This classic, moist and fail-proof carrot cake was made for Dan-Dan the cockatoo on "Parrot Kitchen", a slick new cooking show featuring chefs from around the world. It happened to be the lead cameraman's birthday that day; perfect, since the two cakes I had to bake back-to-back on camera shouldn't go to waste! The director, AV crew and makeup artists all loved it, and could attest to the moist fluffiness of the cake (in Asia, the standard for cakes is very particular: cakes that are anything less than fluffy as a cloud and moist as a bread pudding are deemed unpalatable).
I've stuck to a traditional recipe here to give you a solid base to work with and then improvise as you wish. Personally, I like making a tropical twist to this recipe in homage of Dan-Dan's tropical roots: substitute the raisins for diced fresh pineapples and the walnuts for macadamias, and add some coconut milk powder to the cream cheese frosting. —Jamie Pea
1 loaf or 1 cake (8cm diameter)
whole-wheat flour (can replace with all-purpose flour)
granulated white sugar
fine sea salt
pure vanilla essence
orange, finely grated zest only
vegetable or sunflower oil
full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
unsalted butter, at room temperature
fine sea salt
powdered sugar (aka icing or confectioner's sugar), sifted
Prepare a loaf pan or springform cake pan by lining all sides with baking parchment paper.
Peel and finely grate the carrots, weighing as you go along until you get 200g worth (you will most likely have leftovers). Set aside.
In another bowl, combine the 100g all-purpose flour, 60g whole wheat (or all-purpose) flour with the baking powder, ground cinnamon and ground ginger. Whisk lightly to combine, then set aside.
Toast the walnuts in the oven at 180*C (350*F) for about 5 minutes, being careful not to burn them. Chop roughly, then combine with the raisins and 1 Tablespoon of flour in a bowl and toss with your fingers to separate the raisins and coat them evenly with flour (this helps the chunky bits stay suspended in the cake batter).
Pre-heat your oven to 180*C (350*F). Using another large mixing bowl (or your KitchenAid mixer bowl), break the eggs into it then whisk vigorously with an electric mixer or KitchenAid mixer on high for 30 seconds. Add the salt and sugar and beat for at least 2 minutes until it’s very light and fluffy and turns a pale, butter-yellow colour.
Add the vanilla essence and the finely grated orange zest. With the mixer running, slowly drizzle in the oil. When all the oil is added, give it another 30 seconds of vigorous whisking to thoroughly emulsify the mixture.
Fold in the dry flour mixture by hand with a silicone spatula. Add the grated carrots, fold it in briefly, then add the raisin-walnut-flour mixture and fold it in again until just thoroughly combined. Be careful not to over-mix!
Scrape the batter into your loaf pan, place it on an oven rack, and slide the rack onto the position just below-center of your oven. Bake for 55 minutes, then check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the middle of the cake; if it comes out clean, it’s done. If the toothpick comes out wet, bake for another 5-8 minutes.
Remove the loaf pan and let it cool on your kitchen top for 15 minutes, then invert it onto a raised wire rack to cool completely (it will take about 2 hours for your cake to cool completely to room temperature).
To make the frosting: use an electric mixer on medium speed to beat the cream cheese, butter and salt for 1-2 minutes, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula once in a while. Add half the powdered sugar and whiz gently to combine, then add the other half and whiz gently to combine. Add the vanilla extract and beat on high speed for 2 minutes more until fluffy and well-combined.