Carrot Cake with Apricots and Pecans
Carrot cake is an all American classic and a signature of Autumn, with its orange and brown colours reflecting the changes in the trees. We had it as our wedding cake two Septembers ago we love it so much, so I suppose I get a hankering for it this time of year in part out of reminiscing… Here is a photo of that gorgeous wedding cake, made by Sugar Rush Bakery in West Seattle, sadly now closed. It was so delicious!
There are hundreds of wonderful recipes out there filled with raisins and walnuts but I prefer to make mine with apricots and pecans. My recipe doesn’t make as big as the one above but it is just as delicious. Sweet but not sickly and good enough to eat for breakfast. Come on, it’s got veg in it!
Oh, and just a little hint – if you want it to be really moist make the cake the day before, cool it and wrap it in cling film and leave it out, then frost it the next day. If you have time, it’s worth the wait. Doing this allows the flavours and the moisture to develop.
This cake also freezes wonderfully if well wrapped so you can make it far in advance. Just leave it wrapped and out on the counter for at least 12 hours to defrost fully before use and frost it on the day.
Top it with a generous amount of cream cheese frosting and eat it within three days for best results (as if it will last that long!). Refrigerate it if it is at all hot out and you aren’t eating it within the day of making. The frosting will keep up better this way anyway.
You will need a grater, stand mixer or beaters, at least three small mixing bowls, a large mixing bowl, a 28cm spring form cake tin, parchment paper, a spatula and a flexible pallet knife.
250g light soft brown sugar
175g sunflower oil
300g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
400g grated carrots
100g finely chopped apricots
200g finely chopped pecans
4 TBS apricot jam
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
300g Philidelphia cream cheese (I suggest using the brand name because it usually has the perfect texture and less water.
250g unsalted butter (softened)
800 – 900g icing sugar
Preheat oven to 180c / 350f
Lightly oil spring-form pan and line with a round of baking parchment.
Grate carrots using the coarse setting (too fine and you’ll loose them). I use the grater on my Magimix… so fast! Finely chop pecans and apricots and put into the bowl with the carrots.Then weigh out and sift dry ingredients into a bowl (don’t include sugar), measure sugar directly into large mixing bowl.
Using the whisk on a stand mixer or using electric beaters, crack and whisk eggs into sugar until light and creamy looking. Then drizzle in oil while whisking. Replace whisk attachment with paddle if using a stand mixer.
Add in dry ingredients and beat in slowly, then quickly to fully incorporate for about a minute. Move a little faster now as you’ve activated the raising agent, so you need to get it in the oven quickly as possible to ensure a good rise.
Thoroughly mix through carrots, apricots and pecans with paddle attachment in a stand mixer or by hand using a spatula if you only have electric beaters, so that they are evenly distributed throughout the mix.
Pour into prepared spring-form cake tin and put in the oven immediately.
This cake usually takes 55 minutes to bake in a non-fan oven, 45 in a fan oven, but do check after 30 as all ovens are different. It should be quite dark but not burned obviously. Insert a skewer into the centre and if it comes out clean it’s done. I would advise doing this in a couple spots though to make sure. In the past I have had one experience where I thought the cake was done, but then on turning it out the middle bottom was not cooked. Result was a concave cake bottom filled with frosting… not bad really!
Once the cake is fully baked, remove it from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes in the tin, then remove onto a cooling rack to completely cool down. I like to glaze mine with a little apricot jam. Slowly heat to melt it and brush it over the cake with a basting or pastry brush, but this is an optional step. It does keep the cake even more moist and makes for an easier application of frosting. If you are making the cake the day before, glaze it on the day you will frost it. Otherwise you’ll lose a layer of cake when you unwrap it.
Do not under any circumstances try to ice this cake before it’s cooled, you’ll end up with a sticky, rather disgusting looking mess….
The frosting is incredibly easy if you have the right equipment. The key to making good cream cheese frosting is not to over mix it once you have added the cream cheese. If you do over mix at this point, the water will separate from the proteins in the cream cheese and you will end up with a runny mess.
I cream together all the ingredients in a stand mixer at once until the frosting is uniform and smooth. Some recipes will say to cream together the butter and sugar first, easier if you don’t have a stand mixer, then add the cream cheese, but I find the all-in option way easier and more fail safe.
If your frosting is a little less stiff than you want it, sift over a bit more icing sugar and mix in with a spoon until incorporated. This is safer than beating it in as you’ll be less likely to turn it to mess.
Put the cake on a disposable cake base or on the cake plate you plan to use. Create a first layer shell by thinly spreading some frosting over the entire cake. Think of it as a base coat of paint. Refrigerate it for 15 minutes to set it. Once it’s a little hardened you can carry on without worrying about crumbs getting into your pristine white frosting.
Proceed by frosting the sides of the cake first by putting a generous amount at the top of the sides and, using your palette knife at an angle, spreading it around to create a rustic pattern.
Next dollop loads into the middle and spread it using the flat of your palette knife, waving it side to side until you have covered the top of the cake. Then make swirls by using the flat of the tip of your palette knife, moving side to side in waves as you make an a-semetric pattern. Push the frosting up and lift it off the cake to create peaks where you want them. I think carrot cake should be rustic in style, so play around until you get the desired effect.
Wipe away any stray bits of icing to clean it up and admire your work before taking the first slice. It’s hard to wait though…
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