Ah, carrot cake! I can guarantee that almost every Western expat living in Singapore will have a carrot cake-related story to tell you. For over here (and in Malaysia and, apparently, the Chaoshan region of China), carrot cake is not really carrot cake. Especially not the sort of carrot cake we’re used to in angmoh-land. It’s savoury, stir-fried and has nothing to do with carrots (it’s made of radish). The corruption is extreme, and it is as much a matter of principle as it is taste that I refuse to like the local variant (also known as chai tow kway).
I like the oxymoronic world of carrot cake a lot. Apparently i’m not alone, as it was voted the UK’s most popular cake in 2011. The sweetness is much more moderate than with other cakes, especially when you make it yourself and especially when you omit the icing (and the walnuts and raisins, which are often unnecessary distractions). This recipe strips the carrot cake back to basics. It’s simple and produces one of the finest, most refined CC’s I have ever eaten.
Caster sugar (90g)
Grated carrot (140g)
Unsalted butter (80g)
Lemon or lime juice (x2 tsp)
Honey (x1 tbsp)
Baking soda (x1 tsp)
Baking powder (half tsp)
Cinnamon (x1 tsp)
Vanilla powder or extract (half tsp)
Nutmeg (quarter tsp)
Salt (quarter tsp)
1. Grate, melt, line and heat: Plan for the future by: (1) peeling and finely grating your carrot(s) into a bowl; (2) measuring out your butter and then melting it in the microwave; (3) lining a small rectangular baking tray with greaseproof paper, and; (4) pre-heating the oven to 170 degrees (turn on the convection or fan setting if you have one).
2. Prepare two large mixing bowls:
- BOWL 1 (DRY INGREDIENTS): Add your dry ingredients – the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, vanilla powder (if using extract, add to the other bowl), nutmeg and salt – to the bowl, and mix together.
- BOWL 2 (WET INGREDIENTS): Add the caster sugar and eggs to the bowl, and whisk until combined.
- Then add the honey, carrot, lemon or lime juice, and melted butter. Again, whisk until evenly combined.
3. Combine the bowls: Slowly add the contents of Bowl 1 (dry ingredients) to Bowl 2, gently folding the mixtures together using a spatula. The folding is key, as you want to keep the mixture nice and light. Once done, the mixture should be quite runny and have a nice elasticity to it.
4. Prepare to bake: Pour Bowl 2 (which, by now, should have the contents of Bowl 1 mixed into it) into the baking tray. Make sure it’s evenly spread throughout. Tap the tray a couple of times to make sure the mixture has settled. Put into the oven and bake for about 30 minutes.
5. Bake at 170 degrees for 30 minutes: Once 30 minutes is nearly up, test to make sure it’s cooked by inserting a chopstick into the middle. If it’s cooked, the chopstick should be clean when you remove it.
6. Cool and serve: Remove and cool for 10 minutes or so before chopping up and serving. Goes especially well with either a knob of butter or a dollop of natural yoghurt. That’s right. Welcome to the anti-icing revolution.