A Massive Carrot Cake

I wasn’t going to tell you about this cake (as you can presumably tell from the shoddy iphone photo) but it’s so good I can’t help myself. Basically, I’m on a mission to make the ‘ultimate’ carrot cake because I think it’s just the best cake ever. The crumb stays so moist with a particular kind of sweetness from the carrot shreds, which along with the walnuts also give it an amazing texture. The final whammy is of course, CREAM CHEESE ICING, which should be a clincher in anyone’s book because it is the most delicious icing known to woman. Butter, cream cheese, sugar. Hubba.

So anyway, I’m trying out different recipes to get a feel for things. This is the Hummingbird Bakery version.

To their standard recipe I added the zest of half an orange, plus I used half walnuts and half pecans to mix things up a bit. I didn’t use vanilla extract in the cake because I er, forgot and I reduced the sugar in the icing by 100g because I er, ran out. That’s minimal, mostly unintentional tinkering so this is still basically the Hummingbird recipe and it’s excellent. It’s not quite my ultimate, but it’s definitely food for thought.

This behemoth proved far too much for two people, so I lugged it into work and gave it to my colleagues. It barely lasted a day.

Hummingbird Bakery Carrot Cake 

300g soft light brown sugar
3 eggs
300ml sunflower oil
300g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp vanilla extract (I forgot this)
300g carrots, grated
Zest of half an orange
50g shelled walnuts, chopped, plus extra, to decorate
50g pecans, chopped, plus extra to decorate

For the icing

600g icing sugar (I only used 500g and it was fine)
100g butter, at room temperature
250g cream cheese, cold

Preheat the oven to 170C. Prepare 3 x 20cm cake tins with loose bottoms by greasing then lining the bottoms with greaseproof paper.

Put the sugar, eggs and oil in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment and beat until all the ingredients are well mixed (don’t worry if it looks slightly split). Slowly add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt, orange zest and vanilla extract and continue to beat until well mixed.

Stir in the grated carrots and walnuts by hand. Pour into the prepared cake tins and smooth over. Bake in the preheated oven for 20–25 minutes (mine took 40 minutes, which seems to be the feedback from other cooks, too), or until golden brown and the sponge bounces back when touched. Leave the cakes to cool slightly in the tins before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, beat the butter and sugar with the paddle attachment again until well mixed. Add the cream cheese, then beat again until well mixed. Turn the speed to high and continue to beat until light and fluffy but stop when you reach this point; if you over beat it the mixture will turn runny.

When the cakes are cold, spread about one-quarter of the cream cheese icing over it with a palette knife (I used less). Place a second cake on top and spread another quarter of the icing over it (again, I used less). Top with the last cake and spread the remaining icing over the top and sides. Decorate with walnuts around the edges and chopped pecans on top. Hummingbird suggest adding an extra dusting of cinnamon but I’m really not into that at all – the cake is now delicious.

Category: Cakes, Desserts | Tags: , , 69 comments »

69 Responses to “A Massive Carrot Cake”

  1. The Ginger Gourmand

    I think carrot cake might be my favourite cake. A good one is a delight but isn’t it so disappointing when the cake is too dense or the frosting is too sugary and not cream cheesy enough? This recipe looks quite similar to the old Family Circle recipe I often use. A friend swears by the Ottolenghi recipe where you whisk the egg whites and fold them into the mixture. It’s not the best I’ve ever had though and I’m not keen on the addition of coconut.

    The hunt for the perfect recipe goes on…

  2. Louise M

    Have you tried the Bourke Street Bakery version? Quite unusual process – involved separating the eggs – but very good result. Much lighter than most recipes – and crucially, doesn’t miss out the cream cheese icing.

  3. Sally - My Custard Pie

    Magnificent. So if this isn’t your ultimate carrot cake recipe what is?!!

  4. Helen

    Agreed! Possibly the best of all cakes ever ever. Yes, I agree it is SO disappointing! I would say that the icing on this is possibly not QUITE cream cheesy enough. Possibly. Especially considering I used less sugar than I should, too. I did have a look at the Ottolenghi recipe and was intrigued by the egg whites but having tasted this I’m not sure they’re necessary and like you I don’t like the idea of the coconut.

  5. Helen

    No I haven’t! Sounds interesting though…is it online anywhere?

  6. Helen

    Well, the icing although amazing wasn’t *quite perfect*. The cake on the other hand…almost there!

  7. Em

    I always throw in a couple of mashed bananas – it makes the cake a little bit less light, but extra moist. And (light) muscovado sugar – but maybe that’s what you used anyway! Either way, yours looks absolutely delish; three layers of cake is exponentially better than two layers for some reason!

  8. Helen

    Ooooh, mashed bananas!! Radical! I am going to try that. I made some peanut butter and banana fairy cakes (NOT cupcakes, thanks) recently and they were really moist for days. I’m liking this idea!

  9. Gin and Crumpets

    Cream cheese icing is the best food in the world. I always make slightly too much for whatever cake I’m icing just so I can sit and eat the excess straight form the bowl. If it was possible to live off cream cheese icing, I would be a happy woman.

  10. Helen

    Me too. I imagine that when I retire I will go and live in a world where there is nothing but bacon, wine (lots of good wine), pasta, cream cheese icing, oh god…I shouldn’t have started this list.

  11. Die Küchenschabe

    I always use the Ottolenghi version, since I had this cake in his restaurant in January and I love it :-)!

  12. Helen

    I did look at that actually, the technique with the egg whites is interesting. The coconut though…does that work? I feel like it might sling things off in another direction.

  13. Platter

    Non, le photo c’est magnifique. Looks like one for the ages.

    Particularly like the sombre murk in the background – precisely the atmosphere where carrot cake is at its best.

    Hubba bubba.

  14. Helen

    THE MURKY DEPTHS! The weather was just perfect for this cake on Sunday.

  15. Shu Han

    that really is a massive slice of carrot cake. i love carrot cake too, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s my favourite cake. it is oen of my mum’s favourite though, so I’m also on the lookout for good carrot cake recipes. the ottolenghi one was a close contender too! looking forward to your next few versions (:

  16. Helen

    Lots of love for the Ottolenghi version!

  17. aoife @ the gannet

    I’m really getting into fruity/vegetably cakey things at the moment and this looks spectacular!
    I only have 23 cm tins – do you think the recipe would translate into two of them? I know I need some smaller ones, most cake recipes call for them….

  18. Helen

    To be honest, baking isn’t my area of expertise. I’m often told though that you simply MUST always use the right size tin so if you want to try it, I think you would run the risk of it not cooking properly and evenly. Now might be the time to take the plunge and buy those tins…

  19. Dom

    Helen it looks amazing!! To go a bit old skool on you, Delia does an Ultimate Carrot Cake which is very very good so do try that. I think the original recipe is in her Vegetarian Cookbook of all places. I use a very special cream cheese recipe which is 1/3 rd marscapone 1/3rd regular cream cheese and 1/3rd whipped cream. It’s also amazing!! Dom x

  20. Helen

    Ooh lovely! I don’t have her vegetarian book although I do have a lot of the others. Will see if I can pick up a copy on the cheap.

  21. Helen

    Oh it’s online ha ha

  22. Robert

    I’m licking the screen… When will we get scratch ‘n sniff PC’s. Lol

  23. thelittleloaf

    I adore carrot cake but was massively put off by an experience in university halls involving finding a piece of BOILED CARROT in my slice of cake one evening. I’ve just about overcome that and think this looks absolutely divine… Hummingbird icings are always ridiculously sweet but other than that I can imagine this is pretty close to perfect :-)

  24. Helen

    Oh I hear the arrival is imminent

  25. Helen

    Oh my goodness, that is DISGUSTING!! Blatantly just trying to use up the leftover carrots ha ha! Yeah, I’m glad I reduced the sugar in the icing…

  26. ileana

    That cake looks huge! And yummy.

  27. Katrina

    Hello, I’m a big fan of the banana and carrot combo – and tend to use this recipe: http://www.waitrose.com/content/waitrose/en/home/recipes/recipe_directory/b/banana_and_carrot_cake.html
    Which is v easy (and a lot less hassle than a certain Ottolenghi version).
    Generally I replace the walnuts with sultanas (as they go black) – or half sultanas / half pecans. And put a bit of cinnamon in the mix, and vanilla. And make more icing than is says (the best bit as you say…).
    It also freezes well if you can manage not to eat it…

  28. Helen

    oh yeah, she’s a beast. Oh I mean, she *was* a beast

  29. Helen

    Yeah the Ottolenghi one does seem to be a load of hassle I must admit. i certainly couldn’t be bothered when I looked at it the other day. Thanks for the link, will give it a go!

  30. KSalty

    That is epic – not a shoddy photo at all. Hummingbird recipes do seem to use a LOT of icing sugar in the frosting. I’ve halved it before which does make it less thick but has the bonus of not making teeth jangle with sugar. Alice Hart has a good carrot cake recipe in her first book too.

  31. Helen

    Innit, so glad I didn’t have enough! I could have reduced it further too and upped the cream cheese to make sure it wasn’t too runny. In full agreement on that one. Will check out the Alice Hart recipe as I have the book.

  32. Laura@howtocookgoodfood

    This is what I call a cake. Carrot cake is virtually impossible to beat in the flavour stakes when it’s god. And this is! x

  33. Helen

    Thanks! I think you probably meant ‘good’ rather than ‘god’ but I like the idea of this sandwich being your god much better.

  34. Lucy

    I love carrot cake – the cream cheese icing is just so good! This looks like an incredible version and one very difficult to resist.

  35. Helen

    Cheers! It’s a good un. Careful with that icing if you make it though…I reduced the sugar.

  36. Tash

    I’m not much of baker of cakes as I tend to find it too faffy, but just wanted to say that this one looks MEGA good, so good in fact that I might just give it go.

    Btw, glad your site is running smoothly again as I find your recipes inspiring.

  37. Rachel

    Please, never add dried fruit, I think it totally ruins it! Perhaps because I don’t like dried fruit, but still… The Soho Secret Tea Room does a lovely carrot cake, the nicest I have tried in a long time. Only the one layer though, not quite the beast above!

  38. Helen

    I’m with you on that one Rach! No dried fruit in my carrot cake thanks. Wuuuuurggghhh.

  39. Maunika

    Love this Helen! Just wishing I could get my teeth stuck into a slice. Not much of a baker me. Maybe we can swap? I’ll cook the curries while you bake me some cake:) M x

  40. Helen

    Neither am I Maunika! You could count the sweet recipes on this blog one hand – ICE CREAM EXCEPTED> I ADORE ICE CREAM! This is why I need to get a lot of practice in to make the ultimate carrot cake! x

  41. Jess

    Mmmm this looks so good! And meat free ;)

  42. Helen

    Ha ha ha ha ha. Yes, a fair cop. I DID consider putting some bacon in there but managed to hold myself back…

  43. The Grubworm

    Wow, that really is a monster (in the best possible way) of a cake! And it sounds too delicious. I love the sweet sharpness of cream cheese icing and would probably happily have it on any cake, loaf, slice of bread… Your colleagues must love you.

    The photo is damn good for a phone as well.

  44. Helen

    She’s a BEAST! The sweet sharpness is indeed the key. This one = bit too sweet though – the search continues!!

  45. Francesca

    The Ottolenghi recipe originally came from Baker and Spice and that is the best Carrot Cake in the world. Ottolenghi has added coconut and honey but it is not necessary. You can find the recipe in Dan Lepard’s Book for Baker and Spice at Amazon. Lots of other really good recipes in there too.

  46. Tv Food and Drink

    That is a spectacular piece of kitchen engineering!

  47. Helen


  48. Anne

    I add banana and pineapple to my carrot cake, and if I’m feeling adventurous some rum soaked coconut – keeps it moist and makes it even more delicious. The banana and pineapple really help though. It’s taken me ages to perfect cream cheese frosting and now I have I really love it.
    Your cake looks great btw!

  49. Helen

    That sounds fantastic! Any tips on the frosting??

  50. Lizzie

    That is a looming BEAST of a cake. Carrot was never one of my favourites, due mostly to the cinnamon a lot of recipes use, but this looks awesome.

  51. Helen

    Yeah man, you gotta steer clear of over-cinnamoninginging.

  52. Anne

    Frosting tips -for cream cheese always add some lemon juice, or for carrot cake I always add some orange juice and zest (or Clementine/satsuma if in season).
    I tend to whip the cream cheese first, then add the butter then add (roughly) double the two of those in weight in icing sugar – this is what we do at the bakery as well. Obviously we tend to be piping it so need it quite stiff!
    Did you see you’re cake is mentioned in The Guardian’s article on how to cook the perfect carrot cake today?

  53. Helen

    Hi Anne, I did see that yes, thanks! And thank you for your brilliant tips, too. It seems everyone likes some kind of zest in the icing, be it orange, lemon or lime.

  54. beachhutcook

    This looks fantastic and just what every mum needs presented to them on Mother’s Day. Well I can hope can’t I.

  55. Hayley Davies

    I Love this cake …but added chopped figs to the cake mixture and used the full 600g of icing sugar for the icing, I used extra chopped nuts to decorate the side and top of the cake and used walnut halves around the top and base, with a sprinkle of cinnamon plus took the frosting advice of Anne, looked fantastic and had really lovely comments from family and friends….thanks for sharing.

  56. Helen

    Great, really pleased you enjoyed it Hayley and thanks for the feedback. H

  57. Sue

    Carrot Walnut Cake is probably my all-time favourite cake. I’ve made it a couple of times using a recipe calling for similar ingredients as this one, but results have not been as consistent as I would have liked. I’ve had to tweak each time! So I’m still in search of a better recipe and I’m really glad you posted this. I’ll be trying it out for sure. Thanks. And by the way, I love your writing style.

  58. Helen

    Aw, thanks Sue! Glad you’re enjoying the blog. Let me know how you get on if you try the recipe.

  59. Chris

    Fab to see this carrot cake recipe….we have a Horticulture & Craft Show and the “MEN ONLY” cake is a carrot cake, so this looks like one that I will practice, then keep tucked into my shirt sleeves (messy!) and unveil on the day – you will have to be patient though….it only takes place 21st July :-(
    Oh! And in case you think I am particularly silly letting you all know this, the entries are only open to residents of Warboys.

    PS I am a BIG fan of citrus juice/zest in icing….and if allowed, also a drop of kirsch – is that a fair swop?

  60. Helen

    Hi Chris. Your comment is…well, very funny indeed! I mostly have no idea what you’re talking about but as for the kirsch, I’m not sure that would work with the carrot cake. Only one way to find out I suppose.

  61. Sue

    Hi Helen,

    I tried this recipe last week and it was pretty good. The only tweaks I made were to reduce the icing sugar in the frosting, and an adjustment to oven temperature and baking time (because I made a whole cake and sliced it horizontally to make 2 layers instead of baking 3 separate cakes and stacking them). Came out beautifully.

    Thanks again for sharing the recipe. I’ve posted an entry about it on my blog, if you’re interested.


  62. Martina Redding

    When I read Carrot cake, I simply thought wowwwww. It looks fantastic and at least mine, tastes fantastic too. I love baking and I spent lot of time looking for cake recipes. I found this one: Orange Sponge Cake. It’s become one my “specialities”. http://www.coolfoodvalencia.com/orange-sponge-cake/

  63. Jean

    Nice fluffy moist cake – but the icing was way too sweet, and I’d already reduced it to 450g. Next time will try 300 or 250g.

  64. Helen

    And I’d reduced it already…

  65. Jude

    I (we, Team Mustard, the office) need such a cake in our lives. Any chance you could make it again in this… http://bit.ly/10LAhhn

  66. Helen

    That is a pretty cool tin/mould thingy I have to say…I could be persuaded.

  67. Jeni

    Just a thought, but I’m now dreaming of a scoop of carrot cake ice-cream & a scoop of cream cheese icing ice-cream. Basically making one of my favorite cakes into one of my favorite food groups (ice cream is a food group in my world)

  68. Helen

    I could definitely get behind the idea of carrot cake ice cream…

  69. Charlotte Hoyle

    I am not a baker but I’ve just made this cake and it’s easy and delicious!!!! Thank you

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