18 Oct 2011

Carrot Cake

This is the first in my series of Shop bought vs. Home made.  I feel it necessary to have a running theme to keep my mind focused and to have a bit more of a purpose in my writing.  It was difficult to think of what I was going to make for this post but when I was at a friends house last week she was making a carrot cake and that made me want to make one too since I have never made one before, it is something you can readily buy in a supermarket and because to me it seems like an autumnal cake, being made with carrots and mixed spice.

I found the carrot cake quite strange to make at first because it uses oil as the fat rather than butter or margarine but as I got over this novelty the cake mixture was actually pretty easy and quick to do, the most time consuming process being the grating of the carrots.  The recipe I used is from my mum's Good Housekeeping cookbook, I looked up lots of recipes online but they all seemed to add strange and unnecessary ingredients whereas the Good Housekeeping recipe was the traditional, plain and simple recipe that I was looking for.  I could not find the recipe online so here is a simplified version of it.

250ml Sunflower oil
225g Soft light brown sugar
3 eggs
225g S.R. flour
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
250g grated carrots
50g unsalted butter
225g cream cheese
25g icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Line 2 18cm sandwich tins and preheat the oven to 180 degrees or gas mark 4
2. Whisk the oil and sugar together and add the eggs one at a time, whisking them in
3. Sift the flour, salt and spices together over the mixture and fold in
4. Tip in the grated carrots and fold in
5. Divide the mixture between the two tins and bake in the oven for 30-40 mins
6. For the frosting beat the butter and cheese together, add the icing sugar and vanilla and stir until smooth
7. Spread some of the frosting on top of one cooled cake, place the other on top and spread the rest of the frosting over the top

I managed the cake part perfectly well, though my carrot could have been grated a bit more finely perhaps.  For some reason though my cream cheese frosting went a bit lumpy, I think maybe it is because I used mascarpone instead of philadelphia for it, but I'm not sure.  This is what my cake looked like after I finished it.

As you can see the frosting is a bit lumpy, but the cake looks nice.  Here is a photo of the carrot cake which I bought, it is an ASDA extra special cake.

I'm afraid to say that for me at this point the shop bought one looks more tempting but this is before I cut into them and before I tasted either of them, so there is still hope.  This is a photo of a piece of my cake.

And here is a photo of a piece of the shop bought cake.

In my own personal opinion, judging from the look of them, though the shop bought one looks a bit neater, it also looks pale and dry in comparison to the home made one.  And in tasting them, when I ate them together, all I could taste in the shop bought one was sugar, it was very sweet and the cake was quite dry though the home made one could perhaps have done with being a little sweeter, at least in terms of the frosting.

I can't just go on my own opinion though, I also gave my mum some to take into work with her and she gave it to the dietitians she works with as a blind taste test.  Their main comments were that the shop bought one was easier to cut though it was too sweet and that the home made one was moister but the icing was not sweet enough.

The taste is not all I was comparing though, I also wanted to compare the price.  I bought the ASDA cake for £2.25 and after careful calculation worked out that it cost around £3.60 to make mine although my cake was much bigger than the shop bought one.  Therefore I weighed out pieces and 1/4 of the shop bought cake weighed the same as 1/12 of the home made one which means that if the shop bought cake were the same weight as the home made one (and the price went up in relation to the weight) it would have cost £6.75, making my cake much more cost effective.

I hope I haven't gone on too long and made people lose interest in this experiment.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and now have a lot of carrot cake to eat, which I am not unhappy about.

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