Sweet, moist and lightly spiced, carrot cake is a baking favourite that's great to master. Baked in 3 layers and iced with a rich, cream cheese icing, this step-by-step recipe turns a classic carrot cake into a showstopper. Don’t forget to screengrab the handy ingredients list at the bottom before you go shopping.
Preheat the oven to gas 5, 190°C, fan 170°C. Grease and line 3 x 23cm sandwich cake tins (if you only have 1-2 tins, you can cook the cakes in batches). Mix together 550g plain flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda, 2 tsp ground cinnamon, ½ tsp nutmeg (freshly grated or ground) and ½ tsp salt in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, add 400g golden caster sugar, 250g light-brown sugar and 6 large eggs, then whisk together to combine. Gradually pour in 500ml sunflower oil, whisking until fully combined. Stir in 500g carrots, peeled and grated and 50g chopped nuts (such as pistachios, walnuts or pecans). Add to the flour mixture in 3 stages, folding gently with a large spoon until the mixture is just combined.
Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared tins and bake for 35-40 mins until golden, well risen and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 mins in the tins before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. If cooking in batches, cook the first cakes then wash and dry the tins and repeat for the 3 layers.
Beat together 250g softened unsalted butter and 500g full-fat soft cheese (drain off any excess liquid from the cheese first) in a large bowl until smooth. Add 175g icing sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract then beat again until light and fluffy. For best results use the cheese straight from the fridge – if the icing seems too runny, chill in the fridge for 30 mins to firm up.
Once fully cooled, trim any domed tops from the cakes to create 3 even layers. Put one cake on a serving plate and spread over a thick layer of the icing. Top with the second cake and another layer of icing, then finish with the last cake.
Spread the remaining icing over the top of the cake and down the sides, using a palette knife to smooth over in an even layer. To create a slightly 'naked' effect, scrape the palette knife around the sides of the cake to remove some of the icing so that you can see the cake coming through a thin layer of icing.
Sprinkle the top of the cake with another 50g chopped nuts (pistachios, walnuts or pecans). Slice to serve, or store in the fridge for up to 3 days.
You can vary the flavours with this recipe. For a bit of extra fragrant spice, grind the seeds from 1 tbsp cardamom pods and add to the cake with the cinnamon and nutmeg. For extra texture, stir in 50g desiccated coconut or 50g sultanas along with the carrots and nuts. For a zesty finish, mix the finely grated zest of 1 orange into the icing, or scatter over the top with the chopped nuts to decorate.
We've made a handy shopping list so you can get everything you need to make this impressive carrot cake. Don't forget to screenshot before you go shopping!
For the cake 550g plain flour 2 tsp baking powder 1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda 2 tsp ground cinnamon ½ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated or ground 1 tsp salt 400g golden caster sugar 250g light brown sugar 6 large eggs 500ml sunflower oil 500g carrots, peeled and grated 100g nuts (such as pistachios, pecans or walnuts), chopped
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