Carrot cake


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


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Appears in

Oats in the North, Wheat from the South: The history of British Baking, savoury and sweet

Oats in the North, Wheat from the South

By Regula Ysewijn

Published 2020

  • About

Carrot cake is loved by young and old. It has its origins in the Middle Ages, when sugar and honey were far too expensive to use lavishly. In those days, carrots were considered a sweet food. During the Second World War, many carrot cakes were made in Great Britain because there was a surplus of carrots. Carrots are, of course, very healthy, which is why the Ministry of Food promoted cooking with carrots and a special leaflet with carrot dishes was distributed. Children became fond of carrots and were even given a thick carrot on a stick instead of a lollipop as the latter were not available during the war.

I like to use wholemeal flour for this cake, because it gives the cake more body and it works well with the rest of the ingredients. Although Carrot cake is often made with cream cheese icing or buttercream, I love it with this cashew nut topping because the nuts go beautifully with the carrots and spices in the cake. Feel free to use cream cheese icing or buttercream if you prefer.


For the cake

  • 250 ml (9 fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
  • 225 g (8 oz) raw (demerara) sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 300 g (10½ oz) wholemeal wheat flour or spelt flour
  • grated zest of ½ orange
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 5 large cloves, ground
  • pinch of pepper and sea salt
  • 400 g (14 oz) carrots, grated
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 100 g ( oz) pecans or walnuts, broken
  • butter, for greasing
  • flour, for dusting

For the topping

  • 200 g (7 oz) cashews, soaked overnight in cold water or in hot water for 1-2 hours
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup or golden syrup
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 100 g ( oz) Greek yoghurt, skyr or coconut yoghurt
  • unsalted pistachio nuts or marzipan carrots


For two 18-20 cm (7-8 inch) round cake tins

Start with the topping. Drain the cashews and pat dry with paper towel. Place in a food processor or blender, add the syrup and blend until smooth. Add the salt and yoghurt and blend until smooth and creamy. Spoon into a small bowl and place in the fridge.

Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F) and prepare the tins.

For the cake, beat the oil and sugar together in an electric mixer for 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add a teaspoon of flour with the last egg to prevent the mixture from separating.

Add the orange zest, spices and salt, followed by the grated carrot. Mix well with a spatula. Mix in the remaining flour and the baking powder until the batter is well combined. Finally, stir in the nuts.

Divide the batter between the two tins. Firmly tap the tins on the bench to distribute the batter and remove any air bubbles.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 35-40 minutes, then test the cakes with a skewer – if it comes out clean, the cakes are ready.

Allow the cakes to cool completely before assembling. If you’ve made the cakes a day ahead, place them in the fridge 1 hour before decorating.

Spread or pipe one-third of the topping over the bottom cake layer. Add the second cake layer and spread the rest of the topping over the cake. Decorate with whole and chopped pistachio nuts or marzipan carrots. Place the cake in the refrigerator after assembly if you’re not serving it immediately.