This carrot cake is a request by Lucy as she loves to draw rabbits. To the basic cake, Grandma has added a generous coating of cream cheese frosting.
2 cups/200 g walnuts
3 medium carrots (about ¾ lb/375 g)
1 cup/250 g butter, more for the pan
2 ½ cups/300 g flour, more for the pan
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups/400 g sugar
Grated zest of ½ orange
1/3 cup/75 ml warm water
For cream cheese frosting
4 cups/675 g confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup/125 g butter, at room temperature
1 cup/250 g cream cheese, cold
Sugar carrots, rabbits etc. for decoration
8-inch/20-cm layer cake pan
1. Heat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF and set a shelf two-thirds down in the oven. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast them until lightly browned, 5-7 minutes. Set them aside to cool. Peel and coarsely grate the carrots. Butter the cake pan, line with parchment paper and butter the paper. Sprinkle the pan with flour, shaking to remove the excess. Sift the measured flour for the cake into a bowl with the cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder and salt.
2. Grind the toasted nuts in a food processor and tip them into a bowl; set aside about two-thirds for decoration. Cream the butter using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment. Add the sugar and whisk until light and soft, 2-3 minutes. Whisk in the orange zest followed by the eggs, adding them one by one. Using a metal spoon, stir in the one-third portion of nuts, then the grated carrots. Fold in the flour alternately with the warm water, working in three batches. Spread the batter in the cake pan.
3. Bake the cake in the heated oven until it is golden brown and shrinks from the sides of the pan, 65-75 minutes. The center should spring back when lightly pressed with a fingertip. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool. Unmold the cake when cool and peel off the lining paper.
4. Meanwhile make the frosting: sift the confectioners’ sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the K hook. Cut the butter in cubes and beat it into the sugar on slow speed – the mix will still be very dry after 30-40 seconds. Cut the cream cheese in cubes, add to the bowl and continue whisking just until smooth, 1-2 minutes longer, scraping down from time to time.
5. To assemble the cake: set the cake on a round of cardboard, anchoring it with a dab of frosting. Hold the cake firmly with the flat of one hand and split it horizontally in half, using a bread knife. Spread about a quarter of the frosting on the bottom of the cake, add the top and press down so it is flat and anchored. Coat the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting, using a spatula to create swirls on the top. Press the reserved chopped nuts around the sides of the cake and add the sugar decorations to the top. Chill an hour or two so the frosting sets. Carrot cake can be kept, loosely covered, for up to 2 days and the flavor will mellow.