A few years ago when I dared to enter the Brighton Bake-off, I asked my husband what kind of cake he thought I should make. The answer was very fast: Carrot cake. His favourite.
Rather than go down the well trodden path of the traditional carrot cake, I decided to put my own spin on it, combining the autumnal flavours of parsnips and maple syrup, and topping with caramelised nuts. As it turned out, the day itself was a heatwave with the sun roasting down upon the crowds lining the fields on picnic blankets and mingling under the white marque tents.
Gorgeous weather as it was, after a few hours I hurried away for some shady respite for my pale skin. Little did I suspect what was in store… Collecting my cake carrier at the end of the event, I was greeted by exclaims of excitement by the event organisers as a photographer hurried over. Surprise! I’d won first prize! I’m still very proud of my trophy (let’s just say, I’ve never had any illusions of winning any sports-based acolades) as baking is a passion of mine, with many a cake created for family and friends’ birthdays, baby showers and other events.
If you like this recipe, please check out my blog at www.FoxLovescrow.com.
- 230g self-raising flour
- 200g golden caster sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 250g grated carrots (organic are better…more flavoursome)
- 250g grated parsnips
- Handful of roughly chopped medjool / fresh dates
- 100g chopped pecan nuts
- 3 medium eggs
- 150ml sunflower oil
- Few tablespoons of maple syrup, to taste
- 2-3 tubs of Philadelphia cheese (must be this brand for high quality and FULL FAT
- )Approx 150g icing sugar (sugar to taste)
- 2-3 tbsp maple syrup
Caramelised nut topping:
- Few handfuls of pecan nuts and hazelnuts
- Few tbsp of white granulated sugar1 tbsp butter
Step 1: Bake
- Line a circular cake tin (I used one 20.5cm tin) by greasing with butter then cutting baking paper to size and sticking it to the inside, shiny side up.
- Turn the oven to 160 degrees celsius (fan) or 180 degrees celsius (non-fan).
- Grab a large bowl and sift together the dry ingredients (flour, golden caster sugar, pinch of salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder)
- Beat the eggs and sunflower oil in a separate bowl and then gradually add the mixture of dry ingredients. Add a tbsp or so of maple syrup to taste.
- Mix in chopped pecan nuts, then add the chopped dates, grated parsnips and carrots. The batter will be quite thick at this point, but keep going for a few minutes until you have a consistent mix!
- Pour the mixture into the cake tin and give it a few sharp taps on the table to even out the surface without knocking too much air out of the mix.
- Bake for 40 – 50 minutes. It should look slightly golden on top when it’s ready and when you insert a skewer into the middle it should come out clean. When in doubt, take it out, as a moist cake is better then a dry one!
Step 2: Frost
- After 20 minutes, take the cake out the tin and cool on a wire rack. Leave it to cool – this may take a few hours so keep an eye on any hungry cats!
- Take a bread knife and slice through the centre (this will work if the cake is still warm, but is less risky when it’s cooler), creating two halves of the cake.In a bowl, spoon out all the Philladelphia cream cheese.
- Gently mix with a spoon to even out the lumps and bumps.
- Gradually sift icing sugar a into the cream cheese – you are aiming for a taste like cheesecake! You want a little bit of tartness so be careful to only add a few spoonfuls of sugar at a time and keep testing.
- At this point, you can pop your frosting into the fridge to firm it up or until you are ready to ice.
- When ready, take a large flat knife and generously spread onto the middle of the cake, then the top and sides.
- Drizzle a few spoonfuls of maple syrup over the top of the cake.
Step 3: Decorate
- Take your hazelnuts and pecan nuts, crushing and chopping for a range in sizes.
- Add to a frying pan on medium heat, along with the butter and sugar, stirring and coating all the nuts.
- After 5 – 10 minutes, the melted sugar and butter will start to colour and turn brown – this is the caramelisation process! Yum!
- Tip the nuts coated in the caramel onto a sheet of greaseproof paper. They will cool, clump together and harden.
- Once cool, take your caramelised nut fragments, and artfully decorate the top of your cake! Do this just before, or close as you can to serving.
- Serve with extra caramelised nuts on the side. Eat and enjoy a generous slice with fine friends and conversation!