Classic carrot cake

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This classic carrot cake recipe is everything a carrot cake should be: light, moist and delicately spiced with cinnamon and ginger. Louise tops the cake with a delicious vanilla cream cheese icing and crunchy walnuts.

First published in 2016
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The ubiquitous carrot cake. As a child it was so familiar to me that it feels a bit like an old friend. My mother, who by her own admission was not the keenest baker, would often rustle up a carrot cake to have with our tea. It would be eaten with smug satisfaction that any cake containing a vegetable must surely be better for you. The 70’s health food craze once found gracing the counter of every health conscious cafe in the land is still as popular as ever. While we may no longer be able to kid ourselves that it is healthy, there still seems to be something nostalgically virtuous about it.

It has many incarnations – as a tray bake, cupcakes, with pineapple or dried fruit, pecans or walnuts, mascarpone or cream cheese icing (or frosting if you are American). Everyone seems to have their own recipe. The carrot cake has stood the test of time because essentially it is incredibly moist, keeps well and could not be easier to make.

My version is a nod to to the classic cake of my childhood. My mother used wholemeal flour but I am not going to even try and pretend this is healthy, so I have used plain flour. There are no sultanas (my husband refuses to eat them however attractively disguised) or fruit. Walnuts are my traditional nuts of choice and the cake is finished with a vanilla flavoured cream cheese icing. The layers are fairly easy to prepare but if you are daunted, or short on time, simply sandwich the two cakes together with a thick layer of icing in between and spread the rest on the top and sides. It will look and taste just as good and no one will be any the wiser.




Carrot cake

  • 240ml of rapeseed oil, plus a little extra for greasing the tin
  • 300g of golden caster sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 4 tbsp of whole milk
  • 180g of carrots, peeled and finely grated
  • 120g of walnuts, finely chopped
  • 240g of plain flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon


  • 200g of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 175g of icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 525g of full-fat cream cheese
  • 125g of walnuts, to decorate


Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas mark 5
Grease and line the sides and bases of 2 x 18cm non-stick, loose-bottomed cake tins, measuring 7cm deep
Place the rapeseed oil and the caster sugar in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Whisk in the egg yolk and milk, then fold in the grated carrots and chopped walnuts
Sift the flour, baking powder, ground ginger and cinnamon into the bowl and fold into the mixture
In a clean separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Fold a couple of spoonfuls into the mixture to loosen it before gently folding in the rest of the egg whites
Divide the mixture between the 2 tins. Weigh them to make sure you have approximately the same amount of mixture in each and smooth the surface
Bake for 35–40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Remove from the oven and place the cakes in their tins on a wire rack to cool
Make the icing by whisking the butter in a mixer, or with an electric whisk, until very pale and fluffy. Add the icing sugar and vanilla extract and whisk for a couple of minutes, then add the cream cheese and whisk briefly until smooth
Place the whole walnuts in a dry pan and lightly toast for a couple of minutes over a medium heat. Cool and finely chop
Remove the cakes from the tin and the baking paper. Using a serrated knife, level the top of each cake if necessary and slice each cake carefully and evenly in half
Place the base of one cake on a cake stand, or plate. Spread on a couple of spoonfuls of icing using a palette knife and smooth it over before placing the next cake layer on top. Continue with the rest of the layers
Spread the rest of the icing evenly over the sides and top of the cake. Using your fingers gently press the chopped toasted walnuts onto the sides of the cake. Leave to set in the fridge
Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before serving
First published in 2016

Louise Robinson is a former fashion accessories designer turned freelance food writer, stylist and photographer now based in the Sussex countryside.

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