CARROT CAKE WITH CARDAMOM & LABNEH FROSTING
Step into any reputable British coffee shop or tea room and you can bet you’ll find a slice of carrot cake. Quintessentially British, this comforting cake also let you kid yourself into thinking you’re getting 1 of your 5-a-day. Perfect!
In this take on the classic carrot cake, I wanted to take on inspiration from the Middle East, where carrots originate and have featured in sweet treats for years. Recipes for carrot pudding for example can be found making an appearance as early as the 10th century in a Baghdadi cookery book by Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq.
I’ve added cardamom into the cake mix which brings a rounded, gentle spice to the cake, but the real excitement comes in the frosting. I’ve chosen to replace the classic cream cheese or buttercream frosting with a sweetened labneh – bringing a light creamy texture with a light lactic tang that happens to be a little healthy too.
155ml Sunflower Oil
230g Self-Raising Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
½ tsp Salt
1½ tsp Ground Cinnamon
½ tsp Ground Nutmeg
½ tsp Ground Ginger
1 tsp Ground Cardamom
230g Light Soft brown Sugar
100g Sultanas (optional)
260g Carrots, grated
3 Eggs, beaten
½ tsp of Salt
500g Thick Greek-style yoghurt
30g Icing Sugar, sifted
½ tsp Ground Cardamom
THE LABNEH FROSTING RECIPE
- This labneh icing is super easy to make. For best results make the labneh the day before. First, start by adding ½ a teaspoon of salt to 500g of Greek or full-fat yoghurt and mix well.
- Then, line a deep bowl with muslin or cheesecloth and tip the yoghurt into it. Fold up the corners of the muslin and tie into a knot. Afterwards, hang it over a bowl (using a spoon set across the bowl)) or tie it around your kitchen tap (so the liquid drips into the sink) and leave it overnight.
- The next day, remove the labneh from the cloth – it should be nice and thick. Tip into a large bowl with the icing sugar, sifted, honey and ground cardamom. Mix until smooth. This frosting is a touch healthier and less sweet than its buttercream counterpart. If you like your icing a bit sweeter then add a little bit more icing sugar or honey at this stage. Set aside in the fridge whilst you make the carrot cake.
THE CARROT CAKE RECIPE
- First, preheat your oven to 180˚C/ 160˚C fan oven/ gas mark 4. Always make sure to grease and then line your baking tin with baking paper. Here I used two 18cm round cake tins.
- In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cardamom. Mix until combined.
- When it comes to the walnuts I like to roast them to impart more flavour to them. To do so simply place the walnuts on a roasting sheet and bake in a hot oven at 200-220˚C for 5 to 10 minutes, until you can smell a nice nutty aroma and they are lightly coloured. This is totally optional and you can skip this step if short on time. Once your walnuts have cooled down, chop into smaller chunks.
- Then, wash, peel and grate your carrots to a medium-coarse thickness.
- Afterwards, add into your large bowl the chopped walnuts, grated carrots, sultanas (optional if you’re not a fan!) and light soft brown sugar. Stir until well distributed so that the flour is coating the raisins, walnuts and carrots, as it will prevent them from sinking at the bottom.
TIP – If your light soft brown sugar happens to be a little clumpy, place it in the microwave with a damp cloth over it for a few seconds. This will soften it up and you’ll be able to easily break off any harder bits.
- Add the beaten eggs and sunflower oil to the bowl and mix everything well until well combined.
- Pour your mixture evenly into your two tins and bake for 25 minutes to 35 minutes. Make sure to check your cakes after 20 minutes as all ovens aren’t made equal. If a skewer inserted into your carrot cake comes out clean, it is done! If so, take out your carrot cakes and leave to cool in their tin for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Leave to cool completely before icing.
- In order to assemble your carrot cake, place the bottom layer on your serving plate or cake stand. Spread half of the labneh frosting over it. Then, gently place the other carrot cake over it, spread the remaining labneh over it and decorate with a sprinkle of ground cardamom or extra walnuts if desired. Enjoy!
This cake will keep well in the fridge for up to 5 days.