When you are reading through this food blog – or any other – don’t be fooled into thinking that we’ve got it all sorted in the kitchen. Behind those gorgeously styled photo’s (well, gorgeously styled on other’s blogs, mostly thrown together on mine) are hours of chopping, slopping, slicing, mixing, spilling, cooking, arranging, cleaning up – and the occasional failure. Such was the case for me (yet again) on the weekend.
While trawling the interwebz (instead of doing the washing/ironing/housework) I happened upon an inspiringly lovely image and recipe for carrot jam. I’ve seen this in Middle Eastern grocery stores and often wondered about the flavours it might hold, but never taken the plunge. Having been away from the kitchen for a week my cooking mojo was sparking and I had already made a batch of plum jam. Not wanting to waste the elderly and now slightly bendy carrots in the optimistically named crisper, and with some clean jars still lying around, I was pretty sure this jam was in my immediate future.
The recipe I had found was spiced with cardamom, which I love but, never one to resist a tweak, I added lots of ginger and a cinnamon stick. I followed the recipe to the letter and stirred diligently for over 40 minutes, but sadly never achieved the glistening, sticky consistency I had been promised. Perhaps it was because I had grated the carrots in my Thermomix, thus slightly pulverising them, rather than using a grater – I just don’t know. However, I was left with a saucepan full of very sweet, very fragrant, still slightly crunchy carrots that I had no intention of wasting.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but there are quite limited uses for sweet carrots. I knew the persnickety teens would probably turn their noses up at a carrot pudding and while the idea of a carrot baklava was very appealing, what I was really looking for was a quick fix. Once again casting my eye around the pantry and fridge for things that needed to be used up I found a tub of walnuts and a packet of cream cheese. Carrot cake always inspires instant filial devotion in this house so there it was – a no brainer.
Most carrot cake recipes are probably basically the same, but this old standby has always pleased my lot. I didn’t need to add sugar (the “jam” had 2 cups of sugar in it) and reduced the amount of oil, but added another spoon of spices – I do like to taste them, after all! This was unreservedly the best carrot cake I have ever made, although I couldn’t recommend my recent path as the most energy or time efficient way to get to the end result – however this simple recipe is also very reliable just as it is.
- 1 1/2 cups plain flour
- 1 rounded tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 cups caster sugar
- 180 mls vegetable oil
- 3 eggs
- 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
- 2 tsp mixed spice
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 5-6 medium sized carrots grated
- 1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
- CREAM CHEESE ICING
- 250 gms cream cheese
- 1/2 cup icing sugar
- juice of half a lemon
- Preheat oven 180C. Grease and line 22cm spring form cake pan.
- Combine all cake ingredients, except carrots and nuts, in a food processor and whizz until well combined.
- Add carrots and nuts and stir through.
- Pour into cake pan, bake 55-60 minutes until done. Test with a skewer.
- Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove and cool on a cake rack.
- Combine icing ingredients in food processor and whizz until smooth.
- Ice cake when cooled.