If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
In general you can’t go wrong with carrot cake. In any café, when other cakes are looking a bit iffy, go for the carrot cake and you usually won’t be dissapointed. Usually that is. Last month we were browsing the Army Surplus store in a small town not far from us; they have a small 1940’s tea room which was utterly charming – home made cakes, my favourite period tea set and a table made from half a jeep! Sadly the carrot cake was soggy, heavy, underdone and kind of “meh” (of course, being British I didn’t like to say anything!) Mr Crumbs didn’t mind so much, but when your own carrot cake has been praised as “the best I’ve ever tasted” by more than one person it’s easy to be overly judgemental. I will go back, if only to admire the tea set, though next time I’ll be ordering something else!
There are plenty of recipes about, mostly simple, some stupidly fancy and complex, which is gilding the lily if you ask me. The beauty of carrot cake for me is it’s simplicity and wholesome taste, and it’s got vegetables in right? I’m sure they cancel out the sugar and fat!
My only grumble is being made with oil rather than butter, leftovers in the tin get soggier over time, if there are any leftovers…
So can carrot cake be improved on? Recently there were a few odds and ends left over from other recipies – namely sour cream and a few limes – it seemed like the right thing to do.
Tangy Sour Cream and Lime Carrot Cake
- 6oz (180g) brown sugar
- 3oz (90g) very soft butter
- 3oz (90g) sour cream
- 3 eggs
- 4oz (120g) chopped walnuts or pecans
- 8oz (240g) grated carrots
- 6oz (180g) wholemeal flour
- 2oz (60g) rolled oats
- 1 tsp each baking powder and bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- zest of 2 limes and juice of 1
- 1tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 180ºc (160 fan/ gas mark 4). Grease and line a deep springform or loose bottomed cake tin.
Chop the nuts into smallish pieces. Grate the carrots.
Beat together the sugar, butter and sour cream. Beat in the eggs. Stir in the nuts, carrot, lime zest and juice.
In a separate bowl sift together the flour, salt, ginger, baking powder and soda. Stir in the oats (I whizz them briefly in a food processor to break them down a little, but it’s not absoloutely necessary)
Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet ones. Pour into the cake tin and bake for around 40mins to 1hr. Halfway through the cooking time cover the top with a square of baking parchment. This stops the top from burning before the middle is done. The cake is done when it is well risen, golden brown and a skewer piked in the middle comes out clean.
Allow to cool in the tin for up to ten mins, them remove from the tin and finish cooling on a wire rack.
You can use traditional or cream cheese icing if you like. I went for this glaze:
- 3oz (90g) sifted icing sugar
- 1tbsp soft butter
- 1tbsp sour cream
- 1 tsp of lime juice
Blend all the ingredients together and spread over the cake while it’s still piping hot.
Carrots have been used since the middle ages to add sweetness when sugar is scarce or expensive. Carrot cake as we know it probably evolved from carrot pudding which was popular in Victorian times and during the war.
Limes are ripe when yellow and slightly wrinkled.