Monday, 9 July 2012

Baking with Baby 5 - Carrot Cake

There have been a few occasions, recently, where a good carrot cake would not have gone amiss. By 'good' I mean one that fits my idea of what constitutes a carrot cake. There are variations you see. Although of course they must all use carrot, one recipe uses sultanas, another not, yet another uses nuts and so on... My absolutely ideal recipe would, of course, be dairy free. 

The last piece!
So, I've been on the look-out for the perfect carrot cake recipe. I was after one that could be shared with everyone, with no-one any the wiser that what they had just eaten was gluten and dairy free. My thoughts were that carrot cake is quite moist, and as I have to cook gluten free (for my benefit) the extra moisture provided by the carrots would prove an excellent antidote for the dryness for which gluten free flour is known (although I use Dove's flour and haven't noticed any problems).

I also thought that as Baby isn't very good at eating her greens, this might also be a good way of sneaking some extra fibre into her diet - this was the thinking behind my banana bread too. Unfortunately, however, my hopes were dashed - the day that a friendly dietitian laughed at my suggestion that a banana muffin might count towards my 'five-a-day'. Surely, however, all that carrot grating must count towards something and not just go to waste! 

Casting around for a recipe, I contemplated using the one I found on BBC Good Food, as it uses sunflower oil, and would thus be dairy free, but it contained sultanas. As I don't ever recall eating a carrot cake that contained sultanas (sorry if you happen to like them) I'm afraid I soon gave that one the old 'heave-ho'. However, if you need to avoid nuts, then it might be good for you.

I nearly used Pippa Kendrick's recipe, from her book 'The Intolerant Gourmet.' However, that recipe required egg replacer, which I don't have as I don't need (looks like a great recipe for those who can't have eggs, though). I did think about putting the eggs back in, but that was until I came across a recipe in a little book, by one of my baking heroines - Mary Berry.  She of the BBC's The Great British Bake-Off fame.

The book was a real find, as I picked it up for just a fiver in Tesco. Apart from the frosting, which was dairy based, Mary's recipe looked completely doable, simple and therefore, to my mind, perfect!! The recipe contained pretty much all of the ingredients that I imagined in my perfect cake - albeit with a couple of added bananas, that is! Funnily enough, it was the bananas that drew me to Mary's recipe... maybe it was because I imagined it might be more healthy!

In fact, I needn't have bothered buying the book - I've since found  the same recipe online here! It just goes to show that you often don't need to nip out and buy a special allergy cook book - you can often find suitable recipes online (or those that can be easily adapted), completely free! Now if I need a recipe I go straight to Google!!

Mary advised using a round 20 inch tin. I had one that I thought would do the trick, but really I wanted a 'tray bake' style of cake. So I plumped for a square tin (20 x 20 inches) obviously I would then have to adjust the cooking time slightly, but I went with it, and I think it worked just right!

Tin greased and lined, oven on I turned my attention to peeling and grating the carrots. I HATE grating carrot, or anything else, for that matter - it's that whole trying-to-avoid-skinning-yourself thing. On 'I can cook' (a cookery programme on CBeebies) the children use table-mounted graters - a bit like those electric pencil sharpeners that you sometimes see in schools. Basically, you turn a handle and all the grating is done for you without any skinned fingers! I thought that one of those might be ideal and would give Baby a chance to have a bit of fun as well. Unfortunately, I couldn't find them locally, but I found a hand held one, instead.

Don't bother buying one yourself, mine was rubbish! Baby was keen to give it a go, but she didn't get very far! I ended up doing most of it and it took far longer than grating by hand. The Hub was amused. He commented, 'You could have just used the food processor.' Which I knew - I just didn't want to get the food processor out and wash it all up - it's so fiddly. In the end, I think it would have been far less bother!

Anyway grating (eventually) done, I gave Baby a bowl with a couple of bananas and let her try to beat them into a mushy pulp. I had to finish that job too, but at least it kept her busy, whilst I got on with the rest. Really, it was just a case of chucking all the other ingredients in the bowl and giving them a good mix. I differed from Mary, in that I used demerara sugar, rather than muscovado (just because I didn't have muscavado). Also, I couldn't help adding in a little something of my own that she had left out - a teaspoon of ginger and another of cinnamon. 

I could have got the hand mixer out, at this stage, but the bowl I was using was suddenly looking a little bit on the small side. As Mary said you could use a wooden spoon instead, I grabbed a plastic spatula, and hey presto (with a bit of a stir from Baby along the way) it didn't take too long at all! 

Together, Baby and I scraped the mixture into the lined tin and I shoved it in the oven. Mary said that the cake would take 45 minutes, but allowing for the fact that my mixture was slightly shallower than hers would have been, I decided to set my trusty timer for 30 minutes and take it from there. In fact, I discovered 35 minutes was probably about right for us, but of course all ovens vary.

Then, it was just a case of leaving the cake to cool, whilst I decided what to do about the topping. Mary used Marscarpone cheese, but of course that would never do for us! 

At this point, I was going to opt for Pippa Kendrick's suggestion - a lemon fudge-style icing, but running out of time, I remembered the tub of ready made icing that I had in the cupboard for emergencies. Using ready-made icing? Some of you might ask. Yes, that's right, don't mistake me for a foodie - I write about living dairy free and that includes the short cuts that I've found. Life goes by so fast and we all need to use short cuts, from time to time, just to make life that little bit easier. 

The icing, in case you're wondering, is by Betty Crocker, it's completely dairy free and also comes in a chocolate flavour! You can find it in the baking aisle of most UK supermarkets, but watch out - it's usually sat next to its dairy-based counterpart and the packaging is almost identical!

To avoid mess and arguments, I quickly spread the icing over the cake and let Baby spread some icing on some 'off-cuts', from around the edge. Then I cut the cake up into sixteen squares (half and half again) which I decorated with walnut halves. Job done!

Verdict of those who've tasted it so far? Delicious! Phew!

If you're thinking that I've left out the quantities, you're right! It's because Mary's little book is new out, it's only a fiver... and I don't want to be sued for copy-write!

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  1. Well done looks lovely, carrot cake is my favourite, did you see my Vegan carrot cupcakes? They were awesome :)

    1. I have seen your cupcakes! They do look good! Have you settled on a frosting for them yet?