This is another of my cyclist-friendly cakes, something you might be happy to find in your own musette. When I watch the professional peloton go through the feed zone, I love how they sling their musettes casually over their shoulders before putting the contents in their pockets. Often though you can see they’re searching through the little parcels for something they want to eat or drink first. You can always tell when they’re bitterly disappointed that their snack of choice isn’t in their musette as they lob unwanted tin foil packages into the waste area.
I like to think the riders would be happy to find a piece of one of my cakes in their musettes. Here’s one that’s been enjoyed by many club (and professional) cyclists on the Cote d’Azur who’re always amazed to discover it’s made with carrots. It’s quick and easy to prepare, follows the ‘add wet-to-dry-ingredients’ method of cake-making, keeps happily in the cake tin for a few days – providing I keep the tin hidden from my beloved husband! – and freezes well.
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas mark 4 (350ºF/320ºF fan).
2. Grease the base and sides of a baking tin. I typically use a disposable tin-foil one measuring 18cm x 23cm x 5cm (6” x 9” x 2″) – they’re great for storing the cakes in the freezer – which I line with a couple of strips of greaseproof paper to make it easier to remove the cake. In addition, I find it’s an easy size and shape to slice into fingers for serving. The French prefer to have a small taste of everything on offer!
3. Whisk to combine the sugar, oil and eggs.
4. Incorporate the finely grated carrots and orange zest into the mixture.
5. Sift and mix together the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and spices.
6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and lightly combine. I find using a rubber spatula in a figure of eight movement works best. Ensure that no pockets of flour remain.
7. Pour the bright orange batter – so reminiscent of CCC’s kit – into the baking tin, pop it into the centre of the oven on a baking tray and cook for approx 60 minutes. Times will vary depending on the dimensions of your baking tin and your oven, so check regularly. The cake is ready when a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan before slicing and eating, or freezing for no more than two months.
1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.
2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the cake in the oven, put the timer on for 5-10 minutes less than the cake should take to cook and then check regularly.
3. If you think the cake is browning too quickly, particularly at the edges, cover it with an aluminium-foil tent.
4. I generally use a box grater to finely grate the carrots and a micro-planer to grate the orange zest.
5. I have successfully made the cake substituting coconut cream for the oil with no noticeable change of either texture or taste.
6. A number of you will be saying “you can’t have carrot cake without cream cheese frosting!” Remember, this is a ‘cut and come again’ cake intended for cyclists. However, here’s a decorative frosting I often use on a richer and more traditional carrot cake from the Ottolenghi Cookbook, which would work equally well here.
1. Beat the room temperature cream cheese until smooth then in a separate bowl beat the room temperature butter with the sifted icing sugar and maple syrup until light and fluffy.
2. Combine the two mixtures with a spatula, spread thickly over the top of the cold cake and decorate with the chopped nuts.
3. If you want to up the yumminess of the topping, use crunchy sugary spiced walnuts or pecans, as follows. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/160ºc fan/gas mark 4 (350ºF/320ºF fan). Whisk half of one egg white until frothy, add pinch of sea salt, 60g (¾ cup) light brown sugar, ½ tsp of mixed spice and 250g (9oz) whole toasted walnuts or pecans. Yes, I know this is rather a lot but they have a multitude of uses! Mix well to ensure all the nuts are coated and pour in a single layer onto a baking sheet lined with greaseproof (parchment) paper. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. Remove and allow to cool before chopping and using some to decorate the cake. The rest will keep happily in the fridge for a week and make a delicious addition to granola, porridge, ice cream, crumble topping, baked apples – the possibilities are endless.