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A bake for brighter days with Val Stones

Our baking expert, Val Stones ‘The Cake Whisperer’ and former Great British Bake Off 2016 contestant shares her irresistibly moist carrot and pineapple cake topped with mouth-watering meringue kisses. This sensationally scrummy bake will wow friends and family at future summer occasions! It’s a lovely gourmet gift for Mother’s Day, too.

Carrot and pineapple cake with meringue kisses

I baked this delicious cake for my granddaughter’s birthday. It’s simple yet scrumptious, so good fun to bake with children!  They will love getting involved with weighing, juicing, grating and — with supervision — chopping.

  • 16 helpings
  • Preparation: 15 minutes
  • Cooking: 1 ½ hours

This recipe is divided into two parts; the cake itself, followed by the moreish meringue kisses (you may wish to make the latter first, as they can be kept in an airtight container for up to six weeks).

Carrot and pineapple cake

 Ingredients:

  • 450g soft light brown sugar
  • 375ml sunflower oil
  • 380g grated carrot
  • 5 large eggs (320g without shells)
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 185g pecans (optional)
  • 120g sultanas
  • 100g finely chopped tinned pineapple – save the juice for the syrup!
  • 14g ground mixed spice
  • 2g ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 1 unwaxed orange, zested and juiced – save the juice for the syrup!

 Orange and pineapple syrup:

  • Juice of one whole orange (saved from earlier)
  • 4 tablespoons of the pineapple juice (saved from earlier)
  • 40g caster sugar

Cream cheese frosting:

  • 600g icing sugar
  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 100g full-fat cream cheese
  • 1 unwaxed orange – zested and juiced.
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract

Equipment:

  • A mixer (a stand mixer is preferable, or an electric hand mixer. If you haven’t got either of these then beat the mixture with a balloon whisk)
  • A round 20cm diameter deep baking tin lined and greased) – a clip release tin would be best

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160ºC fan, 180ºC conventional, Gas Mark 4.
  2. Place the sugar and oil in the stand mixer bowl (or your chosen mixing method). Mix well until all combined and smooth.
  3. While the sugar and oil are combining, break the eggs into a bowl and beat lightly.
  4. Add the eggs slowly to the sugar mixture and beat until smooth.
  5. Sift the flour, spices and salt then fold into the oil mixture with a metal tablespoon.
  6. Fold in the grated carrot, pineapple, pecans, orange zest, orange extract, vanilla extract and sultanas.
  7. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and tap the tin on the work surface, to level off.
  8. Place in the oven on the middle shelf and bake for 1 ½ hours.
  9. Check the cake after 1 hour 15 minutes. Gently shake the tin – if the centre wobbles, the cake will need at least another 15 minutes. Your bake should be golden and firm to touch. A skewer should come out cleanly when inserted in the middle of the cake. If you lift the cake to your ear, it should hardly be making a sound, no crackling from any mixture still cooking inside the cake (this is my top baking tip and why I’m known as the ‘Cake Whisperer’!)

Whilst the cake is baking, prepare the orange and pineapple syrup:

  1. Place the orange, pineapple juice and sugar in a small pan. Swirl the pan over the heat to help dissolve the sugar and bring to a steady boil.
  2. Reduce the heat and simmer until the syrup is reduced by one-third, which takes about 5 minutes.

Once the cake is ready, remove from the oven and brush with the warm syrup. Place the tin on a cooling rack and leave to cool.

Whilst the cake is cooling prepare the buttercream frosting:

  1. Place the butter and cream cheese in a bowl, then beat until combined.
  2. Add the orange zest, juice, and orange extract.
  3. Add the icing sugar a dessert spoon at a time until all combined, then beat for 8-10 minutes until light and fluffy.

Meringue kisses

Ingredients:

  • 90g egg whites (room temperature)
  • 2g cream of tartar
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 – 3 drops of yellow gel food colouring

Equipment:

  • Two flat baking trays lined with either baking parchment or silicone liners.
  • Large piping bag (reusable or disposable) fitted with a JEM 1G star nozzle or 8-point star nozzle.
  • A stand mixer with whisk attachment or an electric hand mixer – will save you time.

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 100C fan assisted,100C,200F gas mark 1/4.
  2. Line two baking sheets with either the baking parchment or silicone sheets.
  3. Place the egg whites with the cream of tartar in the mixing bowl and whisk on medium until the mixture reaches soft peak stage. Add the vanilla extract and turn, then beat on high.
  4. Gradually add a teaspoon of the caster sugar to the egg white at a time, allowing a few seconds between each spoonful. Continue whipping until the whites are shiny and hold stiff peaks.
  5. Take a little mixture between your finger and thumb; it should feel smooth but, if it feels gritty, beat the mixture a little more to ensure all the sugar has dissolved. Place the nozzle in the bag and stand the prepared piping bag inside a large jug (a pint glass will do to improvise!)
  6. Place the meringue in the bag and fasten the end with a clip or a peg.
  7. Holding the piping bag vertically. Start in the middle of a circle and squeeze the bag steadily, slightly up and down, to create a kiss about 3cm high. When you reach this point, lift the piping bag a little higher and lift off.
  8. Repeat this until you have used up the mixture. Place in the oven. You’ll know that they are ready when you lift a meringue and it comes away from the parchment cleanly, with no sticking.
  9. Place on a cooling rack and, when cold, sore in an airtight container.

To decorate the cake:

  1. Spread the frosting evenly over the top and sides of the cake.
  2. Decorate the top with the meringue kisses or fresh berries. You may wish to add primrose flowers, if available.

Val’s Top Tips:

  • To make your bake nut-free, replace the nuts with the same amount of carrot.
  • To lower the calories – halve the amount of cream cheese topping and replace the meringue kisses with fresh, juicy berries.

Enjoy!

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