Hands up who wants a slice of this epic carrot cake with their afternoon cuppa?
I don’t know about you, but baked goods are one of the few things keeping me going during this lock-down. The level of snacking going on has reached new heights even for me, a snack queen. But really, who cares? With life so uncertain at the moment, I’m taking great joy from simple things; building dens in the living room with Evie, dancing around the kitchen singing Frozen songs at the top of our voices, noticing nature in all it’s glory during our walks, solo jaunts with my camera in hand, the sunshine pouring into our garden, lunchtime picnics outside, Sunday brunches and of course sitting down for a cuppa and indulging in a big slice of cake.
That last one is where this post comes in. If you’re anything like us, you’ll be going through the cakes faster than you ever have before. No sooner have we done our weekly shop, when we’re considering another biscuit run because they’ve all run out. I’m averaging about two bakes a week and the goods rarely last longer than a few days. Oatmeal cookies? Three tea breaks later and the stash is less a pile of biscuits and more a pile of crumbs. Chocolate olive oil cake? Demolished in only a few evenings worth of after dinner snacking. Easter chocolate treats? Feels like an absolute lifetime ago! Oh wait, don’t we still have some cookie dough in the freezer? Oh no, my mistake. We used that up yesterday and we’ve ALREADY eaten them all. You’ve got to laugh!
Anyway I decided it was time to go big. What we needed was a cake usually fit for serving the whole family at a gathering, but yet keep it all for ourselves like greedy isolated cake fiends.
Enter the three layer carrot cake.
Carrot cake is a classic and a favourite for a reason – it’s easy to do, always tastes delicious and can be adapted a number of ways. It’s also an ideal cake to opt for if you have a gluten allergy like me, as often GF flour can leave other sponges and cakes a little dry, but with the moist carrots and the amount of oil within, you’ll rarely find a dry carrot cake. As I’m also dairy intolerant, I was stumped for a while as to how to tackle the cream cheese icing, but have now got it spot on with a coconut cream cheese alternative and lots of icing sugar. If you prefer to avoid the dairy substitutes (I get you, some of them are pretty weird tasting) you can also make regular butter icing then add some lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and a splash of dairy free milk to give it that slightly bitter taste. I’m yet to try that version so let me know how it goes if you do.
The great thing about this carrot cake recipe is once you’ve got it perfected, you can use it for a variety of different styles. This version is for a large three layer showstopper cake – ideal for a party/celebration/gathering. But I’ve recently halved the quantities above which made the perfect sized carrot loaf cake. And for my daughter’s Peter Rabbit themed birthday party back in February, I used the same recipe but divided into cupcakes and topped with the same icing. So plenty of options here.
Let’s get baking!
What you’ll need (to divide between three cake tins, halve this recipe for a loaf cake or cupcakes)
450ml vegetable oil
400g plain flour (I used Dove’s GF plain flour but any will do – you could also do a mix of GF flour and almond meal)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
300g white sugar
250g soft brown sugar
5 large eggs (swap for chia or flax eggs to make vegan or use apple sauce)
1 tsp each of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger (or whatever you have, I used cloves once)
525g grated carrot
For the Cream Cheese icing
200g of dairy free cream cheese
100g of dairy free butter or margarine
150g icing sugar
Optional: walnuts or pecans to sprinkle on top
How it’s done
1. Add all of the ingredients other than the carrots to an electric mixer
2. Whizz up until combined
3. Remove the bowl and fold in the grated carrots (this should be a wet mixture still but add a little extra flour if you think it needs it)
4. Grease three small cake tins and pour the mix evenly into the tins
5. Bake at 180C for around 45 mins – an hour depending on your oven/size of the cake (one large cake may take longer, smaller layer cakes will take less time. A loaf cake should only take around 40 mins and cupcakes around 30 mins). When ready the cake should be golden brown and a skewer should come out clean but slightly sticky.
6. Beat together the icing sugar and butter until smooth then add in the cream cheese and mix until there are no lumps.
7. Leave to set in the fridge for a little while (you can do this while your cake is cooking) as the dairy free cream cheese tends to be softer and the icing can melt off the cake easily.
8. Remove cakes from the oven and leave to cool before layering your three cakes together with cream cheese icing in the middle.
9. Spread cream cheese al over the top and sides of the cake then decorate with chopped nuts. Keep in the fridge until ready to eat
It’s not always easy to find cakes that can be easily made gluten and dairy free AND where you don’t taste a huge difference but this is one of them. I asked my husband whether he would have known the cream cheese icing didn’t actually have cream cheese in it and he said no. Which is a big deal as he REALLY doesn’t like those fake cheese alternatives. And when I served these at Evie’s birthday no one was any the wiser, and were shocked to hear that they were free from anything after they’d been demolished.
As always I hope you enjoy this recipe and do let me know if you try it. I baked this for my baking club Insta and filmed a step by step of the recipe if you need it, so follow me over there too of you fancy more recipes and ideas!