This is very different from the richly sweet, loftily layered and aerated American original. While it is in some senses far more reminiscent of an old-fashioned, slightly rustic English teatime treat, it is, with its ginger-spiked cream cheese icing – only on top, not running through the middle as well – just right to bring to the table, in pudding guise, at the end of dinner, too. Before you chop the amber dice of crystallised ginger, rub the cubes between your fingers to remove excess sugar. Then chop them finely, though not obsessively so: you want small nuggets, not a jammy clump. And, for what it’s worth, I find it easier to crumble up the walnuts with my fingers, rather than chopping them on a board.
Ginger and Walnut Carrot Cake
Cuts into 8-12 slices
Requires 1x 20cm springform cake tin
- 200g plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp fine sea salt
- 175g soft light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 200ml vegetable oil, plus more for greasing
- 200g carrots, peeled and coarsley grated
- 100g walnut pieces, roughly chopped or crumbled
- 75g crystallised ginger, finely chopped
For the icing:
- 100g unsalted butter, soft
- 100g icing sugar, sieved if lumpy
- 1 tsp cornflour
- 100g full-fat cream cheese, fridge-cold
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger, coarsely grated
- 25g walnut pieces, roughly chopped or crumbled
- 25g crystallised ginger, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C Fan and grease the sides and line the base of your springform cake tin with baking parchment.
Put the flour, baking powder, bicarb, ground ginger and salt into a bowl and fork well to mix thoroughly.
Beat the sugar, eggs and oil in another large bowl until they are completely mixed together, then gradually add the flour mixture, scraping the bowl you’re beating them in to rescue and incorporate any flour clinging to the edges. At this stage the mixture may seem alarmingly stiff, but the carrots will loosen it up. So, beat in the carrots and then fold in the 100g of prepared walnuts and 75g of crystallised ginger, until everything is evenly combined.
Spoon and scrape into the prepared tin. Don’t worry if it looks as if you haven’t got nearly enough batter, as the cake will rise well as it bakes. Smooth the top and pop in the oven (this is when to make the icing, see step 5) for 45–55 minutes. When it’s ready, the cake will be set and golden brown on top, beginning to shrink away from the edges of the tin and a cake tester will come out with just a few crumbs stuck to it. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool in its tin.
As soon as the cake’s in the oven, get on with the icing. Beat the butter and icing sugar together and when creamily combined, beat in the cornflour, followed by half the cream cheese. Once that’s incorporated, beat in the remaining half. Be careful at all times not to over-beat or the icing will get too runny. Starting with the grated ginger on a plate, get out a piece of kitchen roll and, moving quickly, spoon the grated ginger into the centre, bring up the edges of the paper, holding them together to form a little swag bag, and press on it over the bowl to squeeze out the intense ginger juice. Beat this into the frosting in its bowl. Cover with cling film and refrigerate.
When the cake is completely cold, take the icing out of the fridge for about 20 minutes, by which time it will have softened to a still thick but spreadable consistency. Beat briefly to help this along, and make sure it’s smooth. Unclip and release the cake from its tin, unmoulding it, and sit it on a cake stand or plate. Spread the frosting on top, swirling it a little, then sprinkle the chopped walnuts and ginger on top.