This carrot and caramel cake is gluten-free and makes the perfect layer cake for everybody. With loads of creamy icing and crunchy irresistable caramel popcorn, it is a cake worth celebrating
I delivered this cake. A Carrot and Caramel Cake with Popcorn Praline!
It got eaten and people loved it but it really did test me on a few levels.
I struggle with a lack of self-belief. Now I have said it, and I feel very brave. I don’t always believe that my abilities are unique or that I have any abilities at all. I am sure there are a lot of people like me. However, for a person with diminished self-belief, I love to create. It makes my world feel fulfilled and it makes me feel like I have done something for someone. Even so, I am very shy about presenting these little gifts to people. Thankfully, I am surrounded by people who encourage me on a daily basis so I can overcome my doubts one day at a time. I am very eager to make people happy through food even when I have only hours to do it.
Diary of a Carrot Cake
A couple of days ago I was on my way out when I got a phone call asking if I would make a cake at short notice. It was for a person that I like a lot, and she had decided to throw herself a party. She is able to throw a fantastic party when she has the mind to because she owns a bar in Marrickville. So, despite the fact that I was going to be out all night Friday and had planned to spend the whole day and night out on Saturday, I said I would squeeze it in for Sunday. Between Saturday’s appointments and 6 pm Saturday night, I shopped for ingredients. I packed them all into a box and headed out to my sister’s house where we had planned to have dinner and a couple of glasses of wine while making an unusual attempt at relaxing. Instead, I started the construction of this cake.
She wanted a gluten-free Carrot and Caramel Cake and I knew this was what she wanted even before she asked. I knew, not because I have any kind of mind power or ESP, it was just that she had gone mental for a cake I had made for another of my dearest friends, just recently. (cake below) The bottom layer was chocolate cake but the top layer was a gluten-free carrot cake with caramel icing. So, let’s face it it was a foregone conclusion.
Baking Carrot cake and drinking wine, why not?
Instead of relaxing at my sister’s house, I turned her oven on and made a couple of cake layers. She’s only just moved into her house so the oven remained untested. I am pleased to report that it works. At the same time, I had a number of glasses of wine as planned, cooked a BBQ, and made an un-churned ice cream dessert for the next night so she could relax with her family and scoff ice cream. Yes, I was pretty tired on Sunday morning. (It could have been that last glass of wine). So after
2 headache tablets, we ate breakfast together I packed up my cake layers and headed home to make caramel and construct a cake.
Making buttercream for a Carrot Cake that will last
Sounds quite simple except it was a 38 C day (100 F) and my house is at least 5-6 degrees hotter than the weather outside. A block of butter on the kitchen counter melted in around 10 minutes. It was easy to beat the buttercream icing but more difficult to keep it on the cake. I made a cream cheese based buttercream so that it would have a more solid body. It took a very long time to get the four-layered cake chilled. The party started after 5 pm and would run till the wee hours but I had hoped that I would be able to get it to its destination before too many people crowded into the bar. I left home with the well-chilled cake in a pre-chilled car at 7.30 pm. This cake has a dripping caramel layer and the caramel needs to be just warm when poured over a chilled buttercream. Yes, things were not quite as controlled as I would normally like them, but this isn’t the worst part of the story by far.
Adventures delivering a Carrot and Caramel Cake to a bar
When I pulled up there were a lot of people sitting outside the bar and there was a band on the stage on the makeshift platform right in the doorway. I began to doubt myself. I had been told it was a private party and we could enter the bar via a back lane, but with people sitting outside I began to think I had misheard the day and as I parked the car some distance away I doubted myself. Had I misheard, why had I not double-checked the invite she had sent, had I made the cake on the wrong day? Would I have a puddle of cream cheese on the floor of my car? I was so over myself. I know it is stupid but this is a big and heavy cake. You can’t just go waltzing down the main street with it, it needs plans all of its own. And when you doubt yourself everything looks scary.
Unable to leave it in the car and ask questions I picked it up and started walking down the street. A small round boy looked up at the cake in my hands and stared till his father called him. He tore his eyes off the caramel popcorn and moved on. That was a little piece of comedy I appreciated in my time of duress. When I got to the bar there were 3 ladies sitting outside at a table with a spare chair. So, I sat down and put the cake on the table dwarfing their drinks and stopping their conversation.
“Are you at Fiona’s party?” I asked. After the surprise of having a big caramel cake at their table subsided a little, they told me there was a private party out the back and that I should just walk through the bar and out to the courtyard of the bar. “I can’t push my way through a bar with this cake”. I said in disbelief or maybe it was fear. On one hand, I felt relieved that I had the right day, and on the other, I felt mortified that I would have to struggle my way through a bar, past the band, and through a tightly packed room full of people. By this time a nice man had stepped up and was telling me that all I needed to do was hold it above my head and yell, “coming through!”. He must have seen the look on my face because he very kindly asked “Do you want me to carry it for you?” I could have kissed him. He promptly took the cake from me and into the bar where he held it high and danced his way past the crowd who cheered and whooped and craned to get a better look at the cake flying by. He pushed through this crowd and out the back and through the next lot that just as enthusiastically cheered the arrival of the cake. Sure every one was staring and asking questions. I was so relieved to be here, with the cake, only slightly covered in cream cheese icing.
Eventually, the bar was emptied out all except for the invited guests. The cake was put onto the bar and we all waited ….I am getting old, cause I just love this bit where we can laugh and hear stories about friends and learn things we don’t know from their closest family members. We sang happy birthday and people stepped up to get cake. A guy standing at the bar looked at me and said “If you cut then, I’ll hand it out”. When you make a cake you always get caught up in the cutting, let’s face it, you do know that cake more intimately than anyone else. After we had distributed the cake he took a big piece and declared it was a good cake, to which I said.
“Well thank you!” He looked at me, a little surprised “Did you make it? “That is one hell of a good cake”. Much to my relief, the cake was eaten in no time
So without further ado here’s the recipe. I have no comment on my own stupidity.
Carrot and Caramel Cake
- 300 gm carrot grated (around 3 large)
- 4 whole large eggs 70 gm – extra large
- 250 ml plain oil or 1 1/4 cups of (veg, rice bran, macadamia)| 1 1/2 US cups
- 2 teaspoons vanilla 10ml
- 200 gm caster sugar (1 cup- A) 7 oz
- 100 gm brown sugar (1/2 cup- A) 3.5oz
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
- 1 cup almond meal (100 gm- 3.5oz)/ flour
- 140 gm gluten free flour (1 cup) – I always use Aldi’s mix
- 1 teaspoon heaped cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (or any spices you like 2-3 teaspoons)
- 100 gm nuts chopped- 3.5oz
Frosting (see notes)
- 500 gm butter unsalted (softened) – 17.6oz
- 500 gm cream cheese (softened) 17.6 oz
- 300 gm icing sugar sifted – 10.6oz
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 150 gm caster sugar (3/4 cup)- 5.3oz
- 1 Tablespoons water 20 ml
- 50 gm butter cold cubed, 1.8oz
- 2 tablespoons cream 60ml
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
- 50 gm popping corn 1/4 cup or popcorn microwave (1 sachet)
- 50 ml vegetable oil approx 3 Tblsp
- 110 gm brown sugar 1/2 cup + 2Tblsp
- 85 gm glucose approx 1/4 cup
- 50 gm butter 2 1/2 Tbsp
- 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda 1 gm
- 1/4 tsp salt 1 gm
- NOTEThis cake makes a great layer cake. It is slightly heavy due to it's gluten free nature but it is very moist and flavourful and would make a very nice teacake with or without icing. The recipe attached will here make 1 x 10 in (26 cm) cake. To make the cake as pictured in size I have used (12 in / 28 cm)I made this using 4 times the recipe below ( Each layer was one recipe per layer). I also used a 12" or 28cm tin for lager thinner layers. If you use a smaller tin like a 20/ 8 inch you can bake 1 recipe in this tin and cut in half after chilling. Alternatively, it will make two thin layers This recipe uses Australian cup measurements where cups are mentioned
Spray and line the tin with baking paper. Set the oven to 170? / 340?
- Put the eggs, oil, vanilla, spices and sugars in the bowl of a mixer and mix with a whisk until well combined and emulsified. (alternatively, you can do this by hand)
- Mix the dry ingredients together well.
- Grate the carrot and then toss with the dry ingredients- you can use your hands to do this it works best. (do not use the ultra fine side of your grater, it squeezes the juice from the carrots)
- Pour the egg | sugar mixture into the dry ingredients that have been combined with the carrot mix well.
- Pour into the paper lined and greased cake tin and bake for approximately 40- 50 minutes for each layer. Check that the middle of the cake is cooked by piercing it with a skewer or knife. The tip needs to come out clean. this is especially important if you are making the whole recipe in one tin
- Cool each layer and refrigerate to firm up for decorating.
- Bring the cream cheese to room temperature before using. Crush it with a fork and mix well then set aside. Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the cream cheese and continue to mix until it is combined. Add the lemon juice and the icing ( powdered ) sugar and then beat till very light and fluffy. Approximately 5-8 minutes. If you want the frosting sweeter add more icing sugar. You could also add caramel extract if desired
- * Note the more sugar you add the softer it will become. Temperature will also play a part in the amount of sugar you might like to use. The hotter it is the less you will need. You can chill the mixture in the fridge for 20 minutes or so to firm it up a little. Don't let it get hard though!It is always easier to add icing to a cake with a piping bag. This allows a more even coating.
- Once the layers are stacked, use a scant amount of the butter cream to make a crumb coat. This means using just enough butter cream to seal the crumbs into the cake before putting a thicker layer on. It will be a painfully thin coat.
- Refrigerate till firm and then cover with the remaining buttercream. Smooth with a long pallet knife. Chill completely.
- Put the sugar into a pot a tablespoon of water. Cook on medium high swirling a little to incorporate all the sugar. Cook till starting to colour watch very carefully and turn off the heat when it is a golden brown colour. Add the cream immediately, stand back it will splutter. Break up the butter and whisk into the caramel mix once off the heat and cooled slightly. Add the salt 1/2 at a time, and let it dissolve before adding more to taste.
- If the caramel starts to set straight away it can be fixed. This just means it has boiled to a very high temperature and has set harder. It can be put back onto a gentle heat and add a tablespoon of water and stir till it melts and mixes in. When just warm pour 1/2 to 3/4 over the top of the well chilled cake and tilt so that it spreads. It will keep running for a while so put onto a tray and back into the fridge to set. The caramel will not be spreadable with a spatula, so you may need extra poured in spots to fill the gaps.
- Prepare and line a baking tray and set the oven to 110C | 230F
- Put a medium to large pot on the stove and have a bowl or a lid to cover the top handy. Put the oil and 2 kernels of popcorn on to the stove and when the kernels sizzle and pop the pot is ready. ( stand back when doing this or the corn can pop in your face)Put all of the kernels into the pot shake and cover immediately. It will smoke and pop a lot so shake the pot and don't be tempted to peek inside. When there is no more popping take off the lid pour into a large bowl and set aside If using packet popcorn follow the instructions
- Take a small to medium pot and put onto the scales. Put the butter, (broken up into small pieces) then weight in the glucose, brown sugar and salt. Heat until the sugar dissolves swirling to incorporate the sugar crystals at the sides. Continue cooking until the mixture starts to bubble. Let it bubble without touching or stirring for 2 to 3 minutes. You will start to smell the caramel. Take off the heat and add the bicarbonate of soda stirring to combine. It will look a little fluffy. ** Be very careful with this hot liquid
- Pour the caramel over the popcorn and toss as well as you can with a spatula. Pour the mixture onto a tray and flatten ít out. This can be done with a wooden spoon or two if that''s easier. Bake in 10 minute intervals tossing the popcorn and caramel each time you turn the tray in the oven. This should take around 40 minutes or so. Each time you toss and press it down again it will distribute the caramel.
- The popcorn will be shiny and coated and will not be firm until it cools down
- Break the popcorn up. Put the popcorn onto the cake just before serving. It can be kept in an airtight container
!Cream Cheese Frosting- The recipe above will make enough for a small to medium cake.
!for a single or 2 tiered cake this will be enough for the layers and the outside. Popping corn makes superior caramel popcorn. It doesn’t have all the flavours attached to it and it is softer in texture to popping corn Glucose can be found in the supermarket. It should not be skipped as it gives the popcorn an extra crunchy texture when cool. Glucose is also a good way to cut down on using more sugar. It is 1/2 the sweetness of sugar but helps caramel avoid becoming grainy te