Friday 7 August 2009

Carrot Cake and the Lost Sock

This morning Sylvia wasn’t sleeping and so I put on her floral hoodie and the hat with bear ears and we took a little trip in the car to the Botanic Gardens. I had particularly wanted to visit the gift shop which is one of the nicest around Melbourne tourist spots. I purchased a few things I needed (including a new pot holder you can see in the photos) and then we had a look at the café.

E and I had visited the café last year and been disappointed. I looked at it today and the food looked nice but the prices seemed a tad high. The carrot and orange cake looked impressive with loads of icing and nuts and fruit for decoration. But at $8 a slice, it seemed a lot to pay when I had carrot cake at home. I unwisely chose a cheap cookie which tasted like cardboard.

Never mind, I thought Sylvia and I could have a walk in the gardens. We started out for the herb garden because I had noticed it had samphire there. The naked branches of the winter trees looked spectacularly spooky. But it was windy and I worried about Sylvia being cold. Then I noticed one of her socks had disappeared. They were both there when we got out of the car because I remember checking. So we retraced our footsteps but never found the missing sock.

By then, her little foot was cold and the idea of a walk was no longer so appealing. But I felt quite good as I headed back to the car. I remembered that there was homemade soup waiting for me at home as well as the carrot cake I baked yesterday.

I baked the cake because I had a lot of carrots and it has been a long time between carrot cakes. This was one of the standard cakes we used to have when I was young. Carrot cakes were also ubiquitous in cafes in the 1990s when they were served with lashings of cream cheese frosting. They typically are made with lots of nuts and dried fruit and oil rather than butter.

While my cake had butter and no frosting, it was chock-full of walnuts and raisins. I didn’t have any raisins but I had some cranberries and dates. I forgot to add the vanilla. The recipe called for white sugar which I used but then thought brown sugar would be nice so I added a bit of treacle. I decided this was a good opportunity to use up my spelt flour. There wasn’t quite enough so I used a little soy flour to keep it wheat-free but a plain or wholemeal wheat flour would be fine in this recipe.

This is a cake that is superb eaten hot out of the oven. It is every bit as moist and soft as you would want with the added flavour and texture from nuts and dried fruit. E got home and was disappointed there was no icing. I showed him the picture in the cookbook with carrot cakes topped with cream cheese frosting and the recipe I used which had no icing. He told me the cake was quite rich for him. When I offered it to him tonight, he said that he liked that sort of cake in the afternoon with a cup of tea but not at night. There’s nowt so queer as folk!!!

I loved the recipe and, although there are many carrot cakes I would love to make, this one is a good everyday one that I want to make over and over. Much more satisfying than I suspect the botanic gardens one would have been. So the moral of the story today is that the gift shop at the Botanic Gardens is well worth a visit but you might as well give the café a miss and bake your own carrot cake (and hold onto your socks in this wind)!

Moist and nutty carrot cake
Adapted from the Australian Women's Weekly Cakes and Slices Cookbook

125g butter
⅔ cup caster sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
1 tbsp treacle
2 eggs
2 cups grated carrot (about 4 medium carrots or 2 large)
1 cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup dates, chopped
1¼ cups wholemeal spelt flour
¼ cup soy flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp grated nutmeg

Cream butter and sugar. Add golden syrup, treacle and eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in carrot, cranberries, dates and walnuts. It will look curdled but this will be fixed once flour is added. Gently stir in flours, baking powder and spices till just combined. Spoon into greased and lined loaf tin (13 x 25cm) and bake in moderate oven (180 C) for 1¼ hours. Check it after ¾ hour – I found by then that my cake was quite brown on top and needed to be covered. I reduced the heat to 150 C and put my cake on the bottom rung of the oven after an hour. It is done when a skewer comes out cleanly. Sit in tin 5 minutes and then cool on a wire rack.

On the stereo:
iselectBowie (The Sunday Mail Freebie) – David Bowie


  1. Nice post, Johanna. I was at there last week, but did not go to the cafe. Your post makes me miss Melbourne a lot.

    I like my carrot cake as simple as possible. No frosting for me, but I love those moist carrot cake!

  2. many, many times I have lived out the missing baby sock caper. My husband has often posited the existence of a little monster who eats them. This entry also reminds me that I have been craving carrot cake recently, but I am afraid mine would need the cream cheese frosting.

  3. I often see little lost socks lying about when I'm out, and they always make me sad. I'm glad that you had a nice treat to come home to!

  4. Oh those adorable little baby feet and tiny toes!

    The carrot cake looks so good, studded with all kinds of treats.

  5. I just love carrot cake, I tell myself it counts as one of my five a day so I dont feel guilty about it haha
    Poor Sylvia, cold toes are horrible!

  6. Cute baby feet. She isn't one yet, I guess.
    Your carrot cake looks lovely. Personally, prefer this without frosting, though I used chocolate ganache on mine, a couple of times. :)

  7. It has been a long time between carrot cakes for me too but that looks good (although I love it with cream cheese icing). Hehe my friend's baby has a habit of losing her shoes!

  8. Isn't it just amazing how kids lose their one sock, their favorite toy... just when you are not looking.
    The carrot cake looks yummy. I made one for the S&SB recently but am not a big fan of cinnamon in anything sweet. :)
    Thank you for visiting my blog. Love yours :)

  9. Grrrr! Blogger ate my first comment. A great looking cake (love the cranberries)--and while I'm sorry about the lost sock, it did give your readers a chance to see Sylvia's adorable little foot! :)

  10. That's great: bake your own carrot cake and hold onto your socks in the wind!
    Carrot cake is one of my very favorites.

  11. Thanks Anh - glad you had a chance to visit melbourne - we do have such wonderful places to visit

    thanks Maybelle's mum - love the idea of the lost sock monster - I imagine it would also be wearing some of them - am sure the Mighty Boosh comedy team could do a good version of this

    Thanks Lysy - I always wonder about the little kid missing their socks when I see them discarded in public

    Thanks Nupur - they are cute when they are so little aren't they

    Thanks Flower - carrot cake does seem more healthy because it is full of vegetables (this one had more carrot than a few other recipes I saw)

    Thanks Aparna - chocolate ganache on anything is always good - would love to try it - and you guessed right - Sylvia is only 5 and a half months old

    Thanks Lorraine - I dread when we have to contend with shoes as well as socks - I spend enough time searching for my own around the house

    Thanks Jaya - I go through phases with cinnamon - at the moment I love it in sweet or savoury dishes but I have had times when I avoid it in sweet dishes so I understand your aversion

    Thanks Ricki - that is annoying when your comments go into a black hole - glad you enjoyed seeing sylvia's little foot

    Thanks Tanna - the things you learn while out and about!

  12. Love that tree! Your carrot cake looks so awesome. I can never resist a good carrot cake and I know I couldn't resist this one!

  13. I loooove carrot cake, Johanna. Especially with cream cheese icing. Keep a couple extra pairs of socks in the baby bag. When you have several odd socks, Sylvia can have an "Odd Sock Day".

  14. Thanks Ashley - carrot cakes are irresistable

    Thanks Pene - I think the extra socks is a great idea - and I thought of you today because sylvie had an odd sock day as you suggested

  15. Johanna,
    I thought I'd use this as the base for my Federal Election 2010 cake, on the basis that the major parties only ever seem to want to dangle carrots in front of us, as a substitute for actual policy!
    Vote well!


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