Carrot Cake

January 14, 2019 Ian Cumming Uncategorized 9 comments

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.

First rough sketch in my diary of the carrot cake.

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.

Thumbs up from Zoe and the usual thumbs down from George.

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!




Carrot cake


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)



  1. Put pecans in oven at 160C and roast for 15 – 20 minutes or until just colouring. Once removed heat oven to 180C.
  2. Melt butter and then whisk for a couple of minutes with light brown Muscovado sugar and 4 large eggs and tsp orange oil.
  3. Grind cloves in pestle and mortar or in spice / coffee grinder.
  4. Grind star anise seeds in pestle and mortar or in spice / coffee grinder.
  5. Sieve together self raising flour with bicarb, cinnamon, ground anise, ginger, ground and sieved cloves,  grated nutmeg and salt.
  6. Peel and finely grate carrots. 
  7. Chop oranges into small pieces and squeeze out most of the juice. (Drink / discard the juice!)
  8. Break pecans into smallish pieces.
  9. 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.
  10. Once baked take out tins and cool on rack.
  11. For the icing beat the butter and icing sugar for a couple of minutes until pale and fluffy.
  12. Add the orange oil and vanilla paste.
  13. Turn down mixer speed and slowly add the cream cheese.


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  1. Sheetal Bhagnari
    April 23, 2019

    Thank you for sharing this Ian! So excited to try it out!

  2. Julie
    April 30, 2019

    Thanks for sharing this recipe, I nailed our charity bake off with it, woo hoo!

  3. Susan Mcdonald
    August 10, 2019

    Thanks for giving the complete recipe. I recently rewatched the final baking episode and noticed that the recipe I had tried from BBC didn’t have the orange pieces, or star anise included. Can’t wait to give it another try.

  4. Janice Paich
    September 09, 2019

    The carrot cake looked so good excited to make it. Thank you for sharing with us. USA

  5. Stephen Rugh
    October 14, 2019

    Just baked this for the wife! First time baking, ever. Happy wife, happy life 🙂 Thanks for the great recipe!

  6. teri
    October 18, 2019

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. I made it this week and it was delicious. I was so impressed when Paul said he like it, I had to try it! It’s nice and chunky and not too sweet. and I love the orange. I haven’t tried the Boyajian yet but I was lucky to have some professional orange flavoring from a food science class.

  7. Patricia Caldwell
    November 07, 2019

    Dear Ian, I came here looking for your carrot cake recipe. I was startled to find that you use orange oil, the very same ingredient I use in baking. Umm … orange cookies! I walk down the street to Sur La Table for my citrus oils. Does that sound like bragging? Sorry! I’m really not an ugly American, and I apologize for having an idiot sitting in the White House.

    I haven’t tried your recipes, but couldn’t resist writing you a note of appreciation for posting the recipes, especially for the sourdough bread. I used to bake bread every morning after a pre-dawn walk to watch the sun rise over the Atlantic off the coast of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. That was ages ago before I had my three sons. One of those boys, now a just-turned 36 years old, wants me to return to my bread baking, and he says it must be sourdough. I’ll get my starter from a baker at my local farmers market. Since I’m writing this in November, Thanksgiving is heavy on my mind, and then Christmas will be a big challenge with a tree and a grandson who is 2.5 years old. There’s never enough time to get everything done; it’s a marathon. I may not get around to a daily ritual of bread making until January, but I will use your method because it makes sense.

    I enjoyed watching your season of the Bake Off. In fact, I’ve binged it twice on Netflix. You ability to MacGyver those baking tins and displays was amazing. I learned so much from all of you! Kudos go to you for your life experiences with photography and for balancing your family life with baking. I’ll report in and/or give a yell for advice when the bread adventures begin in my kitchen.
    – Patricia

  8. Martin
    January 01, 2020

    I tried this today and it was much enjoyed at a New Years party. Circumstances required me to use a lower quality orange extract but it was still the best carrot cake I’ve ever had.

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! I took a look at the BBC posted version to figure out the quantity of nutmeg (1/2 tsp) but otherwise stuck to this version as closely as I could. I also made it in three 8” layers because 8” pans are all I have.

  9. Zach Mattingly
    January 26, 2020

    Taste good

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