Okay, I admit it, this week is a complete cop-out. The technical challenge during week 8’s GBBO was a dacquoise – a layered cake of hazelnut meringue, coffee cream, chocolate ganache and crushed hazelnuts. I did seriously plan to make this cake, until my lovely friend Sophie advised me to give myself a break and enjoy spending at least some of the weekend outside of the kitchen. I debated whether that would be cheating, and then decided that there was no way I would stay at Weightwatchers goal weight (woo hoo!) if I had a whole dacquoise in the house to get through. Thanks for the sound advice Sophie!
The alternatives from this week’s Great British Bake Off were breads made with unusual flours, or 3D vegetable cakes. The temptation of making a phallic-shaped carrot cake for my friend Jo’s (of Alphabet Adventures fame) hen weekend was almost impossible to resist … except that I had no idea how to actually make a penis shaped cake, and I would have to take it in to work on Friday as I am planning to catch the train straight from the office … so I didn’t really fancy explaining why I had a phallic cake in my possession.
So, as a compromise for being a bake off cheat I decided to make a cake-shaped carrot cake AND a loaf of spelt bread – 2 challenges for the price of one this week.
Firstly the bread – there aren’t many exciting recipes for gluten free bread, and I eventually made a roman style spelt loaf from a recipe on the side of the flour packet. It was very simple to make, and is delicious, so I’ll enjoy having a slice of the bread with my soup at lunchtimes this week. I’ll share the recipe in a separate blog post, as it’s not particularly challenging or exciting, despite being tasty.
Because I also had some olives, sundried tomatoes and feta in the fridge to make my planned flavoured loaf, I also made a loaf of normal white bread (recipe on the side of the yeast packet!) into which I mixed the chopped goodies after the first prove was complete. This has made the most delicious Greek loaf (as I have decided to call it), and I will also add a post about this loaf of deliciousness … but I will probably never make it again as I hoovered down three slices of it while waiting for my soup to boil, and can see the future of my Weightwatchers Gold Member card hanging in the balance if I make any more of it.
So on to the carrot cake. Well, the recipe comes from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook – the only recipe I have ever actually made from the book. The actual cake can be made from items you probably already have in your kitchen, which is always handy. I have made the cake a couple of times before and have always been really impressed by the moist spiciness of the cake, but I have not been impressed by the Hummingbird’s cream cheese frosting.
Firstly, the recipe makes too much frosting for the cake, making it sickly sweet and heavy. Secondly, the frosting has a mixture of butter and cream cheese with the icing sugar, which again I think makes a sickly icing. So I made my own icing with a pack of cream cheese which I had in the fridge, but you could easily use low fat cream cheese to make the cake a bit more healthy.
I also baked the cake in a square tin and cut it in half when it had cooled to make two loaves. I froze one loaf of carrot cake for another time (I will keep my WW gold card!!!) and iced the other half with my own version of the cream cheese frosting. It’s a much improved version of the original, even if I do say so myself. And here’s how I made it.
300g golden caster sugar, 3 eggs, 300ml sunflower oil (I used veg oil and it was fine), 300g plain flour, 1tsp bicarb, 1tsp baking powder, 1tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra to decorate, 1/2tsp ground ginger, 1/2tsp salt, splash vanilla extract, 300g carrots (approx 3 large ones), 100g chopped walnuts (I only had around 25g in the cupboard so just used those), 1 tub of cream cheese, 3tbsp icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees / gas mark 3. Mix the sugar, eggs, vanilla and sunflower oil in a freestanding mixer until combined, and then add the mixed dry ingredients spoon by spoon until combined. Finally stir in the grated carrots and chopped walnut until well mixed.
Pour the mixture into a square baking tray and bake for around one hour until a skewer comes out clean (or you can split the mixture into three sandwich tins and bake for around 20 minutes each – then you do need 2-3 times the amount of frosting so you have enough to ice the layers, outside and top of the 3-layer cake – my advice is don’t bother as it’s a lot of effort and that much frosting makes a very rich cake). Allow to cool completely and then cut the cake into two loaves and freeze one for another time. For the other loaf, split through the middle to make two layers.
Make the icing by beating the cream cheese and icing sugar together until thick and smooth. Initially it looks like the icing sugar will liquify the cream cheese, but it will thicken up again if you persevere with the whisking (it’s much easier for you if you have an electric whisk). I used around 3 teaspoons of icing sugar with the 200g packet of cream cheese and this was plenty (maybe even a tad too much). You could also add a splash of double cream to the mixture to thicken it up if you want to.
Spread one of the cake layers with around 1/3 of the cream cheese mixture and lay the other layer on top to make a sandwich. Then use the rest of the icing to cover the top and sides of the loaf (it’s a thin layer, but it is enough, and you need to be able to hide the sides with the icing so you can’t see that the cake has been cut in half). Sprinkle with cinnamon and chopped walnuts if you have any (I didn’t) and chill in the fridge until you are ready to serve it. Makes 8 generous slices per ‘loaf’.
Next week’s challenge is French style, and includes a selection of savoury canapes, so I think I’ll make those and take them to Jo’s hen weekend. It remains to be seen whether I can make any of them into rude shapes …