Searching for the Perfect Carrot Cake

I've been conducting an experiment, in every cafe I eat , if they have one I eat only Carrot Cake. I'm trying to establish the qualities of the perfect version. As Hubby and I are planning to open a cafe, you could say this is essential research. This blog is to help assert more analytical clarity. Carrot Cakes vary, from 'this is just a brown sponge' to 'my god there's some mixed spice in that'. Even my very favourite cafes for coffee and ambience, can be let down by their cakes. So these cake reviews should not be taken as representative of the cafe's qualities as a whole. Anyway, on with the search.

CARROT CAKE RECIPE No 3 ~ Nigella Lawson's Venetian Carrot Cake

Venetian Carrot Cake Recipe by Nigella Lawson from the Food Network website

I have no idea whether Venetians ever make carrot cakes. I strongly suspect Nigella has taken her usual ladle full of liberties. That said the result is certainly Italian in style. It uses Olive Oil rather than butter or margarine, and has sweetened mascapone as a side accompaniment. The recipe itself is full of faffy touches like patting your grated carrots gently dry between double layers of kitchen towels, dry toasting your pine nuts and simmering your sultanas in rum. Though I assure you that it is well worth it. I made this cake for Jnansalin's birthday so I was hoping for something special and was not disappointed.

Of the reviews on the website, some absolutely loved this recipe, others were either a bit sniffy or distinctly underwhelmed. What appeared to make a difference was how closely they stuck to the original recipe. At first its better to do a recipe as close to how its presented, otherwise it…

CARROT CAKE REVIEW No 10 ~ The Confectionary Sins Of The Spice Trade

Marie Antionette's Cafe in Whitby, Yorkshire.

Just because I'm on holiday doesn't mean I neglect my search for the perfect Carrot Cake, I have merely broadened the designated search area. Also, one should not assume that because I was in one of my favourite cafes in Whitby, whose range of superlative cakes I could go into raptures about, that they were a shoe-in for a high rating. Reader read on.

Well, it was a huge portion, on what was quite a small plate, perhaps they were trying to emphasise I was getting value for money. But you know me, I'm not easily swayed by appearances however beautifully confected, if it doesn't cut it once its placed inside my gob, then all that is for nought. Unfortunately once this cake hit my palette and the taste buds started to do their routine detective work, the first flavour hit was of ginger, no, spice, oh boy this is a mixed spice cake my dears. One might want to be charitable, and assume the baker had a bit of an over tipple w…

CARROT CAKE REVIEW No 9 ~ And The Vegan Traybake Prize Goes Too....

Carrot Cake eaten in The Artemis Cafe, Cley Next The Sea, North Norfolk.

Though only a traybake (and you know how I  feel about those ) and a vegan one to boot, its qualities put a lot of the fully fledged carrot cakes I've reviewed in the shade. A very sturdy cake, with a pronounced texture on the pallate that says ' Yes!!! There is a lot of carrot in this!!!. Hurrah!!! Also, there's sultanas and walnuts in the mix, and perhaps a hint of coconut (not sure about that, but I thought I detected a smidgen) with a moderate amount of mixed spice. It was actually a rather good carrot cake.

It held together well, and unlike some special diet carrot cakes I could mention, it didn't disssolve as soon as it hit mouth moisture, nor leave an aftertaste of bi-carb that would take the lining off your tongue. Nope, no such falings. In fact if you hadn't been told it was a vegan carrot traybake, I'd say no one would've noticed. That said, it maybe that it this vegan recipe …

CARROT CAKE REVIEW No 8 ~ A Nice Performance

Carrot cake eaten in The Old Theatre Deli, Southwell, Nottinghamshire.

I know this is not on the North Norfolk coast, but its been quite a while since we've found a new cafe we haven't already visited, let alone a carrot cake. Whilst in Nottinghamshire on a Pre-Christmas family visit we spent a delightful half a day in Southwell. We took in the Minister and found an excellent Deli/Cafe, with a rather passable carrot cake.

The cake was looking good from its external features, a healthy orangey brown tan with a substantail amount of filling and topping. Once you took a bite into it, the cake had that distinctly carroty texture to it, flavoured strongly with carrot too, and a decent enough amount of walnuts to be noticible on the palate. I think it had just mixed spices as additional flavouring, I couldn't detect anything else, but what there was was sufficient to complement rather than drown.

Both the filling and topping were a cream cheese, so glory halleluyah ! There was …

CARROT CAKE REVIEW No 7 ~ The Cakey Vanishes

Carrot Cake ~ eaten in Overstrand Garden Centre, Overstrand, Norfolk.

A strong aroma of citrus should have been sufficient warning, to indicate that all was not right here. The first mouthful. lost no time at all in confirming there was no trace of carrot flavour left in this travesty of a carrot cake, that had not been soaked, but sozzled, in orange flavouring. Not a nice orange flavouring either, but that peculiarly pungent catering variety the synthetic orange essence, similar to sucking out the liquid centre of a boiled sweet.

A self-declared Gluten Free cake, it bore some of the sadly usual shortcomings of the genus. The cake had so little structure, stability or weight to it, that almost from the moment the cake hit my palate it quickly dissolved into nothing. Leaving a horrible dry after taste lingering like a layer of plaster dust on the tongue. Hubby suggests that they've used a gluten free flour of some kind without really doing enough to provide sufficient substance to …

CARROT CAKE RECIPE No 2 ~ by Nan on the All Recipes UK

Carrot Cake Recipe - by Nan on the All Recipes UK website.

I chose this recipe because of all the recipes I've found so far it had the highest amount of carrot in its mix. Most carrot cake recipes have between 200 to 300 grams, this has 650 grams !  I was intrigued to see how that would turn out. The mix has crushed pineapple, as well as sultanas and walnuts, so it really ups the moisture levels. It also has four eggs and bicarb, so, unsurprisingly the binding and rise on this cake look like being substantial. This is not going to be, by any stretch of the imagination, dairy free, so this wont be your all inclusive universal carrot cake to suit everyone.

The recipe looked to have enough moisture in it, so I drained the excess juice from the crushed pineapple and the steeped carrot and sugar mix too. The oven temperature of 180 degrees didn't say whether it was fan assisted or not, and was supposed to be for 45-50 minutes, but it ended up being an hour. I had to cover it in fo…

CARROT CAKE REVIEW No 6 ~ Crumbling Carrot Cake Batman !

Carrot Cake - eaten in Grey Seal Coffee, Sheringham, Norfolk.

For what was actually quite a modest sized piece of carrot cake, this was, at £3, quite an expensive piece of confectionery.  Also. this was basically a tray bake, not that I've anything against tray bakes, but for a cafe that's a bit of a cheaty short cut, particularly if you are going to charge £3.

Immediately noticeable as your knife cuts into the cake is that it instantly falls into crumbled heaps, never a good thing. The cake announced itself as being dairy free, but its been left without much else to bind it together. Apart from using the 'demon banana', there are other ways to bind it, such as a flour and water paste, an egg replacer, just using a wetter mix, or in this case avoiding over baking it.

Flavour wise, your taste buds are instantly hit by heavy tones of coconut, probably coconut oil this being quite a hipstery establishment, and any carroty flavour becomes a bit of an after taste. They'…