… so I’m in bed with my first flu of the ‘winter’ period. Which is not so fun. I’m convinced I can trace this one back to the young lady who sneezed on me on the bus last week but it seems a little uncharitable to blame just the one person when it is quite clearly the whole of societies fault… Yes, you’ve guessed it, I’m also very grumpy. Well, I’ve got work to do and recipes to write and budgets to finish and I have to remain fabulously creative which is not so easy when you’ve got a stinky head cold… and because of the pressures of work, I’m now that annoying and selfish passenger travelling into town infecting as I go… I guess I have to count my blessings that I’m sick now and not actually over the Christmas period. That job I can leave to The Viking who, without fail, will start to sniffle on Christmas Eve…
a chocolate carrot cake for christmas
I have to confess that I’m not a huge fan of the traditional Christmas cake or Christmas pudding. I find them both quite heavy and probably the last thing I want at the end of one of the years richest and most extravagant meals is more stodge. What’s really funny is that I love all the individual elements, spices, candied peel, marzipan but just not how they appear at Christmas lunch, so I wanted to take all the best bits from the traditional cake and pud and make my own, lighter version. This carrot cake definitely delivers in the ‘taste of Christmas’ category but is lighter and crumblier in texture… don’t get me wrong, it’s still quite naughty and has the added booze element but in my mind there’s something a little less Victorian about this particular cake.
of course, the carrot cake won’t keep for as long as your traditional Christmas cake but it will freeze well, un-decorated , so you could make this well in advance and defrost the day before you want to serve it.
for the cake
200g carrots – peeled and finely grated
175g dark soft brown sugar
2 large eggs
150ml sunflower oil
200g wholemeal self-raising flour
3 teaspoons mixed spice
1 teaspoon bicarb
the grated zest of one orange
110g sultanas mixed with candied peel (you can buy mixed fruit bags from most good supermarkets)
50g desiccated coconut
100g dark chocolate with orange (most of the supermarkets sell an own-brand dark chocolate with orange – I’m using the Morrison’s Signature 72% cocoa dark chocolate with orange.)
for the syrup glaze
the juice of one medium orange
75g dark brown soft sugar
2 tablespoons Cointreau or Grand Marnier
for the cream cheese icing
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
500g icing sugar
400g full-fat cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
for the chocolate scrolls
150g bar of dark chocolate
2 pieces of greaseproof paper
grease and line 2 20cm round cake tins
pre-heat the oven to 170C
whisk the sugar, eggs and oil together in a bowl with an electric whisk for 3 minutes, now stir in the flour, mixed spice and bicarb with a rubber spatula and once combined add the rest of the cake ingredients and gently fold in
gently melt the chocolate and then fold this in too
divide the batter evenly between the cake tins and bake the cakes for 30 mins, they should come out nice and golden and a skewer inserted should come out clean
meanwhile, make the glaze by heating the ingredients gently in a pan or the microwave then when the cakes come out of the oven, prick them all over with a skewer and gently pour the glaze over both cakes, then set aside to cool completely in their tins
for the frosting, use an electric mixer to beat the butter until light and smooth, about five minutes. Add the vanilla extract. Slowly beat in the icing sugar until combined, then increase the speed and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the cream cheese until just combined. Do not over-beat at this stage or the frosting will be too thin.
To make the chocolate shards, lay a large sheet of greased proof paper on your work surface, then simply melt the chocolate gently in a pan and pour out onto the paper, lay another piece of paper on top and gently spread out with your hands, then roll the paper up into a tube and pop it into the fridge for 30 mins. When your ready to decorate unroll the paper and the chocolate will crack into shards which you can scatter on top of the cake.
To assemble the cake, put a layer of cake on a serving plate. Spread a layer of frosting onto the top of the cake and put the second cake layer on top then spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake.