Carrot and Apple Cake with a Maple Cream Cheese Frosting.

You can’t beat a good carrot cake can you? Well maybe there are lots of other favourite cakes out there but I can’t resist carrot cake.  I’ve baked lots of them over the years and tried different recipes.

I’ve been enjoying testing out a few recipes from Lorraine Pascale’s new book “Bake” recently.  Our neighbouring village had it’s Spring Festival a couple of weekends ago and I always like to donate a cake or few to the cafe that the PTA run in the primary school hall.  As my son went to that school a few years back I always like to support it as he had such a happy time there.

Carrot Cakes always seem to be popular with lots of people and this one from Lorraine Pascale was no exception. This version contains not only grated carrots but also some grated apple.  This works extremely well with carrot and adds some natural sweetness. To add maple syrup to the cream cheese frosting was also a delicious touch which worked really well.

On the Saturday morning, the day before the Spring Festival I got up really early.  It had been a crazy busy week working full time teaching a Reception class in a local school and I was due to be there another week afterwards.   The night before I had gone off to bed at 9.30pm absolutely exhausted and laid there thinking would I have time to get everything done over the weekend? Thank heavens it was a Bank Holiday that weekend. I was up at 6am and was already baking.  I had to be at my beauty therapist friend’s house for my appointment at 10am and I had to have a headstart.  I find if I get up early without distractions then I get loads done.

I was so grateful to the grating attachment on my new food processor to help me out with grating the carrots and the apple.  I don’t mind grating by hand but I was in a rush and getting a machine to do the hard work really helped to cut the time down.  The carrots and apple came out a little bit chunkier than I would have liked but it did add to the texture of the cake.  In other carrot cakes I’ve added walnuts or pecan nuts but this one doesn’t contain nuts at all. It doesn’t have any dried fruit in either, like raisins or sultanas.

The recipe itself is simple to put together as all the ingredients are weighed out and put into one bowl.  This includes using vegetable oil as the fat instead of butter as is traditionally seen in a carrot cake or a muffin mixture.  Along with this was some light brown soft sugar, eggs, the apple and carrot, some self raising flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, mixed spice, cinnamon and some vanilla extract.

When all the batter had been mixed together it was divided between two greased and lined circular loose bottomed sandwich tins. The cakes were then baked in my oven for about 30-35 minutes at around 160oC in my fan oven. While they were baking I went upstairs, sorted out some washing, put some washing away and tried to get my son’s uniform ironed for work. All while I kept an eye and an ear out for the oven timer.

Half an hour or so later the cakes were ready and out of the oven.  I left them to cool in their tins on the work top on top of a wire rack and headed down to see my friend to get my nails done.

In the afternoon I got round to decorating the carrot cake.  The frosting was a traditional cream cheese one but with the addition of maple syrup. Maple syrup goes beautifully with carrot cake and I was happy I had just enough in the cupboard from pancake day.  I’m not the neatest cake decorator and to be honest I found it really tricky to keep my frosting neat. My mum was standing next to me watching me ice it and she got her fork out and fluffed up the icing.  This wasn’t the original way I wanted to decorate the cake with neat, smooth edges but the more I tried to smooth the icing the more it wanted to fall off!  To finish off I used a dozen sugar carrots bought from a pack found in the supermarket a few weeks back.

The following morning I dropped all three cakes baked down at the school.  They were gratefully received and to help the servers in the cafe I pre-cut the cakes for them.  When my mum and I went back down to the festival a couple of hours later I noticed that the carrot cake had completely gone. It had sold out.  That made me so happy.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cooking The Books February 2014- Flora’s Famous Courgette Cake from How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

Last Sunday I needed a pudding for our lunch and thought about baking something from the Cake chapter of How To Be A Domestic Goddess.  My favourite bake so far from that chapter has been the Boston Cream Pie but my eye has also been on the Courgette Cake in the same chapter.  The picture of it in the book looked so pretty with the pastel green pistachios sprinkled on top and a pale green layer of lime curd gently seeping out of the middle of the cake.  I definitely wanted to give it a try but I knew my family would not be keen on anything with courgettes in it.  They hate them with a passion. If I use any courgettes in my cooking they usually get fished out and put on the side of the plate.  I hoped, though that in a cake they wouldn’t notice them mixed in with other ingredients.  After all they troughed down the  Honey and Courgette Loaf baked from The Great British Bake Off Everyday cookbook when I baked it last summer!

Nigella mentions in her recipe introduction that the recipe was actually given to her by Flora Woods who worked in Harrod’s Waterstones when How To Eat was published.  She also mentions that “if courgette cake sounds dodgy to you, think about carrot cake for a moment, this is just an adaptation of that (though if you feel it’s safer, don’t tell people it’s made out of courgettes until after they’ve eaten it)!” I reckoned that would work with my family if they were well disguised!

So, last Sunday afternoon in between ironing and cleaning I attempted to wow my family with the pretty cake.  Read on to see how I got on with baking it:

Nigella mentions that you can add raisins to the mixture if you want.  I didn’t have any, only mixed fruit so I left them out of the cake.

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I grated two courgettes and tried to drain excess water out of them.
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In a bowl I combined eggs, oil and caster sugar.
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The eggs, sunflower oil and sugar were beaten together until creamy.
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Then the dry ingredients were added to the wet ones. These were self raising flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder.
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Once this was mixed I then added in the grated courgette.

The two cakes were baked in greased and lined 8″ diameter sandwich tins at 180oC for roughly half an hour.  This wasn;t a problem and they didn’t look too bad when they came out of the oven.  I had my cooled lemon curd ready which wasn’t what I wanted to put in the cake at all after my disastrous attempt at making it earlier!

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Out of the tins and cooling on a wire rack in my kitchen.
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The lumpy lemon curd made earlier on that day to use as the filling in the cake.

I’d read somewhere that using low fat cream cheese is a no-no for making frosting with.  It just doesn’t work properly but sadly I hadn’t got any full fat cheese so I had to use the low fat stuff. As I mixed up the icing it just wouldn’t thicken and I became so frustrated. The icing was sloppy, gloopy and ran all down the sides of the cake instead of being spread all over the top of it.  I was really disappointed in it.

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Making up the cream cheese frosting to top the cake with. Unfortunately I used Morrison’s own brand low fat cheese which was far too runny as I didn’t have full fat Philadelphia. Big mistake, it just wouldn’t thicken up!
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The finished cake. The thick and creamy icing turned out to be thin and runny.
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The runny icing totally messed up the cake and dripped down the side of it. What a cake wreck!

To finish, I grated plain chocolate on top of the cake as I knew my children don’t like pistachios.  In the end I think the grated chocolate was the best part of the cake for them!

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We had a small slice for our pudding. As you can see not much was eaten!

I brought the cake out at pudding time and my son said “What the hell is that?”  I said it was a cake, which it was!  When I cut into it, he said “Ugh, it’s got bogies in it!” Both my son and daughter refused to try some and said they would go without.  My husband thought it was bits of lime zest in the cake and didn’t think it was courgette in it until after when he said he couldn’t taste any lime!  He didn’t like it and neither did I.  The lemon curd was very sweet and cloying and I ended up eating two mouthfuls of my cake.  I was very disappointed in it.

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A slice of courgette cake, the courgette is clearly visible which put the kids off straightaway and the lemon curd didn’t look very appetising.

Sadly the rest of the cake did not get eaten as none of us liked it in the end. In hindsight I should have chosen another cake from the chapter, there was also a heavenly sounding Butterscotch Cake which I should have gone for instead. Oh well, you live and learn!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx