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Carrot Cake Tray Bake, by Val Stones

Val Stones' carrot tray bake

Our treasured baking expert, Val Stones, is a firm fan of twists on traditional bakes – as she showed on The Great British Bake Off. Here she shares her carrot cake tray bake, our featured recipe for June as part of our Plant to Plate Calendar.

Val’s thoughts and tips:

My friend Louise gave me a carrot cake recipe more than twenty years ago and I have added ingredients and made it a family favourite. I always made it in a round tin until I saw Jo Wheatley making hers as a tray bake, which makes it much easier to cut. It’s also part of your 5-a-day with carrots, sultanas and nuts, and is made with vegetable oil. To lower the calories, you might want to halve the amount of buttercream topping!

Serving suggestions and timings:

  • Serves: 16-24
  • Preparation time: 30 minutes
  • Baking time: 40-50 minutes
  • Decorating time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • For the tray bake
  • 450g soft light brown sugar
  • 375ml vegetable oil
  • 5 large eggs
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 14g ground mixed spice
  • 2g ground cinnamon
  • One pinch of fine sea salt
  • 380g grated carrot
  • 185g pecans
  • 120g sultanas
  • Grated zest of one unwaxed orange (save the juice for the syrup)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the orange syrup

  • Juice of one whole orange
  • 40g caster sugar

For the buttercream frosting

  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 100g full-fat cream cheese
  • 600g icing sugar
  • Finely grated zest and juice of an unwaxed orange
  • 1tsp orange extract
  • 120g caramelised pecan halves

Method

  1. Set the oven to 160°C fan, 180-190°C, 350- 375°F, gas 4-5 and prepare a rectangular shallow baking tin (30cm x 23cm), or a round 20cm-diameter deep baking tin
  2. Place the sugar and oil in a bowl and mix well until all combined and smooth
  3. Break the eggs into a bowl and beat lightly. Add slowly to the sugar mixture and beat until smooth
  4. Sift the flour, spices and salt into a bowl, then with a metal tablespoon fold into the oil mixture. Fold in the grated carrot, pecans, orange zest, orange extract, vanilla extract and sultanas
  5. Pour the mixture into the baking tin and tap the tin on the work surface to level off
  6. Place in the oven on the middle shelf and bake for 40-50 minutes. Check the cake after 40 minutes; it should be golden and firm to touch, and a skewer should come out cleanly if 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

For the toppings

  1. Place the orange juice and sugar in a small pan, swirl the pan over the heat to help dissolve the sugar and bring to a steady boil; then reduce the heat and simmer until the syrup is reduced by one third
  2. When the cake is baked, remove it from the oven and brush with the warm syrup; place the tin on a cooling rack and leave to go completely cold
  3. For the buttercream filling, place the butter in a large mixing bowl and beat for two minutes, before adding the other ingredients and beating until light and fluffy
  4. To decorate the cake, spread the frosting evenly over the top and scatter with the pecans
  5. Place in the fridge for an hour to allow the frosting to harden a little before removing and cutting into pieces. Serve the cake from the tray or store the cut pieces in boxes (use a piece of baking parchment to cover the first layer and then stack the pieces two deep without spoiling the topping)

Build your own recipe book with the help of our ‘Plant to Plate Calendar’. With the expertise of Mark Lane and Val Stones, you can try your hand at beetroot brownies, bubble and squeak, and salmon and broccoli tart.

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