A very special birthday cake

Serving size: 8
Preparation time: 20 Minutes
Cooking time: 30 Minutes

For the cake:
175g dark brown soft sugar
2 large eggs
150ml sunflower oil
150g wholemeal self-raising flour
50g ground almonds
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
200g carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
Grated zest of 1 orange
110g sultanas
50g desiccated coconut
50g toasted pecan nuts, chopped

For the cinnamon icing:
250g tub mascarpone
250g tub of cream cheese
1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 juice of a lemon
1/2 juice of an orange
1 rounded tablespoon of golden caster sugar
50g chopped toasted pecan nuts

For the syrup glaze:
75g dark brown soft sugar
Juice of 1 small orange
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Featured in:
September 2020

This September I will turn 50. I realise that my youthful good looks, great hair and fabulous body (ahem) belie this fact but sadly, dear reader, it is true. Actually I don’t know why this fact should be sad? Yes age comes with its issues but if the last few months have taught us anything, it’s that we should all be genuinely grateful to be alive and try to live our lives to the full.

Many celebrated their birthdays during the recent lockdown and it’s actually been heart-warming to hear of all the stories of special occasions that have taken place; from drive-by cheering to international video calls. Okay, my plans for this year have changed – but I know for sure that I’ll be eating cake!

Cakes are a funny thing. Most people love them. I have my favourites (I much prefer a simple Victoria sponge to anything too fancy) and I know carrot cake can be quite divisive and not really traditional for a birthday cake but this is such a fancy version that it feels quite special. This is my favourite carrot cake. It’s totally and utterly borrowed from the incredible Delia Smith. It’s what she calls her Ultimate Carrot Cake and it really is that.

I’ve been making it in different forms over the years as it also works really well as muffins or even a loaf cake, but the classic two layered cake is perfect for a celebratory moment. I also love a cake that can be kept in the fridge. I think it tastes better if served cold and this carrot cake is perfect for that. It’s all the wonderful nutty ingredients that make it so perfect and the added coconut is, in my opinion, genius. I’ve mixed it up slightly by replacing some of the self-raising flour with ground almonds which I think make it even more joyous.

Pre-heat the oven to 170ºC and grease and line two cake tins. I’m using my favourite little tall sandwich tins which are 17cm but taller than average and make a cute cake but 2 x 20cm sponge tins will work perfectly.

Once the oven is up to speed, spread the pecans out on a tray and pop them into the oven for 8 minutes (absolutely no longer, you really don’t want burnt nuts !!)

Next, onto the cake – place the sugar, eggs and oil in a bowl and whisk them together for 2-3 minutes until the sugar has dissolved. (I’m using my stand mixer with the whisk attachment but an electric hand whisk and a large bowl would work just as well.)

Sift the flour, spice and bicarbonate of soda into the bowl – the little bits of bran left in the sieve can be tipped in at the end – and fold all this in gently. (I change the attachment to the cake batter paddle and put it to the lowest setting. Once this is evenly combined, add the rest of the cake ingredients and gently fold in.

Divide the mixture evenly between your two cake tins and level them off. Bake the cakes near the centre of the oven for 30 minutes until they are springy and firm in the centre.

Whilst the cakes are in the oven make the syrup glaze by simply whisking together the sugar and fruit juices. As soon as the cakes come out of the oven, stab them all over with a skewer and then spoon the syrup evenly over the hot cakes. After that they need to cool in their tins in order to soak up all of the syrup.

Make the icing by whisking the mascarpone, cream cheese, cinnamon, juice and sugar in a bowl till smooth and fluffy. Then cover the bowl and chill until needed.

As soon as the cakes are completely cold remove them from the tins. Place one of the cakes on a plate or cake stand, spread one-third of the icing all over, then place the other cake on top and finally cover the top and sides with the remaining mixture.

Eat and of course, enjoy!

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