Carrot Cake w/ Cinnamon Mascarpone Icing

I feel like I’m having a quarter-life crisis. And when you don’t know what to do with your life or where you’re going, what better than a little procrastibaking to stop yourself thinking?

This is my favourite carrot cake recipe. I usually make it without the addition of walnuts and raisins, but I thought I would put them in this time to try it out. All in all I think I prefer this plain without the walnuts and the raisins, but I’m generally not a fan of nuts in cakes. This cake is REALLY moist, I think it’s the addition of apple sauce. The most important thing is to finely grate the carrots to get an even and smooth texture which is more cakey than muffiny (does that make sense?).

This icing is the only cream cheese icing I will eat and not scrape off and leave to one side, it’s really light and not overly sweet!

Carrot Cake

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar (I used dark brown sugar this time)
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup apple sauce
4 eggs, room temperature
3 cups finely grated carrots (about 6 medium carrots)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup walnuts (optional)
3/4 cups raisins (optional)

Cinnamon Mascarpone Icing

100g mascarpone (at room temperature)
200g full-fat cream cheese (at room temperature)
100g icing sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 160°C

Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with baking paper.
Finely grate the carrots.
Place the walnuts in a frying pan and lightly toast on medium heat until fragrant and coloured but not burnt (about 5 minutes). Set aside and leave to cool.
Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugars, apple sauce, and oil using an electric whisk. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition until just blended. Add the flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in the vanilla and grated carrots.

Set aside 1/4 cup of walnuts. Finely chop the rest and add, along with the raisins.

Divide the batter equally between the two prepared pans. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 1 hour, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool cakes in the pans for about 10 minutes, then turn onto cooling racks, peel the baking paper off, and cool completely before icing (MAKE SURE you cool completely before icing, I was in a hurry and the icing started melting as I iced the cake!). You can make the icing as the cakes cool.

Cinnamon Mascarpone Icing

Combine all ingredients in a medium sized bowl and whisk with an electric whisk for about 5 minutes, until smooth. Ice the top of one layer, place the second layer on top and ice the top and sides. Decorate with the walnut crunch (recipe below).

Walnut Crunch Decoration

Melt 3 tablespoons of sugar in a small non-stick saucepan. When the sugar has turned a dark amber colour, remove from heat and add the 1/4 cup of reserved walnuts. Stir to coat the walnuts, then tip everything onto a sheet of baking paper and leave to cool (the caramel will harden). Once cooled, roughly chop into a crumbly texture and use to decorate your cake. Adds a really nice crunch to it and is also delicious on it’s own if you leave the walnuts whole!

Mini Lemon Cupcakes

Who knows why but I decided to make lemon curd on a Saturday night. Off I went to buy some lemons, passing students already at the kebab shop, home a little earlier than planned after overdoing it on Halloween weekend. Everyone at the grocery store was buying booze. I got:

3 lemons (1/2 cup lemon juice)
1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1/4 cup butter
a pinch of salt

This was my first time making lemon curd, and it was surprisingly easy. Start by setting a pan full of water over medium heat and bring the water to a good simmer. Squeeze the juice out of the lemons. Then whisk the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice and salt in a heat proof bowl that will fit over your pan of simmering water (this is a bain marie). Once you have whisked everything together, cube the butter and throw it in with the mixture. Put your bowl over the simmering water and whisk constantly until the butter melts and the mixture thickens. This will take around 10 minutes of constant whisking! If you lift some mixture up with the whisk and it holds some of its shape when it falls back into the pan it, you’re done!

The result should be smooth, you don’t want scrambled egg in there! You can press the curd through a wire strainer to get rid of any lumps that may have formed (I didn’t do this). Store in an air tight container in the fridge for up to one week.

So after the lemon curd inspiration I needed to use it on something. It’s actually just great on its own by the spoonful… but I remembered some cute mini silicone cupcake holders I had never used before and had been meaning to try out. I used my favourite vanilla cupcake recipe from Magnolia Bakery and piped some lemon curd on each mini cupcake. If I’m honest I think I prefer normal sized cupcakes; for some reason I found it hard to get an even bake on these mini ones and they also seem to dry out quite quickly. But they’re super cute! I’d recommend eating them on the day you bake them.

Vanilla Cupcakes (adapted from Magnolia Bakery’s Vanilla Cupcakes)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 medium eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 160°C.

Butter 12 silicone mini cupcake holders (or line a mini muffin tin or normal muffin tin with cupcake holders).

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, beat the butter until pale and smooth. Add the sugar and beat for 3 minutes until fluffly. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat. Spoon batter into prepared cupcake holders, filling them about three-quarters full. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a cake tester or sharp knife inserted into the centre of the cupcake comes out clean.

Leave the cupcakes to cool. Pipe a dollop of lemon curd on to each cupcake and serve!