Logically, after a week and a half of hosting our dear family members, we were left with a refrigerator completely bare except for two bags of carrots. The ham- devoured, pork ribs- gone as quickly as they were served, and the milieu of cheeses and dips had vanished. Naturally, the homemade candies and anniversary-celebrating pies were gone too. Somehow (somehow) the two bags of carrots were all that remained.
And so logically, with them I made carrot cake.
Because when I looked at those bags of carrots and saw good intentions and a fresh, healthy start to the new year basically staring me down, I couldn’t help but wink. I racked my brain and I came to the conclusion that truly the only way I like carrots is when they’re in carrot cake. I had no choice. I had to do it. And it was quite pleasing, I must say.
A Rather Pleasing Carrot Cake with Orangey Cream Cheese Icing
Adapted a bit from Jamie Oliver’s Cook with Jamie (the online recipe can be found here)
• 1-1/4c unsalted butter, softened
• 2c light brown soft sugar
• 5 large eggs, separated
• zest and juice of 1 orange
• 1-1/2c self-rising flour, sifted (I used the gluten free flour that I had on hand)
• 1 slightly heaping teaspoon baking powder
• 1c ground almonds
• 1/2c shelled walnuts, chopped, plus a handful for serving (optional)
• 2 heaping teaspoons ground cinnamon
• a pinch of ground nutmeg
• 1 teaspoon ground ginger
• 2c carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
For the orangey cream cheese icing:
• 16oz full-fat cream cheese
• 1-1/2c powdered sugar, sifted
• zest and juice of 1 orange
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease and line a 9 inch-square or round cake pan with parchment paper. Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one by one, then add the orange zest and juice. Stir in the sifted flour and baking powder, and add the ground almonds, walnuts, spices and grated carrot and mix together well.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff. I cannot do this by hand, so I used a stand mixer for this part. Now gently fold the stiff egg whites into the cake mixture. Scoop the mixture into the prepared cake pan and bake it for about 50 minutes until golden and risen. (Mine rose quite a bit.) Leave the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out on to a rack to rest for at least an hour.
For the icing, Jamie uses lime juice and zest and a mixture of cream cheese and mascarpone. That sounds wonderful, but I skimped on that and used all cream cheese and the juice and zest of 2 oranges. Whichever you choose, mix all the icing ingredients together until smooth. Spread generously over the top of the cake. Finish off with a sprinkling of chopped almonds or walnuts.
My cake came out fluffy and melt-in-your-mouth good, even with the gluten free flour, and was not too dense or sweet as carrot cake can sometimes turn out. I will make this cake over and over again, for sure. In fact, my new goal is to make more carrot cake this winter than I made apple pie this fall. Now that is definitely a goal worth pursuing 😉