November 16, 2014


carrot and orange cake 

My sister in law recently asked me to recommend a recipe for a carrot cake, saying she found many of them too moist and oily.  I had to confess that I had never, ever made a carrot cake.  I have made cakes from parsnips, courgettes, beetroot, pumpkin and butternut squash, all of which were delicious.  But never carrots.

Anyway, a request came along for cakes for the Children in Need cake stall at work (although I retired eighteen months ago) and I had all the ingredients in stock, so the excuse was there to have a go at my very first carrot cake.

carrot and orange cake2 

I chose a recipe in Mary Berry’s Baking Bible, because it only has carrot and orange flavours, no bananas, sultanas or anything else to detract from the main ingredients, apart from a little mixed spice.  Also, bearing in mind what my sister in law said, it’s made with butter, not oil.

carrot and orange cake3

There was no picture of the cake in the recipe book so I had to use my imagination a bit when decorating the cake.  The idea is that you bake the cake until it’s fairly firm, remove it from the oven and then lay orange slices on top, brush it with runny honey and put it back in the oven for another fifteen minutes or so, until it’s completely done.

I was half pleased, half disappointed with the finished cake.  It was rising beautifully when I took it out of the oven to add the orange slices and honey, but then ended up much shallower with a distinctly dense layer of cake at the bottom.  All presumably because of the removing from the oven.  The flavour was delicious and it was lovely and moist without seeming at all oily.  The orange flavour was subtle and we could also taste the honey.

I shall certainly make it again but next time I won’t bother adding the orange slices as I don’t think they improved the cake at all, will leave it to cook properly in the oven and maybe drizzle some runny honey over it as it cools, as you would with a lemon drizzle cake.  I might even try one with a cream cheese style of frosting, as in so many carrot cake recipes.

Incidentally, I spotted an error in Mary Berry’s recipe, a rare thing I think.  She lists 175g carrots in the ingredients but when it comes to the method they are simply added with the other ingredients – nowhere does it say that you should grate them!  But everyone would know that……….wouldn’t they?

carrot and orange cake4 We only made two cakes for the cake stall this year, my carrot cake and Nick’s usual coffee and walnut cake from the Hairy Bikers recipe.  He has tried several recipes, including Nigella’s but we both think this one is the best.  I wrote about it some time ago here.

So this year I only provided two cakes for the cake stall instead of my previous seven or eight, but every little helps after all.

Carrot and orange cake ingredients

1 orange

150g softened butter (I used Lurpak spreadable)

150g light muscovado sugar

175g carrots, peeled and grated

2 large eggs, beaten

200g self-raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp mixed spice

1 tblsp milk (if needed to give a dropping consistency)

For the topping

2 tblsp runny honey


Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Grease a 2lb loaf tin and line the base with baking paper, or use a liner.

Finely grate the orange rind and add to all the other cake ingredients in a large bowl.  Beat well until thoroughly blended, and transfer to the prepared tin. 

Bake for about an hour until just firm. 

While the cake is baking, prepare the orange slices by removing all the pith from the orange with a sharp knife and then slicing thinly.  Remove the just firm cake from the oven, arrange the orange slices on the top and brush with the runny honey.  Return to the oven for about 15 more minutes until done.

Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out, remove the baking paper or liner and cool on a rack.

Cuts into 8-10 thick slices.

November 11, 2014


chocolate, plum and hazelnut cake 

For the October Loire Valley CCC meeting Nick chose this recipe from the BBC Good Food website.  The theme of the meeting was “a taste of autumn” and nuts are very much in abundance in the Loire this autumn as there has been a particularly good nut harvest.  

Strictly speaking the plum season is long gone but French plums were still available in the shops so that was ok.  It was the combination of flavours that intrigued us both – plums with nuts was not too far fetched - but chocolate?

chocolate, plum and hazelnut cake2

The cake was easy to make and Nick did a great job of making it look very glamorous.  There were chopped plums in the cake and plum halves were arranged on the top then just pushed lightly into the batter.  He decided to omit the whole hazelnuts that he was supposed to scatter on the top, and I think this was a good idea.  The cake took nearly 25 minutes longer than stated to cook, by which time those hazelnuts could have been pretty crozzled, making the cake look rather untidy perhaps.  He finished it off with a redcurrant glaze which added to its beauty!

As it turned out the flavour combination worked really well.  It was delicious, the flavour of the hazelnuts and the plums coming through with a nice hit of chocolate in each mouthful.  A stunning cake that looks much more difficult to make than it really is and we shall definitely be making it again.


This month’s Alphabakes Challenge, run by Ros of The more than occasional baker and Caroline of Caroline Makes is conveniently themed on the letter H this month so Nick’s cake fits in perfectly with that.  You can see the details here.

The selection of cakes at the October meeting was absolutely stunning.  When I started the club I had no idea whether or not there would be enough interest but I have to say that it has been a tremendous success.  If you want to read more about it follow this link.  Loire Valley CCC.


17g butter

175g light muscovado sugar

175g self raising flour

175g ground hazelnuts

3 eggs

1 tsp baking powder

50g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)

2  tsp redcurrant jelly


Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Butter and line the base of a 20cm deep cake tin.

Set aside four plums for the top of the cake, halve and stone the rest and chop roughly.  Chop the chocolate.  Neither should be chopped too small.

Beat together the butter, sugar, flour, nuts, eggs and baking powder in a large bowl or food mixer until smooth and light.  Stir in the plums and chocolate.

Transfer the mixture to the cake tin and level the top.  Halve and stone the reserved plums and arrange on the top.  Push them down lightly into the batter.

Bake for 40-50 minutes until browned and firm to the touch.  (Our cake took 65 minutes until it no longer wobbled in the middle.)

Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

When cool, warm the redcurrant jelly in a small pan until runny and brush over the top of the cake.

Cuts into 10-12 slices.