Culinary carrot creation a piece of cake

So you want to bake a cake. Can�t say I blame you; there has to be a cooking challenge beyond the mastery of braaivleis.
Issue date 1 June 2007

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So you want to bake a cake. Can’t say I blame you; there has to be a cooking challenge beyond the mastery of braaivleis. Cakes, and you can quote me, are not for sissies. Baking is without a doubt the least predictable of cooking adventures resulting in many strong men breaking down in tears. Well, my sensitive and volatile friends, here’s a way out of the emotional maze: the carrot cake. This astounding American invention truly takes the cake, with its replacement of butter with sunflower oil plus the moist and puzzling addition of carrots. Spices take the taste into whole new zones of gustatory pleasure, while the simple icing is within the skills range of the newest of new cooks.

To bake a carrot cake of startling flavour and magical texture, you will need:

130g carrots
150g pecan nuts
0,5 teaspoon each of ground nutmeg and cloves
1,5 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
325ml sunflower oil
500g caster sugar
4 eggs
300g self-raising flour
0,25 teaspoon each of baking powder and sodium bicarbonate
pinch of salt

And for the icing …

150g icing sugar
125g unsalted butter
300g Philadelphia cream cheese

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Wash, grate and weigh the carrots. Sift together the flour, baking powder, sodium bicarb, salt and spices. Using the strategy of your choice, separate two of the eggs into yolks and whites.

Now for stage one of the quasi-industrial processing: into the bowl of an electric mixer, pour the sunflower oil and the caster sugar. A mixer is a central piece of equipment for the successful baker. My preference is a Kenwood Chef, whose powerful motor drives a mixing head via a planetary action – a feature it shares with the final drive of a Unimog, admittedly in a slightly different context.
Rev the Kenwood to the redline and mix the oil and sugar. Then slowly add the two whole eggs. Slowly is the big word here, as we are attempting to form an emulsion between the water-based eggs and oil already in the mix. When done, add the two already separated yolks. Mix until the colour and texture are uniform. Slow down the machine and mix in the grated carrots and the coarsely chopped pecan nuts. Lift the beater head out of the bowl and with a large spatula, carefully fold the sifted four into the mix. Folding is not the same as mixing: the idea is to lightly combine the flour with the wet mix rather than churn it up like concrete. At this point we hit a bit of ­theory. Some heavy-duty carrot cake ­bakers add a few tablespoons of hot water, others don’t. Being a bit of an ­authoritarian rule-follower when ­baking,

I ­religiously add the water yet remain unconvinced that it does anything ­useful.  Next, attack the egg whites with a hand beater in a ­separate bowl and whip them until stiff. Fold the beaten whites into the mixture, using a spatula as before. Grease the sides of two 23cm-springform cake tins plus the ­baking parchment used to line the bottoms of the tins. Pour equal amounts of the cake mix into the tins and bake them in a preheated oven at 180ºC for 40 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack at room temperature.

Mix the Philly, butter and icing sugar to form a thick paste. Using a broad-bladed knife, plaster the icing between both ­layers and over the top and sides. While this approach won’t win you any decorating prizes in the Home Industries section of the Royal Show, it looks good and tastes better. – David Basckin     |fw