The Musette: Simple carrot cake

Welcome to my new weekly column of tasty cyclist-friendly recipes which we’re calling The Musette.

It seems only reasonable to kick off the column with something you might be happy to find in your own musette. When I watch the professional peloton go through the feed zone, I love how they sling their musettes casually over their shoulders before putting the contents in their pockets. Often though you can see they’re searching through the little parcels for something they want to eat or drink first. You can always tell when they’re bitterly disappointed that their snack of choice isn’t in their musette as they lob unwanted tin foil packages into the waste area.

"If only we had some of Sheree's carrot cake ..." (image courtesy of cycling switzerland)

“If only we had some of Sheree’s carrot cake …” (image courtesy of cycling switzerland)

I like to think they’d be happy to find a piece of one of my cakes in their musettes. Here’s one that’s been enjoyed by many club cyclists on the Cote d’Azur who’re always amazed to discover it’s made with carrots. It’s the tweaked carrot sheet cake recipe from the excellent website A Pioneer Woman Cooks. It’s quick and easy to prepare, follows the ‘add wet-to-dry-ingredients’ method of cake-making, keeps happily in the cake tin for a few days  – providing I keep the tin hidden from my husband! – and freezes well.

The ingredients which I like to prepare and weigh out beforehand

The ingredients which I like to prepare and weigh out beforehand

Ingredients

  • 160g (1 cup) natural cane sugar
  • 250ml (1 cup) oil of choice (vegetable or lightly flavoured olive oil)
  • 4 large organic eggs, approx 45g each without their shells
  • 180g (1 3/4 cups) wholemeal flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tbsp of finely grated orange zest
  • 200g (2 cups) grated carrots, approx 4 large ones

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas mark 4 (350ºF/320ºF fan).

2. Grease the base and sides of a baking tin. I typically use a disposable tin-foil one measuring 18cm x 23cm x  5cm (6” x 9” x 2″) – they’re great for storing the cakes in the freezer – which I line with a couple of strips of greaseproof paper to make it easier to remove the cake. In addition, I find it’s an easy size and shape to slice into fingers for serving. The French prefer to have a small taste of everything on offer!

3. Whisk to combine the sugar, oil and eggs.

4. Incorporate the finely grated carrots and orange zest into the mixture.

5. Sift and mix together the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and spices.

6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and lightly combine. I find using a rubber spatula in a figure of eight movement works best. Ensure that no pockets of flour remain.

7. Pour the bright orange batter – so reminiscent of Euskaltel’s kit – into the baking tin, pop it into the centre of the oven on a baking tray and cook for approx 60 minutes. Times will vary depending on the dimensions of your baking tin and your oven, so check regularly. The cake is ready when a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan before slicing and eating, or freezing for no more than two months.

It's just crying out for a cuppa

It’s just crying out for a cuppa

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the cake in the oven, put the timer on for 5-10 minutes less than the cake should take to cook and then check regularly.

3. If you think the cake is browning too quickly, particularly at the edges, cover it with an aluminium-foil tent.

4. I generally use a box grater to finely grate the carrots and a micro-planer to grate the orange zest.

5. I have successfully made the cake substituting coconut cream for the oil with no noticeable change of either texture or taste.

6. A number of you will be saying “you can’t have carrot cake without cream cheese frosting!” Remember, this is a ‘cut and come again’ cake intended for cyclists. However, here’s a decorative frosting I often use on a richer and more traditional carrot cake from the Ottolenghi Cookbook, which would work equally well here.

Ingredients

  • 175g (6 oz) full-fat cream cheese
  • 70g (2 oz) unsalted butter
  • 35g (1 tbsp) icing sugar, sifted
  • 25g (1 tbsp) maple syrup
  • 50g (2 oz) lightly toasted and chopped walnuts or pecans

Method

1. Beat the room temperature cream cheese until smooth then in a separate bowl beat the room temperature butter with the sifted icing sugar and maple syrup until light and fluffy.

2. Combine the two mixtures with a spatula, spread thickly over the top of the cold cake and decorate with the chopped nuts.

3. If you want to up the yumminess of the topping, use crunchy sugary spiced walnuts or pecans, as follows. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/160ºc fan/gas mark 4 (350ºF/320ºF fan). Whisk half of one egg white until frothy, add pinch of sea salt, 60g (¾ cup) light brown sugar, ½ tsp of mixed spice and 250g (9oz) whole toasted walnuts or pecans. Yes, I know this is rather a lot but they have a multitude of uses! Mix well to ensure all the nuts are coated and pour in a single layer onto a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. Remove and allow to cool before chopping and using some to decorate the cake. The rest will keep happily in the fridge for a week and make a delicious addition to granola, porridge, ice cream, crumble topping, baked apples – the possibilities are endless. (Inspiration this time was provided by none other than Heston Blumenthal.)

(All images courtesy of my in-house chief taster and photographer, Richard Whatley.)

6 thoughts on “The Musette: Simple carrot cake

    • Sheree says:

      Absolutely! I use a mixed spice which contains cloves, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon but I suspect that you could just use ginger, as carrots, orange zest and ginger go really well together.

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