Carrot Cake with Buttercream Flowers
Happy 2021 everyone! Let's hope this year will be better than the last one. I am sure we all have a lot to reflect on when it comes to 2020. It was a turbulent year indeed, full of surprises... If there is one thing that I definitely have 2020 to thank for, it is getting more experienced at baking! Spending so much time at home gave me the opportunity to experiment a lot, watch a lot of baking videos, read baking cook books, you name it.
One of the things that I did not practice a lot though, was cake decorating. I don't often feel like I have enough reason to make an extravagant cake. But last weekend, I thought: Who cares! I am going to learn how to pipe some roses onto a cake. So I set out to put together a carrot cake (one of my favourites) and decorated it.
I enjoyed decorating this cake so much, and I would love to get better at it! I am on the hunt for some good piping tips, as I currently only have one petal tip which is fairly limited if you want to design different types of flowers. With this piping tip, a straight petal tip, I could make some open and closed roses, and some small flowers that I don't know the name of (the smaller, pink ones with yellow middle). Of course, a cake has to taste just as good as it looks, so I spent some time flicking through my old carrot cake recipes and looking online before settling on this one. I adapted Sally's Baking Addictions carrot cake sponge recipe, also used her recipe for Swiss meringue butter cream, and chose a whipped cream/cream cheese filling without sugar (just winged that one) to fill the cake layers. Let's get to the recipe!
For the carrot cake sponge:
- 225 grams of light brown sugar
- 75 grams of granulated sugar
- 220 ml vegetable oil
- 150 grams of apple puree (I used sweetened because I couldn't get unsweetened)
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 300 grams of plain flour
- 2 tsp of baking powder
- 1 tsp of baking soda
- 1/2 tsp of fine sea salt
- 1 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp of ground ginger
- a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp of mixed spice
- 130 grams of toasted or untoasted, cooled walnuts, roughly chopped up
- 260 grams of coarsely grated carrot
For the Swiss meringue buttercream frosting:
- 6 large egg whites (240 grams)
- 400 grams of granulated sugar
- 350 grams of unsalted butter, 1 cm dice shape, at 16 degrees Celsius
- 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
- sniff of salt
- strong gel food colouring (optional)
For the cake layer filling:
- 250 ml double cream, cold
- 100 grams of cream cheese
- zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tbsp of icing sugar
- 1 tsp of cornflour, sieved
Start by making the sponges.
1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (conventional) or 165 degrees (fan).
2. Line 3 cake 20 cm cake tins with baking parchment and oil the sides.
3. Coarsely grate fresh carrots until you get 260 grams.
4. In a large bowl, combine the sugars, oil, eggs, apple sauce, and vanilla extract and mix together.
5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and soda, salt, and all the spices.
6. Add the dry ingredients into the large bowl with wet ingredients and mix until combined. Do not overmix.
7. Add the walnuts and carrots and distribute the batter evenly across the three cake tins.
8. Bake for ~25 minutes until a tooth pick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool down completely on a wire rack whilst you make the Swiss meringue buttercream.
Make the Swiss meringue buttercream, I used this recipe: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/swiss-meringue-buttercream/#tasty-recipes-80765
You can also use a classic American buttercream if you prefer, which is much easier and quicker. Swiss meringue buttercream is lighter and fluffier, and has more of a marshmallowy texture.
When the sponges are cooled, make the filling: 1. Whip up the fridge cold double cream with a hand mixer or standing mixer until it reaches soft peaks.
2. Mix the cream cheese in a separate bowl until loose.
3. Add a couple tablespoons of the whipped cream into the cream cheese to loosen it up.
4. Add the loosened cream cheese to the whipped cream and carefully fold in, making sure not to deflate all the cream.
5. Add the lemon zest and gently mix.
Layering the cakes: 1. Cut your cakes level.
2. Place the first cake on a cake turn table if you have one, or on your serving dish of choice.
3. Spread 1/2 of the whipped cream mixture onto the cake.
4. Place next sponge on top.
5. Spread remaining 1/2 of the whipped cream on the cake.
6. Place third sponge on top.
7. Set aside enough buttercream to make your decorations of choice (such as flowers).
8. Crumb-coat the whole cake with your buttercream of choice using a palette knife or bread scraper, and let the cake cool down in the fridge for 10 mins to stabilise. I recommend watching some videos on how to crumb coat - that's what I did!
9. Spread a thick layer of buttercream all over the cake for your final layer of frosting. Try to get it really smooth (I struggled here a little bit - I think my Swiss meringue had a bit too much air whipped into it for some reason, so I kept getting small air bubbles!).
10. Pipe your buttercream decorations onto small pieces of parchment paper and cool them down in the fridge until solid (at least 30 mins). Once the butter firms up enough, you can touch them quite easily and place them on the cake. I recommend watching this video to learn how to pipe flowers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHc8cqgmYTQ&t=439s&ab_channel=PreppyKitchen
11. Pipe a crescent shape (like a half moon) on the cake that you can stick your decorations onto, if you wish to create the shape pictured above.
12. Arrange your flower decorations however you fancy!
And after all that hard work, all that's left to do is... eat! Oh wait.. take some pictures first of course ;)
I hope you all have a great 2021!