I’m currently in a baking phase, taking a break from the steamed Chinese snacks I was experimenting with a couple of months ago, so this is American-style carrot cake from the book, Baking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America, not Chinese ‘carrot cake’ which is actually made from white radish/ 蘿蔔/daikon. The reason why the Chinese radish cake is called ‘carrot cake’ is because in Chinese, daikon is known as luobo 蘿蔔 and carrots are referred to as red luobo 紅蘿蔔.
I found this an interesting cake recipe as it uses bread flour. Most cakes use wheat flour of medium or low protein content. Specialised ‘cake flour’ has only 6%-8% protein, as compared to 10%-12% for all-purpose, medium-protein, flour. Low protein content gives a light, crumbly texture for cakes, whereas a high level of protein has more gluten and therefore produces the stretchy consistency desirable in bread.
2/3 cups sugar [reduced from 1&2/3 cups, i.e. I reduced from 5 parts to 2 parts]
[omitted 1/2 tsp salt]
1&2/3 cups bread flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 large eggs
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups grated carrots [coarsely grated carrot is more visible and gives a rustic texture; I finely grated half and coarsely grated the other half]
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1) Sift sugar (and salt, if using).
2) In separate bowl, sift flour, cinnamon, baking soda and baking powder. I was silly and forgot that I have wholemeal bread flour in stock (Waitrose is the only brand I have found in Singapore that produces wholemeal high-protein flour, a.k.a. bread flour, as I mentioned here), so I used white bread flour (unbleached, organic, 12% protein, from Origins Healthcare – it’s labelled as high-protein flour, but this could still be considered as medium-protein).
N.B.: I have since discovered that Origins Healthcare also produces a ‘peak performer’ 14% protein version. This is not reflected on their website and yesterday was the first time I’ve seen it being sold – at Just Organic Wellness located at Tan Tock Seng Hospital #01-06.
3) The first major process is to whip the eggs. Use an electric mixer to beat them at medium speed until thick, about 3 minutes. Increase to high speed and beat until ‘the eggs fall in thick ribbons from the whisk’, about 4 minutes.
It was my first time using this method of preparing the eggs and I noticed that while the mixture started out yellow, they ended up a pale cream colour. This colour change is what I couldn’t understand when I looked at the original recipe for this steamed Chinese sponge cake.
Gradually add the oil while continuing to whip until evenly blended.
4) Add the sifted flour mixture, beating on low speed until just blended. It’s important not to overbeat so that the air that has been incorporated is not beaten out of the batter.
5) Fold in carrots and walnuts by hand using a spatula.
6) Pour batter into greased 10-inch tube pan or Bundt pan, or follow my standard practice of using silicone baking cups for handy single-serve portions which are also great for bento.
7) Bake in oven pre-heated to 175°C/ 350°F until a skewer comes out clean. 20 mins for cupcake size, or 45-50 mins for 10-inch tube pan.
8) Cool completely before icing and slicing. The cake can be served with custard sauce, cream cheese icing or cream. I simply spread sour cream on top just before eating.
Verdict: I love this cake!! It’s so moist and soft, beautiful texture, and incorporates so much vegetable (who needs Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious?!)! My family members agreed that it’s more than adequately sweet even with the much-reduced sugar content.
However, I tend to like my carrot cake with a coarse, rustic texture, which this cake certainly did not have. Will have to try out some other carrot cake recipes instead. I should also do more research on the different cake textures produced by different mixing methods – Joe Pastry has excellent explanations of baking basics, including different mixing methods and leavening methods.
17/3/08 update: I tried a different carrot cake recipe, read about it here.
7//04/08 update: Recently made this carrot cake recipe again, using wholemeal bread flour instead of plain bread flour. The texture was noticeably not as fine and smooth as with the white flour and had a distinctive (but not unpleasant) slightly gritty texture. As far as possible, I always use wholemeal flour as it’s healthier so I will probably stick to using it for this recipe, unless I’m baking for others who are not used to wholegrain foods.