I am a sugar queen and I can take or leave savoury food stuffs (Always dessert over starter. Always.). Because I’d rather eat a jam tart over a sausage roll, I tend not to cook. I bake. I really struggle with putting flavours together and I lack the ability to pick up what is missing out of a dish when making a meal. I am the master of bland stir frys and over cooked omelettes. Therefore it was a blessing to spend an hour or two with Tess Ward (www.theyeschef.com). Tess is a talented chef who trained at Le Cordon Bleu after finishing her History degree. She now passes on her wisdom and knowledge through teaching several different cooking programmes and writes for several publications and her own shamazing blog. Tess uses fresh seasonal produce in her cooking and my class with her was no exception. She took inspiration from the food market she had visited that day and on the menu was sweet potato gnocchi with kale and bacon plus a mango, carrot and radish salad. Tess talked me through the process of preparing and cooking the ingredients. She also taught me a great lesson on how to chop and slice properly instead of being perilously close to chopping my finger tips off at any moment! We chatted and drank tea as we prepared dinner. The best bit was rolling the gnocchi which involved getting elbow deep in flour and mashed sweet potato to roll little sausages ready to be chopped up for the pan. I loved this bit as the generous use of flour all over the kitchen table resulted in a mess similar to the icing sugar explosion that appears to happen in my kitchen whilst baking (except in Tess’s kitchen I don’t get told off). We discussed foodie blogs, boyfriends and books with great recommendations from Tess on books and blogs she thought I would enjoy. Before I knew it, it was time to sit down and enjoy all my (ok, ok, it was a joint effort) hard work
I wish I could take the credit for this meal. I really do. The salad was fresh and crisp, so tasty but so simple! Salad does not need to be all lettuce and cucumber, no wonder so many people dislike or pass on salad when they associated the two most boring vegetables in existence with it. Mango will now be a regular visitor to my salads. The gnocchi tasted lush with shreds of sage adding depth of flavour and worked perfectly with the salty bacon and earthy kale. What made this meal even better was knowing how good it was for me! Food can taste amazing and be super good for you, plus using in season ingredients can also be cheap. There is no excuse not to be full of vitamins and nutrients. So I thought, this weeks bake should continue this theme of goodness filled yumminess (but still keeping a certain sugary naughtiness, obvs), spelt carrot cake with orange cream cheese icing.
This bake is so moist it melts in your mouth and bursts with flavour. My carrot cake has become infamous amongst friends and family and I receive regular requests to bake it for weddings and birthdays. However, I decided to substitute the usual white flour for spelt flour which lowers the GI and gluten levels significantly. It also adds a wonderful nutty flavour and texture which compliments the cake perfectly. If you don’t want to use spelt then use plain white flour in the same quantity. Feel free to swap the pecans in the recipe for cheaper walnuts. You don’t have to add the orange zest into the icing but it adds a great zesty dimension which really lifts it. You could substitute the orange for 2 teaspoons of cinnamon or a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste. Both equally yum yum, obvs.
Spelt carrot cake with orange cream cheese icing
- 3 eggs
- 210 ml sunflower or vegetable oil
- 300 g soft light brown sugar
- 450 g peeled and grated carrots carrots
- 100 g sultanas
- 100 g pecans, chopped
- 270 g spelt flour
- 2 tsp gluten free baking powder
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg
Orange cream cheese icing
- 225 g full fat cream cheese
- 70g softened unsalted butter
- 250g icing sugar
- Zest of one large orange
1. Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease and line two 8 inch round cake tins.
2. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl to break them up, then whisk in the oil, sugar, grated carrots, sultanas and chopped nuts. Sift in the remaining ingredients and stir until just combined.
3. Pour the mixture equally between the two tins, smoothing the surface. Bake in the oven for between 30-45 minutes (check after 30), or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
4. Allow to cool in the tin for about 5 minutes then tip out onto a cooling rack. Peel away the baking parchment once cool ready for icing.
5. Beat the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Add the zest of the orange and gradually sift the icing sugar into the mixture, keep testing until the desired level of sweetness. You may need more or less than 250g.
6. Lay down your first cooled cake and spread icing on. Add the top layer and spoon on the rest of the icing. Decorate with more nuts if desired.