Monday 15 September 2008

Special Spiced Carrot Cake with Ginger Cream Cheese Icing

It was my Grandmothers birthday a few weeks ago and I had promised to bake her a cake. Like me, her favourite cake is carrot cake, however I have made her carrot cakes in the past and wanted to do something a bit different this year. I trawled through my many books looking for inspiration and although I found some delicious sounding cakes they didn’t seem to match up to the spicy fruity nuttiness of a carrot cake. I was getting quite frustrated and decided to go ahead and bake my usual carrot cake when I hit upon the idea of changing a few of the recipes supporting ingredients and baking a special spiced carrot cake.

I switched the walnuts for pistachios, the raisins with dried cranberries, added some ground ginger along with some finely chopped stem ginger for extra flavour. I also added the rind from an orange as I think orange works brilliantly with cranberry and ginger flavours. Feeling much more content I baked away and the cake seemed to be celebrating too as it rose so tall and proud that it was reaching up above the rim of the cake tin and filled my whole kitchen with a warm spicy aroma. After it had cooled, I sliced it in half and was pleased to see the cranberries and the pastel green pistachios scattered within. I filled and covered it with a generous layer of ginger cream cheese icing, scattered over a few chopped toasted hazelnuts and decorated it with some sugar flowers I made. (Thanks for the flower mould Gigi) I know blue flowers are not very realistic but I think they look pretty.

My grandma was thrilled with the cake and I loved how the alternative ingredients gave it a different flavour and appearance while still maintaining its carrot cake status. It was wonderfully moist and full of warming spicy flavour. I was particularly fond of the cranberry and stem ginger additions, which provided little nuggets of flavour hidden amongst the spicy crumbs.

Special Spiced Carrot Cake
For the cake
250ml vegetable oil
250g light soft brown sugar
3 eggs
300 - 350g (3-4) grated carrots
50g shelled pistachios
50g dried cranberries
1 orange – rind only
375g self raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
40g stem ginger in syrup

Grease and line the base of a 20cm 8inch springform cake tin. Preheat the oven 180C.
Place the oil, sugar and eggs into a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until thick and creamy.
Peel and roughly grate the carrots, chop the stem ginger into small pieces and finely grate the rind off the orange. Fold the pistachios, dried cranberries, stem ginger, orange rind and grated carrot into the cake batter.
Sift over the flour, mixed spice, cinnamon, ginger and bicarbonate of soda and fold into the mixture using a spatula, turning the bowl as you go until no flour streaks remain, but do not overwork. (The moisture from the carrots will help slacken the mixture).
Spread the batter evenly into the cake tin and bake for 45 minutes, then cover loosely with foil and bake for a further 30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Allow to cool for 15 minutes before un-moulding and cooling on a wire wrack. Once cool, cut the cake in half and fill and cover with the ginger cream cheese icing.

For the ginger cream cheese icing
60g butter
160g cream cheese
500g icing sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp ginger syrup from stem ginger jar
50g chopped toasted hazelnuts

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese together in a bowl until smooth.
Beat in the ginger and ginger syrup. Gradually sieve and beat in the icing sugar into the cream cheese in batches until it’s all combined.
Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up if a little soft, before using to fill and spread thickly over the cake.
Scatter the chopped nuts over the surface of the cake and in a rim around the bottom edge to conceal any drips of icing.
Will keep for up to 5 days if stored in the fridge.


jasmine said...

What a fabulous combination of flavours. I can imagine this in the dead of winter--will have to make this.

BTW--it's a beautiful cake--so lovely that you made it for her.


Johanna GGG said...

love your ideas and the cake looks wonderfully celebratory

just another suggestion - have you ever tried substituting parsnip for carrot - I had some parsnip cake recently and it was fantastic and quite similar to carrot cake

Chou said...

I adore ginger in my carrot cake. Cranberries--can't wait to try that!

Finla said...

WOw love the combo withginger.

Katie said...

Hi Johanna,
No I have never tired a parsnip cake but i can imagine it would work well as they are quite a sweet vegetable too. Thanks for the idea!

The Caked Crusader said...

This looks delicious and I love the idea of the ginger cream cheese icing. I'm printing this one off!

Deborah said...

What a great change up! I love carrot cake, and this sounds delicious!

Gigi said...

OOO, the cake turned out beautiful! I love how smooth your icing came out too! Great idea for cranberries, ginger and orange in a carrot cake.

Maria♥ said...

Wow what a beautiful cake and those flavours sound wonderful!


Beth (jamandcream) said...

No wonder your Grandmother was pleased. It looks fantastic. I always lke to add orange to carrot cakes. Liking the idea of cranberries too!

Vera said...

Katie, congratulations to your grandmother! And very best wishes!
The cake looks so lovely!

Sara said...

Your cake looks great - carrot cake is my husband's favorite, but I've never thought to put ginger in the frosting before.

Meg said...

I love carrot cake and this one sounds amazing. Great decorations!

Jacque said...

That sounds wonderful! and looks great... love those pistachios.

Anonymous said...

I love the flavours, the spiciness factor and the nuts. Gorgeous.

Abitofafoodie said...

Such a very pretty cake and I love the twist on an old classic. Your grandmother must have been delighted!

Anonymous said...

What a glorious birthday cake! I much prefer pistachios to walnuts, so it's great to hear that they work well in carrot cakes. And the ginger cream cheese frosting sounds dreamy...

Niki said...

Ooo, that looks lovely! I'm not even a giant fan of carrot cake but with your substitutions (cranberries? Mmm), it sounds yum!