Carrot cake with flaked almonds on top

A classic – what more is there to say?
I use cardamom, ginger and cinnamon, but you could mix up the spices. This recipe is adapted from David Lebovitz’s carrot cake/gâteau aux carottes.

Serves 10. Prep time 30 minutes, bake time approx. 45 minutes. You’ll need 2 x 20 cm cake tins.

75g pecans or walnuts, toasted
260mL vegetable/canola oil
75mL buttermilk*
300g castor sugar
1 orange, zested
1 tsp vanilla extract OR 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
3 eggs
340g carrot, coarsely grated
340g plain flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom (preferably freshly ground seeds)
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

250g cream cheese, at room temperature
250g mascapone
60g icing sugar
1 lemon, zested
1/4 tsp vanilla extract OR 1/8 tsp vanilla bean paste

Grease and line the bottom and sides of the tins. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan.

To make the cake, in a large bowl mix the oil, buttermilk, sugar, orange zest, vanilla and eggs until well combined. You can do it in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, with a hand beater, or by hand. Add the carrot and nuts and mix again until well incorporated.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder and baking soda. Add the salt and cardamom and whisk everything together. Add these dry ingredients to the carrot mixture and fold/mix gently until just combined. Do not over mix.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tins, half into each. Bake for approx. 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out very clean and it’s a deep golden colour. Once cooked, set aside to cool completely.

To make the icing, beat the cream cheese until smooth, add the mascapone, lemon zest, vanilla and icing sugar, then beat until combined and smooth.

To assemble the cake, remove the layers from the tins (once cooled), slop the icing onto the first layer and spread evenly, then put the second layer on and put more icing on top. Use a palate knife to thinly spread the icing around the outside to give it the ‘naked’ look. Decorate with toasted nuts, I used flaked almonds, but you could use any nut. A mixture of chopped dried apricot, nuts and pumpkin seeds looks nice too.

Store the cake in an airtight container in the fridge – just remember to bring it out an hour before you want to eat it. It will keep for 4 days.


*Buttermilk – you can easily make buttermilk with milk and lemon juice or vinegar. Mix 1 tsp of lemon juice (or white/apple cider vinegar) with 70mL of milk, stir and leave for a couple of minutes.