, I beat together a pack of cream cheese (340g), with about half a cup of softened unsalted butter (125g) and ¾ cup (120g) powdered icing sugar, with a dash of vanilla. In Britain, the cream cheese does not normally come in blocks and is made to be spreadable, which means it is a bit thinner than Americans would be used to working with. Adding the extra butter helps to bring up the thickness and provide a consistency more appropriate to frosting. From personal experience, do not try to simply make an American cream cheese icing recipe in Britain - the ratios will usually be a bit off and it will be too runny. This might lead you to think you can thicken with extra powdered sugar...but this just makes it more and more runny - trust me...
Once you have your icing, spread over the cake as you see fit and maybe add a touch of decoration. I recently made this and added some extra flaked coconut and chopped walnut to the top. Then all that is left is to dine on your baked creation! If you are making this in advance, it can keep in the fridge for a little while - I'd not make it more than a day ahead of an event, but I've definitely kept leftover slices for a few days!
- 1½ cup vegetable oil (280mL)
- 1¾ cup caster sugar (380g)
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups plain flour (325g)
- 2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups peeled and grated carrots (220g)
- 1 cup walnuts, chopped (185g)
- ½ cup dessicated coconut
- 8 oz crushed pineapple, well drained (225g)
- Preheat your oven to 175C/160C Fan (350°F). Grease and flour a 9" bundt tin.
- In a large bowl, cream together oil, sugar and eggs until well combined.
- In a separate bowl, sift together flour, bicarbonate soda, salt and cinnamon.
- Add flour mixture to the sugar mixture and stir in the vanilla.
- Add carrots, walnuts, coconut and pineapple until well incorporated.
- Pour the batter into your prepared tin and spread evenly.
- Bake for about 1 hour or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Once out of the oven, let cool in the tin for a couple minutes before flipping out onto a wire rack to cool completely.