The thought of carrot rarely raises lustful memories but as a humble winter vegetable it elevates itself to dizzying heights of seduction when baked into a spongy, moist and spicy cake… I made it as a treat last week-end for a posse of ravenous ten-year olds and I long for it again as a cold Friday closes in…
Shared with my beloved and a boiling cup of tea, it is my cake of choice on a dark evening! You can also use the mix in a muffin for a special treat…
Ingredients: For a large cake or 24 muffins
- 370g self-raising wholemeal flour
- 300g brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon raising powder
- 1 large spoon of cinnamon
- 15 cl rapeseed oil
- 4 large eggs
- vanilla extract
- 100g shredded coconut
- 180g grated carrot
- 1 grated apple – optional but it adds moisture
For the filling and topping:
1/2 small tub of cream cheese and ½ tub of mascarpone
Roughly same quantity of icing sugar.
A few drops of lemon juice : I sometimes cut corners by using 2 spoonfuls of good lemon curd instead – and reducing the sugar.
I use roughly the same quantity of sugar than cream. This is not about skimping on calories ! Use a hand whisk and add spoonfuls of sugar until it is all used up.
Whisk it all together till you get a fluffy filling. Reserve in the fridge.
What to do next:
Warm the oven at 180 degree Celsius. Oil and line 2 sandwich tins. Grate the carrots and apple. Mix all the dry ingredients in a big bowl. Add the oil, beaten eggs and vanilla. If the mix is on the dry side, add a little milk: It must nicely moist.
Fold in the grated carrots and coconut; apple optional. Bake for 35min at 180°.
Take the mix of mascarpone, cream cheese, icing sugar and lemon juice out of the fridge. Spread in between the two cakes and a layer on top. Decorate with coloured vermicelli or whole pecan nuts.
This makes a FABULOUS birthday cake…
Deep retro apple pie
For the pastry topping:
150g cold butter
180 g plain flour
20g almond powder
50g muscovado brown sugar plus extra caster sugar for sprinkling
80ml of cold water
For the filling:
3 large apples (jonagold or bramley)
1 handful of brown muscovado sugar
1 spoonful of cornflour
a few blackberries, plums or dried prunes (optional but nice)
1 capful of orange blossom water
Blitz the pastry ingredients in the mixer and roll in a ball. Reserve in the fridge in a plastic bag while you do the fruit filling.
Warm the oven to medium high.
Dice the apples and mix the sugar and spices with the fruit. Put the fruit in a deep pie dish, sprinkle the cornflour and dot with the orange scented water.
Roughly roll out a slab of pastry. Cover the dish with it, stretching it to the sides and making sure you create a snug topping. Don’t worry if it is uneven, looks don’t matter – here at least. Pull and tuck as necessary. Carve a small hole on top with a sharp knife. Sprinkle the extra caster sugar over it.
Put in the middle rack of a warm oven for 1hour, then raise the temperature for 10 mn to get a golden top.
Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream and wait for the compliments!
Oven 140 degree Celsius then 160 to brown the top.
- 480g mix of dried fruit (currants, sultanas, raisins, anything you enjoy or use those half-empty packets in your cupboard…)
- 1 handful of prunes, apricots or dates
- 120g mix of nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans…)
- 200ml of rhum or whisky
- butter 160g
- brown muscovado 160g
- 3 eggs
- plain wholemeal flour 160g
- 1 spoonful of raising powder
- almond powder 50g
- 1 tablespoonful of treacle
- 2 tablespoonful of mixed spices (cinnamon, clove, ginger)
- 2 tablespoonful of unsweetened cocoa
- 4 squares of dark chocolate
- Rum or whisky for soaking the fruit
One roll of marzipan paste
One icing roll (I prefer using pre-rolled out ones as they are so easy and quick and you can then concentrate on the decor itself instead of fiddling with icing slabs…)
Any food colouring, chocolate shavings or sweets to personalise the top.
Large ribbon to hide the sides – often useful to disguise any sins…
Now we’re ready to put our pinny on and start mixing:
Soak the fruit in the rhum or brandy the night before. On the day, put in a saucepan the butter in chunks and the brown sugar. Strain the soaked fruit in, reserving the juice of course! Warm the lot up on the stove. Heat and stir for about 10 mn, until the fruit is plumper and the juices are thicker. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate then the cocoa and spices. Don’t forget to melt in a big spoonful of treacle for the liquorice hints go wonderfully with the richness of the cacao.
The mix needs to be rich and silky and should smell like Christmas morning already!
Pre-heat the oven at 140 degrees Celsius.
Add the beaten eggs to the fruit mixture, then stir in the nuts and flours until it is all well combined. If the mix is too heavy, add a few drops of water or the remaining spirit.
Pour into a tin lined with grease-proof paper and bake for 2 hours.
Keep for a few weeks wrapped in cling film and feed it with more alcohol once or twice a week. You will then get the marzipan and the icing sugar to decorate it a week or so before eating it.
This cake will keep for one or two months. So if you start baking now, your cake will be at its best for eating when Christmas comes around. My significant other’s grandmother used to start soaking the fruit on boxing day for the following christmas cake and was religiously feeding it alcohol for the remaining 12 months… This jars a little bit with my idea of fresh homemade food but you can give it a try!
Two years ago, I took one heavy fruit and cocoa cake brimming with whisky to friends in the mountains and at “apres-ski” we had slices of it with hot cups of tea by the fireplace… The combination of alcohol, fruit, spices and chocolate was exactly what you wanted after a cold day on the slopes; and with the amount of calories, exactly what you needed to face the next day’s downhill challenge!