This carrot cake is packed with lots of interest; crunchy pumpkin seeds and chopped walnuts, small chewy bursts of sweetness from dried cranberries and sultanas and background heat with mixed spice. The cake itself is incredibly moist because it uses all oil (and this also makes it dairy-free for those with a lactose intolerance) however this cake is not dairy free if you add the cinnamon cream cheese icing or the cinnamon whipped cream.
Using oil instead of margarine or butter means that you can make this cake easily by hand as you don’t need to worry about having lumps of fat and in the first mixing stage, you don’t really need an aerated mixture.
Carrot cake and cream cheese icing seem to go hand in hand. I have made it too many times and it’s been way too runny. If it does go really runny, don’t be tempted to add more icing sugar and keep mixing. I would suggest making a basic buttercream base and mixing the 2 together or folding the cream cheese through some whipped cream to thicken. Don’t use an electric whisk, just use a normal dessertspoon.
If you don’t want to use a cream cheese icing, you can also make a cinnamon whipped cream (which is pictured) simply by whisking 150ml double cream with ½ tsp ground cinnamon and 2 tbsp caster sugar. Alternatively you can use my white chocolate cream cheese recipe and find other ways to make carrot cake by clicking on the links below:
For the Carrot Sponge
150g grated carrot
50g dried cranberries
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
75g walnuts, chopped
Zest of an orange
150g granulated sugar
150ml vegetable or sunflower oil
175g self raising flour
1 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
50g ground almonds
For the Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing
150g full-fat cream cheese
40g unsalted butter
125g icing sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 – 2 tbsp Demerara sugar, to sprinkle on top
Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease and line the base of a 23cm sandwich tin.
In a bowl, mix together the grated carrot, sultanas, cranberries, seeds and nuts. Add in a tablespoon of self raising flour and toss to coat everything – this prevents everything sinking down the bottom.
In a separate larger bowl, add the orange zest, eggs, sugar and oil and beat with a wooden spoon or an electric whisk until everything is incorporated. Sift in the flour, mixed spice and cinnamon and add the ground almonds. Beat again just until the mixture is even.
Add all of the carrots and fruit mixture including any leftover flour in the bowl and using a spatula, fold the ingredients through until they are all evenly mixed through.
Transfer to your greased and lined tin and bake for 25 minutes until the sponge is golden brown, risen and an inserted skewer comes out clean.
For the cream cheese icing, place all the ingredients into a bowl and mix with a spoon until just combined. Don’t overmix the icing. Spread the icing in a flat even layer over the cake and then finish with a sprinkle of Demerara sugar for added flavour and crunch.