My most excellent friend Laura is leaving for Paris in a couple of weeks to do a masters at Sciences Po. Today she left Cambridge to go back home to Gloucester for a while before she leaves for good. Her leaving party was originally meant to include cake, which I unfortunately failed to make, and I can only assume as a direct result of the lack of cake, turned into a night where far too much alcohol was consumed (more by some people than others…). In order to make it up to Laura, I finished making the cake, and gave it to her yesterday, her penultimate day in Cambridge.
It had to be a carrot cake, simply because this cake has been praised (and rightly so) by many people when made by both me and Laura. The recipe comes from Peyton & Byrne’s British Baking book, which incidentally, is one of the best baking books I have ever come across, full of British classics with easy to follow recipes and always excellent results. They definitely aren’t the kind of recipes you want to be using when you’re in a rush though – these are not quick cakes, but cakes that take a bit of time and love, which are always worth the wait. The carrot cake recipe is definitely a good one to start with….
225g unsalted butter, softened
225g light brown sugar
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
225g fresh carrots, peeled & grated
150g chopped walnuts
50g sultanas, chopped
Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3. Grease a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin that’s about 7cm deep and line with baking paper (or 2 tins which are about 3cm deep, because you have to cut the cake in half otherwise, and personally, I am not comfortable with doing that).
In a bowl cream together the butter & sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt, add half of it at a time to the butter mixture, each time mixing until just incorporated.
In another bowl, combine the grated carrots, chopped walnuts and sultanas and stir this through the cakemixture. Spoon into the prepared tin(s) and smooth the top. Bake for 45-55 mins, or until the cake is springy to the touch and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean (roughly this amount of time still applies if you’re doing it in 2 tins – I would keep an eye on it once it’s been about 35-40 mins, depending on how reliable your oven is).
Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10 mins, then remove from tin and leave to cool completely before icing it (this could take up to 2 hrs).
The problem with many cake recipes I come across is that the recipe calls for far more icing than is actually required. The quantities in brackets are the original measurements, and the first ones are what I use, which seems about the right amount. But if you like eating leftover icing, go for the ones in brackets.
375g (500g) icing sugar
75g (100g)unsalted butter, softened
150g (200g) cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp mild honey (this is as is – you can do a little less if you want)
Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and set aside
In another bowl beat the butter until smooth and creamy, ideally using an electric mixer. Add the cream cheese and beat for another minute on high speed. Add a third of the icing sugar and mix well on a low speed. Add the rest of the icing sugar and mix again. Finally, add the honey and beat until you have a creamy texture. Chill until needed.
At this point, you either cut the cake in half and ice it like a sandwich, or you ice your two separate cakes and make them a sandwich.
Laura’s cake required extra decoration, which meant I used some of the leftover icing, added red food colouring to it (which as a result made it pink (sigh)), and wrote BYE all over it using the icing pen my friend Emily got me for my birthday. There is an amusing in-joke that me, Laura and our friend Julian have about the repeated saying of bye, (which I won’t explain here) and her leaving has allowed the repeated use of this joke until she threatened to hit me. It only seemed appropriate that her cake carry that joke too.
My second endeavour of yesterday was a rather more ambitious one. Commissioned again by my friend Catherine to make a birthday cake for one of her colleagues at Outspoken, I decided to do something ridiculous and difficult because it was the first chocolate cake recipe I found that I wanted to make. This is definitely the first cake recipe I’ve ever seen that involves the use of Coke, it was also the first three-tiered cake I’ve ever made. Not as straightforward as you might think when you’re an idiot and you put the tins too close under each other in the oven and then spillage occurs. As a disclaimer I’d just like to point out right now that this cake turned out absolutely fine and nothing went disastrously wrong apart from the reasonable amount of cake mixture that ended up on the bottom of my oven. These things happen. There was also so much mixture that I ended up making four layers for the cake, and still had some mix left over. This was lucky actually, because I took one of the cakes out of it’s tin too early before it had cooled properly and it promptly split in half, so I had a spare one to use rather than having to attempt a rescue mission. As I say, these things happen….
This recipe comes from the Outsider Tart’s Baked in America book. In the book they give recipes in imperial, metric and cups, but to save time, I’m just going to write it in metric (also some of the measurements are a little off perhaps because 6floz does not equal 80ml ever)
340g unsalted butter
350ml Coke (not diet!)
65g mini marshmallows
85g dark chocolate, chopped (it says unsweetened, so I just took that as dark chocolate)
530g plain flour
115g cocoa powder
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3/4 tsp salt
80ml canola or other flavourless oil (I used sunflower, which was as flavourless as I could find)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
5 large eggs, at room temperature
300ml buttermilk, at room temperature
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4. Butter three 9 inch cake pans, line the bottoms with baking parchment.
2. In a medium saucepan, place the butter and Coke over a medium heat until the butter melts. Add the marshmallows and chopped chocolate and stir continuously until the chocolate and marshmallows are melted – the latter takes longer than you’d think, but constant stirring will help expedite things. Let the mixture cool for about 10 mins.
3. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarb and salt. Set aside.
4. In another large bowl (they say in an electric mixer. I don’t have one, I used my human strength), thoroughly combine the sugar, oil and vanilla (on a medium speed in a mixer). (Reduce the speed to low if using a mixer) add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the cooled chocolate mixture and stir until evenly incorporated. The mixture should have a consistent colour. Alternately add the flour and the buttermilk in 3 or 4 additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing only until just combined. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans.
5. Bake for 35-40 mins or until a knife inserted into the centre of each comes out clean. It’s best to rotate the pans after 20-25 mins of cooking time has passed.
(Unlike the previous recipe, this icing quantity is exactly the right amount)
340g milk chocolate, chopped
175g dark chocolate, chopped
340g sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
Melt all the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir occasionally to hasten the melting. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the sour cream and vanilla. Let the icing cool to room temperature, stirring every once in a while – avoid the urge to beat it to cool it faster as that will change the texture. Timing will vary depending on how warm the chocolate was before adding the sour cream, but for the most part, you’ll be ready to go in about 30 mins. It sets pretty fast, so if it hardens just gently reheat it over a pan of water again.
That’s the cake all wrapped up and ready to go. Despite the somewhat stressful cooking of it, it did turn out fine, I just hope it tasted as good as it looked.
Next time – making cake for Ryan because I made him late leaving work. Tip: don’t bet people cake that you’ll manage to let them leave on time.