I will admit it – I used to hate carrot cake. The idea of a vegetable in a cake, an orange vegetable at that, was just crazy. But, now I can literally eat my own words. I’ve had at least three different types of really good carrot cake recently, but the best so far has been a recipe my mum made from the River Cottage Veg Patch handbook.
Now, she adjusted the recipe a bit. She added more dried fruit, salted butter instead of oil and any extra salt, instead of apple sauce she grated a whole apple and a pear (in a food processor) because our trees have been so generous this year, she ground the walnuts up (because that’s our trick ingredient to a good homemade cake) and she made the mistake of adding the syrup that is meant to go over the top at the end into the actual cake, but it was so much better. It wasn’t sickly sweet or sticky then, it made the cake instead moister and more delicious.
It is a darling of a recipe and very good for you too!
River Cottage Carrot Walnut Cake
– 150g sultanas, raisins, currants -220g self-raising flour -1 tsp baking powder -1 tsp ground cinnamon -1 tsp ground ginger -Pinch of ground cloves -220g light brown sugar, plus an extra 3 tbsp for the syrup -116g salted butter -Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange -2 eggs, lightly beaten -225g apple and pear, coarsely grated -270g carrots, peeled and coarsely grated -80g walnuts, ground -1 tbsp lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 170°C. Line a 20–22cm square cake tin, about 8cm deep, with baking paper.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and ground cloves.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the 220g sugar, butter and orange zest until well combined, then whisk in the eggs until the mixture is creamy. Fold in the apple and pear, followed by the flour mixture until just combined. Next fold in the grated carrots and ground walnuts.
- While the cake is in the oven, make the syrup. Put the orange juice into a small saucepan with the 3 tbsp light muscovado sugar and 1 tbsp lemon juice. Warm over a low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Fold into the cake with the sultanas.
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake for about 1 1/4 hours, until a fine skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. If the cake appears to be overbrowning before it is done, cover the top loosely with foil.
- Stand the cake tin on a wire rack and leave to cool. Serve hot or cold. Store in an air-tight tin.
Beautiful apples and pears from our garden.
Incase you have lots of apples, try this cake recipe Apples Apple and Almond Cake with Cinnamon. It is delicious. I’ve made some adjustments though: bake at 160C for about 2 hours or more, checking if it is cooked by inserting a skewer into the centre. This prevents the top from burning but gives you a lovely moist yet cooked sponge.
This is another recipe from my River Cottage veg cookery course. For anyone who ever has any gluts of courgettes, this is a simple and delicious cake to try. You cannot tell that there is any vegetable in there at all!
Courgette and Sultana Cake
– 2 large eggs, separated -100g demerara sugar – 100g finely grated raw courgette (1 small-medium sized) – Finely grated zest of 1 lemon – 50g sultanas – 50g ground almonds – 100g self-raising flour – 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 170°C. Lightly grease a loaf tin, about 20 x 10cm, and line with baking parchment.
- In a large, clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks using an electric whisk.
- Using an electric whisk again, beat the sugar and egg yolks together for 2–3 minutes in a separate bowl until pale and creamy. Lightly stir in the grated courgette, lemon zest, sultanas and ground almonds. Add the flour and the cinnamon over the mixture and then fold them in, using a large metal spoon.
- Stir a heaped tablespoonful of the egg white into the cake mixture to loosen it a little, then fold in the rest as lightly as you can.
- Tip the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and gently level the surface. Bake for about 1/2 hour, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
- Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.
- Store in an airtight container for three days.
Raspberry Curd Cake
All of our raspberries are harvested and frozen for this summer’s season. I am using them to make lots of jam, but not only am I trying to make room in the freezer again for the runner beans (oh dear) but I am trying to use up the eggs of our many chickens and ducks that are laying non-stop.
My mum showed me this great idea – raspberry curd.
I thought of an equally good idea – raspberry curd cake.
I’ve already been making my lemon curd cake for a few years now, so why not try raspberry curd instead? Uses up raspberry and eggs, perfect!
Well, the curd was a little runny and when I created my cake mix, it looked bubblegum pink. This kind of frightened me a bit. It looked alright once cooked. When I cut a slice, it was very pink. I carefully tried a bit, with extra curd as a sauce, and wow, I actually thought it was alright! To me, it was better than the lemon curd cake, despite being pink!
If anyones curious to try it, the recipe is below. Have fun!
– 4 egg yolks – 250g sugar – 200g butter – Zest and juice of 2 small lemons – 210g raspberries
- In a pan, whisk together the yolks and sugar until combined.
- Mix in the butter and lemons. Over a low flame, whisk the mixture, as if you are making custard, until it has thickened. This may take some time.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the raspberries so that they breakdown and the mixture becomes pink coloured.
- Leave it to cool completely before using it in the cake (below), spreading it on bread, or storing it in preserved jars in the fridge for up to a month.
Raspberry Curd Cake
– 75g butter – 150g sugar – 2 eggs – 150g self-raising flour – 1 tsp baking powder – 4 tbsp raspberry curd
- Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a 1kg loaf tin with baking paper.
- Beat the butter and the sugar together in a bowl until creamy.
- Mix in the eggs, followed by the flour and baking powder.
- Finally, mix in the curd until thoroughly combined.
- Scrape the contents of the bowl into the prepared tin. Bake in the oven for 1 hour. Test to see in the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer into the centre. If it comes out clean, it is done.
- Leave the cake to cool in the tin before transferring it to a wire rack.
- Serve the cake in slices with more of the curd spread on top. Store in an airtight container for three days.
It is Mother’s Day tomorrow and even though I am not at home right now and unable to make one of the greatest people in my life a special cake, give her a hug and a bouquet of primroses from the garden and I can’t spend the day with her, I offer you the link to my baking blog to inspire everyone to roll up their sleeves and get baking for the perfect, homemade gift for their mum. Top the baked item with edible primroses from the garden, the perfect spring celebration!
Flowers for the buzzy bees – link to edible flowers post for future cake decorating ideas
I thought that it was important to post about the delights of the Seville Orange even though they will never appear in our kitchen garden – English weather will never be that kind, I am afraid, even if Global Warming went into full swing.
Imported from the warmer climates, Seville oranges have a VERY brief stint in the supermarkets in the UK. They appear in January but are often cleared from the shelves by February.
I’m not at all a marmalade fan myself but my parents are and it is very important to buy as many Sevilles possible and to make billions of jars of homemade marmalade to last them the year. So far I’ve managed to purchase 3kg… that will probably get them through to March, if I’m lucky!
Anyway, last year was my first attempt at making marmalade and I am pleased to say that it went pretty well and the homemade stuff lasted until around Christmas time.
Here is a recipe if anyone fancies making some. You can substitute the Seville oranges with normal oranges or lemons and grapefruits.
What is so special about Seville oranges? They are the most flavoursome and strong tasting and ultimately make marmalade taste better for those that like it. They have a overwhelming citrusy smell and are quite bitter tasting and ideal for cooking. They don’t keep long so if you are lucky to get some, don’t leave them hanging around too long (easier said than done, it does take effort, time and initial courage to start the process of jam-jelly-marmalade making).
Here is a good starting recipe. It is the ‘whole fruit’ method I tried and tested last year. Enjoy!
Seville Orange Marmalade
(Makes 5 x 450g jars )
- 1kg Seville oranges
- 2.5 litres of water
- 75ml lemon juice
- 2kg granulated sugar
- Scrub the fruit, remove buttons at the top and put the fruits whole into a large pan filled with 2.5 litres of water. Bring to the boil and then leave to simmer, covered, for 2-2 1/2 hours, or until the orange skins are tender and can be pierced easily with a fork. (I often do this in the evening, turn of the hob and leave the oranges overnight before continuing onto the next step the following evening).
- Once cool enough to handle, take the oranges out of the pan and measure the water left over – you should have about 1.7 litres. Make it up tot his amount with more water if you have less or bring it to the boil to reduce it if you have more.
- Cut the oranges in half or quarters and remove the pips with a fork, flicking them into a bowl. Drain the juice from the pip bowl and put in the pan with the other liquid.
- Put the orange segments into a food processor and blend. Scrape into the pan of liquid and stir in.
- Add the lemon juice and the sugar, turning on the heat to dissolve. Stir in. Bring to a rapid boil (takes a while) and boil for at least 10-15 minutes. Perform the pectin test (add a splurge of liquid onto a cold plate and put it in the freezer for a couple of minutes. When it wrinkles when a finger is pushed through the middle, it is done). Keep boiling until it is ready then turn off the heat and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes, half an hour to 1 hour is even better.
- Ladle into sterilised jars and seal. Store in a cool, dry place.