I've been in the market for a new carrot cake recipe for a while. I used to have a great standby one from a leaflet I picked up at a supermarket checkout one time, but I haven't made it for a few years, as it turned out a bit gooey a few times on the trot. Personally I quite like gooey, within reason, but The Scientist isn't keen, and I've got to admit that veering that close to uncooked egg doesn't thrill me. I tried a Delia recipe for him to take gaming a year or so ago, but also had problems with cooking it through (as well as a whole manner of other problems I don't wish to revisit any time soon). This time I wanted to try one with pineapple in it too, after The Scientist tried a good one in a cafe. It just so happened that this vague yen coincided with our Vet Friends giving me not one, but two, great cookbooks for my Christmas present. The first was James Martin's dessert cookbook, which does feature a very fancy looking carrot cake, complete with caramelised baby carrots on the top - but no pineapple. The other was Simon Rimmer's new book, which coincidentally DOES have a carrot cake with pineapple.
Simon Rimmer is the chef at Green's restaurant in Didsbury, Manchester, which I've never been to, but have heard very good things about. I don't think it's particularly known for its desserts, but if this cake is anything to go by, it should be. For one thing, it avoided the under-cooking thing. In fact it cooked perfectly in the time it was supposed to. I'm sure the fact that you make two cakes to sandwich together rather than one large one helped, but still, I like a chef whose cakes bake how they're supposed to. It was also moist (I'm sure I use this word to describe all my favourite cakes - see the comment above on gooeyness, I suppose. I just asked The Scientist how he'd describe it, and he said succulent, which sounds much nicer). It was also hefty as a whole, but the cake itself was quite light. Am I making any sense? Just go and make it. And make the icing, too. It's not remotely vegan, but the people I was making it for aren't remotely vegan either, and they loved it. I've started a new label for 'gamers' favourites', so I can find the most requested treats for The Scientist's gaming weekends again easily. This one's definitely up there.
And since I mentioned it, the James Martin book is really good too - lots of tips on how to do cheffy decorating things and some lovely looking recipes. I'm hoping to try some of them very soon :)
Simon Rimmer's does as it says on the baking instructions carrot cake (from The Seasoned Vegetarian)
Feeds 10 (or 8 gamers)
300g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarb of soda
1 tsp salt
175g light muscovado sugar
50g walnuts [I left these out as one of the gamers has a nut allergy]
227g can pineapple, drained and finely chopped
handful of sultanas [I left these out too as one of the other gamers doesn't like dried fruit. Picky lot aren't they?]
2 soft bananas, mashed
175g carrots, grated [this was about two]
175ml corn oil [I used vegetable]
Soft cheese icing
100g butter, softened
200g icing sugar, sifted
100g cream cheese
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
ground cinnamon, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 160C/Gas 3. Prepare two greased and lined 20cm sandwich tins
Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarb of soda together into a large bowl, then add the rest of the cake ingredients and mix well. Divide the mixture between the tins.
Bake the cake for 30-35 minutes, or until risen and firm to the touch
Leave to cool for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely before icing
For the cream cheese icing, beat together the butter, sugar and cream cheese, then scrape in the seeds from the vanilla pod. Spread half the icing on top of one cake, then place the other cake on top and spread with the remaining icing. Dust lightly with cinnamon.