Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Carrot Cake Perfection

I think it's safe to say that a homemade cake beats a shop-bought one hands down. Really, there's no contest - flavour, texture, absence of 'nasty' ingredients, the homemade one is superior every time. Even when my own cakes turn out less than perfect, they're still far better than the bought ones. There is one notable exception however - that is, carrot cake. Now I absolutely love carrot cake, in fact I would go as far as to say that it is my all-time favourite cake (along with apple cake, banana cake and maybe one or two others) and in my quest to find the perfect recipe, I have baked many over the years. They have always been 'nice' but they have never even come close to matching the carrot cake perfection emanating from the kitchens of Pret a Manger. Theirs is a rich, creamy, moist creation, heady with cinnamon and with an unbeatable texture - the apogee of carrot cakes. It seemed as though I would never be able to reach those baking heights. Unwilling to give up, I made a note of the ingredients (pineapple was the unusual one) and trawled the internet, eventually finding that elusive recipe. Since then, it seems to have appeared everywhere and I have discovered that there is even a Pret a Manger cookbook which includes the recipe. No matter - the important thing is that I now have the wherewithal to bake that moist, toothsome concoction myself.
The cake is so deliciously moist that it doesn't even really need the icing although it does go so well that it seems a shame not to add that final creamy layer. If I'm serving it as a breakfast cake (Italians do love a cake for breakfast and this fulfils that function extremely well) then I tend to leave it un-iced; in other cases I add the icing. The cake keeps really well too. As I said, perfection.
I'm sending this along to Javelin Warrior's wonderful weekly challenge, Made with Love Mondays, encouraging all of us to cook from scratch.


2 eggs
200g soft brown sugar
150ml sunflower oil
200g grated carrot
50g walnut pieces, roughly chopped
75g diced pineapple (fresh or tinned), roughly chopped
50g desiccated coconut
200g plain flour
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp bicarb of soda
1tsp salt

200g icing sugar
50g cream cheese, room temperature
25g unsalted butter, room temperature
a dash of vanilla essence

I use a rectangular baking tin, 17 x 26cm approx, greased and lined with greaseproof paper but if you prefer a round cake, use a 21cm baking tin
Preheat the oven to 150°C

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with an electric beater until doubled in volume then add the sugar and continue beating until pale and fluffy. Keep whisking on a high speed and pour in the oil in a steady stream. Keep beating until the mixture holds the shape of a trail across the surface.

Gently fold in the grated carrot, chopped walnuts, chopped pineapple and coconut. Sift the flour with the cinnamon, bicarb and salt and fold them gently into the batter.

Scrape the mix into the prepared tin and bake for about 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean. If the top of the cake seems to be browning too quickly, cover it lightly with some foil to protect it from burning.

When the cake is baked, leave it to cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes before turning it out on a wire rack to cool it completely.

For the icing, beat the butter and cream cheese together with an electric whisk until smooth. Beat in the vanilla essence then add the icing sugar in three batches, whisking in each batch before adding the next. Put aside in the fridge to set a little otherwise it will be too runny to ice the cake.

You can ice the cake when it is cold. I usually just ice the top of my rectangular cake (pret style) but you can of course slice the cake in half (especially if you've baked it in a round tin), double the amount of icing and use half of it for the centre and the rest to spread thickly on top.


  1. I love carrot cake too, yours looks super moist x

    1. It really is moist and it stays that way for a good few days too!

  2. Oh wow, Katherine! You've outdone yourself! This carrot cakes looks so amazing and I love how simple the ingredient list is. I love the addition of pineapple and I bet it keeps the cake super-moist... Thank you so much for sharing this winner!

    1. Yes, I think it is the pineapple that makes the difference - I had never used it in any of the other recipes I'd tried.
      Thanks for your lovely comments.

  3. I love carrot cake but have never made one - time to put that right I think. Yours looks wonderful !!

    I agree about how much better home-made cake is. I recently bought a sticky toffee muffin, complete with buttercream, from a local bakery and it was awful - dry, almost stale in fact, and tasting of chemicals. Horrible.

    1. Oh, sounds horrible - you would expect better from a local bakery.
      Do try this carrot cake, the recipe is really good!

  4. Pineapple and Coconut in a carrot cake? Who knew! It's great to find a perfect recipe especially for one of your favourite cakes. It looks deliciously moist. Very transparent of Pret to have their own recipes in a cookbook. I'm impressed.

  5. Che bello, tornata da Londra i giorni scorsi piena di malinconia per la famosa tortina di pret a manger e trovato questa ricetta ed anche il tuo bel blog, con un bel mix di Galles e Italia. Ti seguirò volentieri. Veronica