I had not made a carrot cake in decades, but was asked by a former student if I would make a carrot cake for her wedding. As I made far much mixture, I made a batch of cupcakes with the excess. I then made a loaf-sized carrot cake.
This recipe itself is a variation on a recipe inspired by Michael Caines. It gives a sublime cake that is light, moist and with subtle cinnamon undertones.
Among the variations I made, I changed the type of sugar and used a little walnut oil. I went for a different topping because I wanted the swirls on the icing to hold their shape fully.
Gluten-free or not?
Although I used gluten-free bread flour, normal plain flour can be used instead, although there is no discernible difference to the taste and the texture with whichever you use.
A rich, silky topping
The topping is based on the standard cream cheese and icing sugar mixture, but I add melted white chocolate. It is the white chocolate that helps it keep its shape (particularly important if piping the icing on the cupcakes to retain the definition), but the chocolate also adds an extra lusciousness.
For the loaf version, I also sprinkled over a mixture of grated dark chocolate and crushed, toasted walnuts: this hint of bitterness works well with the richness of the topping and complements the walnuts within the cake.
Carrot cake with white chocolate & cream cheese icing: makes 1 large loaf
- 150ml vegetable oil
- 30ml walnut oil
- 160g gluten-free bread flour
- 3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 150g light soft brown sugar
- 70g dark brown sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- generous pinch salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 200g carrot, grated
- 70g walnuts, chopped into small pieces
- 250g full-fat cream cheese
- 100g unsalted butter, softened
- 100g icing sugar
- 100g best quality white chocolate, melted and cooled
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
To finish (optional):
- a few walnuts, toasted and finely crushed
- a few small chunks of dark chocolate, finely chopped or grated
(1) Preheat the oven to 160C (fan). Line a large (2lb) loaf tin with greaseproof or pop a large paper loaf liner inside.
(2) Mix together all of the cake ingredients, except for the carrots and walnuts, in a large bowl until well combined. Don’t over-beat: you want a thick batter. Stir in the carrots and walnuts.
(3) Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Bake larger if using a larger tin. Remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing the cake from the tin to cool completely.
(4) For the icing, beat the cream cheese, butter and the vanilla extract together until smooth. Beat in the cooled melted chocolate and mix in the icing sugar until well combined, taking care not to overbeat which can make the mixture slacker. Chill until needed.
(5) Spread or pipe the icing over the cooled cake. Mix the crushed walnuts with the dark chocolate and sprinkle over the top.