Carrot cake with walnut oil and a buttercream icing – gluten free

Originally designed as a large traybake, this recipe cuts into small squares and is perfect for sharing. I reduced the quantities to fit a standard square cake tin which seems to be a more manageable size in these times of confinement, but hey, I’m not judging!

Carrots and walnuts make fine partners when the weather gets a bit nippy, and if fresh produce is your preference, they’re both in season now. An autumnal carrot cake is just as comforting as the more instagrammable pumpkin-spiced loaf, but the flavours are earthier. That’s why I love to use walnut oil here. It gives delicious moisture, keeping the crumbs soft in case the carrots retain some structure after baking. Other people have told me adding crushed pineapple is the way forward here. Either way, walnut oil gives you all the flavour of walnuts without any nutty chunks inside the cake.

This cake is a joy to make and eat! There is something quite satisfying about seeing that quantity of grated carrots disappear into the mix as it bakes – just like sneaking vegetables into a spaghetti bolognaise…

Recipe

100ml olive oil
50 ml walnut oil (if you have it) – otherwise use more olive, vegetable or groundnut oil
3 eggs
90gm dark muscavodo sugar
60gm caster sugar
200gm gluten free self-raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 tsp apple spice flavour (or replace with a mix of ground cinnamon with some ground nutmeg, cloves and cardamon)
300gm grated carrots (I used a food processor because I am lazy, or you can use a box grater)

Method

Preheat the oven to 160 fan bake. Line a square sized cake tin with baking paper on the botton, and grease the sides (or use a standard round cake tin if that’s all you have).

In a bowl, mix the olive oil, walnut oil and sugar with an electric mixer. Add the eggs one by one, mixing in between.

In another bowl, mix the gluten free self raising flour, bicarbonate soda (important to sift this so you don’t get patches of soda lumps in the finished cake – gross), baking powder, salt and spices. Tip it all into the wet mix and stir through until loosely combined. Add the grated carrots into the mixture and give everything a good stir until it’s all evenly distributed.

Pour the cake mixture into the lined tin and smooth the top. Bake in the oven, 160 degrees celcius fan bake for 45 minutes. I test my cakes with a knife – if it comes out clean and not wet, the cake is done.

For the buttercream icing

The icing for this cake is the same one I make for pumpkin loaf. It’s a buttercream icing made with a small amount of creme fraiche, which I prefer to cream cheese icing which is a bit sickly-sweet for my tastes… sometimes.

70gm butter – at room temperature
2 tablespoons of creme fraiche
Icing sugar – about 5-6 tablespoons, but you can add this to taste until you get the consistency you like
A splash of milk (if it needs a little thinning)
Chopped walnuts for decorating the top

With an electric handheld or standing cake mixer, beat the butter and creme fraiche until it’s soft and pummeled. Tip in the icing sugar and mix. The consistency you are looking for is thick and spreadable. It’s worth tasting it – if it tastes sweet and delicious that is good. If it tastes like beaten butter, then you need to add more icing sugar.

Once the cake is cool, spread the icing sugar over the top and crumble over the walnuts. I like the cut the walnuts really fine with a few small chunks left.

As evenly as you can, cut the cake into squares and serve.

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