Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting & Candied Oranges

Brownies last week and today, pastel de zanahoria or carrot cake. It appears to be birthday month in Mexico and I love having the excuse to bake like nobody’s business.

It’s an oldie, a goody and a classic. If you consume a dry carrot cake – there is something very wrong.. it has either been in the oven for a good few hours, the recipe has too much flour or not enough carrot. I’ve tried thousands of carrot cake recipes and eventually came up with this one. In all of my cakes I use butter but traditionally  the carrot cake was supposedly born in the United States, hence the use of oil , however Britain claims some of the fame during rationing of food in the second world war. Whoever invented it and for whatever reason, this cake is always a crowd pleaser.

You can use olive oil if you like but the flavour will be super strong. Use a neutral tasting oil such as sunflower if you want to taste the carrots and spices rather than the oil.

The Recipe – Carrot Cake

Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Baking Time: 40min – 1 hr (depending on your oven)

Makes: 1 round 23cm cake

The Ingredients

4 medium eggs

150g muscovado sugar

150g sunflower oil

350g peeled and grated carrots

300g unbleached wheat flour

1.5 tsp baking powder

1tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

80g toasted pecans roughly chopped

80g dark raisins (the juicer the better)

fine zest of 1 orange

dash of vanilla

The Method

Grease your pan!! If it is a fairly good pan, you can do without lining the sides but always line the base of your pan to prevent it from sticking. You want to use a round 23cm spring form pan. It is best. If you use a smaller sized pan – the cooking time MAY increase, depending on how good your oven is.

Preheat oven to 180’C.

Crack the eggs in a bowl and add the sugar. Whisk and whisk and whisk if you don’t have the privilege of owning a kitchen aid (or if you are me, longing to pick up my kitchen aid from a friend babysitting it in Singapore). So you want to whisk it until it changes colour and thickens slightly.

Toast the pecans in a pan or in the oven. Allow to cool slightly and roughly chop.

Grate the carrots and put aside with the nuts and raisins. We will add all of these together soon!

Add the oil and whisk more, throw in the vanilla while you are at it at this stage.

Sift in the flour, spices, salt and baking powder. Mix until all combined.

Now add the chunky ingredients (raisins, carrots and nuts) and fold in nicely.


Pour the batter into the pre greased tin and bake for a good 40-60 minutes (mine is a gas oven so it takes a little longer. You should know the temperament of your own oven so gauge it within this time frame)

zsted orange w cake batter


Remove and allow to cool in the tin for about 5 minutes. Unmould and turn out onto a cooling rack. Allow the cake to cool completely before icing.

The Ingredients – Frosting

125g unsalted butter, softened

200g icing sugar, sifted

250g of softened cream cheese

juice of half an orange

The Method

Make sure both butter and cream cheese are at room temperature and are quite soft. If one is colder than the other, the fat in the product will seize and you will get a lumpy texture.

Mix both butter and cream cheese really well until nice and smooth. Incorporate the juice and finally, bit by bit, sift in the icing sugar. The texture should be smooth and the consistency should not be too runny. If so, feel free to sift in more icing sugar to thicken it up. You will get a good workout if you do this by hand but I advise you to use an electric mixer if you have one to achieve a fluffier frosting.

Frosting on cake

You can choose to ice just the top of the cake or if you want a little bit more work to do, you can slice the cake in half, slap on some frosting mid way, sandwich it and pop the rest on top.

It’s your cake, do whatever you want!

The Ingredients – Candied Orange Peel

1 large orange, nice and bright and preferably wax free

100g unrefined sugar

100g water

The Method 

Pop the water and sugar in a saucepan and stir a little. Zest the peel of the orange and then add it to the sugar mixture. Boil until the liquid has become a toffee consistency and the liquid has pretty much evaporated. Allow to cool at room temperature or to speed up the process – throw it in the fridge.

orange zest

The strands should be nice and crunchy. Place on top of the frosting however your heart desires.

I hope you enjoy baking, assembling, decorating and eating this cake as much as I did.