During Bake Off I decided I was struggling under what I ended up calling ‘the curse of cake’ as each time I was asked to make one something went wrong.
In some ways this was no surprise as, strange though it may sound, I really hadn’t got much experience at making cake before putting in my application form. A bit of a glaring hole in my baking knowledge maybe?! However, my son George has no interest in cakes so otherwise I would just make birthday cakes for my wife and daughter.
Week 1 in the tent was cake week and consequently I got off to a bad start when Paul Hollywood said eating my Madeira cake was like chewing on wallpaper paste! Luckily I redeemed myself with a passable Back Forest Gateau in the Showstopper challenge but I remember looking around the tent with all the other gateaux on the end of the benches and thinking that I was doomed and was sure to go home very soon.
As each week went by I realised that if I did make it to the finals then inevitably I was going to have to make cake and sure enough we did. There had to be 3 British cakes which weren’t tiered. Since I was no good at twiddly decorations I decided the way to wow the judges was to go for size and style rather than finesse thus the idea of the Colossal Curvy Carrot Cake was born. It was 5 cakes ranging from 4.5 to 9 inches with each cake being made up of 2 sponges, thus 10 sponges in all – a lot of cake! What with the quantities involved and some of the ingredients it took quite a while to prep everything and thus I knew I had to not worry too much about being late with putting my cakes in the oven.
One of the key ingredients in the cake is orange oil. I use the oil made by an American company called Boyajian and I think it is utterly wonderful. I used their lemon oil the week before as part of my chocolate centrepiece Showstopper and I credit with saving me as I was seriously close to being sent home that week. In the US I believe you can buy in some shops but here in the UK I have to buy it online either through amazon or through Kings Fine Foods. I cannot recommend their oils highly enough and if you don’t want just the orange oil they do a very handy citrus starter pack.
Back in my old kitchen I started churning out the carrot cakes. Here my daughter Zoe gives it a thumbs up whilst my cake-hating son George gives it his customary thumbs down. One of the cakes my wife took into work at her hospital. After trying it one of the ward staff loved it so much “he should go and be on that baking show”!
Below is a paired down version of the original recipe. For some reason the BBC simplified my version of it and thus I think some of the crucial flavours were lost. Sure it does a while to prep everything but I think it is well worth the effort. I think Paul called it something like one of the best carrot cakes he had ever eaten but if you make it please let me know what you think. I still love it despite having eaten soooo much of it since the final!
For 2 x 9 inch tins
- 200g unsalted butter
- 280g light brown muscovado sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 320g self raising white flour
- 2 tsp bicarb
- 4 tsp cinnamon
- Large pinch of salt
- Grated nutmeg
- 1.5tsp ground star anise
- 2tsp ground ginger
- 1tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp orange oil (Made by Boyajian)
- 160g sultanas
- 320g grated carrots
- 170g pecans
- 2 oranges
Icing: (for uniced sides of cake)
- 150g unsalted butter
- 150g icing sugar
- 250g Cream cheese
- 1tsp vanilla paste
- 1tsp orange oil (Made by Boyajian)
Icing – for iced sides
- 225g unsalted butter
- 225g icing sugar
- 375g Cream cheese
- 1.5tsp vanilla paste
- 1.5tsp orange oil (Made by Boyajian)
- Put pecans in oven at 160C and roast for 15 – 20 minutes or until just colouring. Once removed heat oven to 180C.
- Melt butter and then whisk for a couple of minutes with light brown Muscovado sugar and 4 large eggs and tsp orange oil.
- Grind cloves in pestle and mortar or in spice / coffee grinder.
- Grind star anise seeds in pestle and mortar or in spice / coffee grinder.
- Sieve together self raising flour with bicarb, cinnamon, ground anise, ginger, ground and sieved cloves, grated nutmeg and salt.
- Peel and finely grate carrots.
- Chop oranges into small pieces and squeeze out most of the juice. (Drink / discard the juice!)
- Break pecans into smallish pieces.
- Carefully fold in flour mix into butter mix. Fold in carrots, oranges sultanas and pecans. Split mixture between the tins and bake for about 25 minutes.
- Once baked take out tins and cool on rack.
- For the icing beat the butter and icing sugar for a couple of minutes until pale and fluffy.
- Add the orange oil and vanilla paste.
- Turn down mixer speed and slowly add the cream cheese.