recipe

Credit: Photographed remotely by Earl Carter

Carrot cake

Having too many carrots is not a problem I usually face. Like many growers and producers across the land, the coronavirus pandemic has thrown our ordered existence into chaos. I grow a lot of carrots. The earth that I farm is rich, deep, volcanic soil that is particularly good for producing root vegetables. And the humble carrot is the vegetable most customers comment on when I serve it in the restaurant.

It seems that even a carrot is transformed by being picked on the same day it is lightly roasted in a little water, butter, salt and tarragon. The joy they bring people means they are a bit of a fixture and are more often than not worked into my main course dishes. I also love using carrot puree as a thickener and flavour punch in meat and vegetable dishes. I always use it to thicken my beef bourguignon cooking liquor, and I often have a store of it at home for adding to vegetable curries and tagines. The complex sweetness that it adds to spiced vegetables or vegetables enhanced with the salty sourness of pickled lemons and limes is a wonderful flavour boost.

However, more than two months of no restaurant patrons means I have many, many carrots and, quite frankly, I cannot expect the family to eat carrots every day. I keep my end up, as I snack on them straight out of the ground when working in the garden, but I have now resorted to bringing back the carrot cake.

I am reminded by my wife that carrot cake is not universally loved, as it has been somewhat thrashed in the cafe circuit. But after two months of baked treats, I feel it’s time we revisit a slightly healthy classic. The wholemeal flour and the grated carrot open up the texture, while the pureed carrot keeps it moist. The combination of macadamias and orange is magical and the molasses makes the cake darker and more inviting. And on a side note, the cows and the goats are very happy with a little treat of carrots dipped in a little molasses, so the flavour combination works for everyone on the farm.

Carrot cake

– 500g carrots

– 1 cup wholemeal flour

– ¾ cup plain flour

– 1 tsp baking powder

– ½ tsp bicarbonate soda

– 1 tsp ground cinnamon

– 1 tsp ground cardamom

– ½ tsp salt

– ¾ cup brown sugar

– ¼ cup molasses (treacle can be used as a substitute)

– 2 large eggs

– zest half an orange

– 1 tsp vanilla

– ⅓ cup melted butter

– ¾ cup macadamias, toasted and chopped

Orange and brown sugar buttercream

– ⅔ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

– zest half an orange

– 1 tsp orange juice

– 1¾ cup icing sugar, sifted

– ⅓ cup brown sugar

– 3 tbsp pure cream

– flaky sea salt, to finish

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Lightly grease a 22- x 12-centimetre loaf pan. Line it with baking paper, leaving enough overhang to use as handles, then grease the paper as well.

Wash and peel the carrots and divide into two batches. Chop one batch and place in a small saucepan, cover with water and cook until soft. Drain, puree and set aside to cool. Save the remaining carrots to grate just before you add them to the cake batter.

In a large bowl, mix the flours, baking powder, bicarbonate soda, cinnamon, cardamom and salt.

In another bowl, with a hand mixer or whisk, combine the brown sugar, molasses, eggs, orange zest and vanilla. Add the cooled carrot puree and stir to combine, then slowly pour in the melted butter and mix well. Grate the remaining carrots.

Pour the carrot mixture into the flour mixture and stir using a wooden spoon until just combined. Fold in the grated carrot and toasted macadamias.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the centre of the cake bounces back when lightly pressed and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then gently remove the cake by using the baking paper to lift it. Cool the cake completely on a wire rack before you ice it.

While the cake is cooling, make the buttercream. Place the butter in a large bowl (preferably a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment) and beat on medium speed for one to two minutes until light and airy, scraping down the side of the bowl as needed.

Add the orange zest and juice and sugars and mix on low speed to combine. Increase the speed to medium for 30 seconds or until well combined. Scrape down the bowl, then change to the whisk attachment and add the cream. Whisk on medium until combined, then for one to two minutes on high until fluffy.

Ice the cooled cake with the buttercream and sprinkle lightly with sea salt for a bit of added zing.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jun 6, 2020 as "Carroty chops".

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Annie Smithers
is the owner and chef of du Fermier in Trentham, Victoria. She is a food editor of The Saturday Paper.

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