Carrot & Cashew Nut Cake

There’s something about a summer’s day that makes me really fancy a bit of cooling sweet  carrot cake. I love the way it sounds healthy, though despite its long association with health food shops it’s far from healthy! Sure you can hide some veggies and some nuts in there but it’s still a naughty little cake. And I love a naughty little cake!

Finding myself on a sugar craving snack hunt I found we had a lot of carrots to get through, a carton of cream cheese in need of using up and a big bag of cashews at the back of the store cupboard. To be honest I was really after some chocolate for a quick sugar fix but found these random ingredients whispering… carrot and cashew nut cake. By adapting the basic carrot cake recipe I substituted cashews instead of walnuts and added sugar cashews for topping. I must say I prefer using cashews instead of walnuts as sometimes walnuts can be bitter or catch my throat. Cashews add a lovely creamy edge and caramelised crunch to the topping.

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For the cake

150ml sunflower oil
200g light soft brown sugar
3 eggs
175g plain flower
2 teaspoons of baking powder
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
75g chopped cashew nuts
150 – 200g grated carrots (I used two medium-sized carrots)

For the cream cheese frosting

250g of cream cheese (around one pack)
100g of icing sugar
zest of one lemon

For the Sugared Cashews for topping 

100g cashews
tea cup of water or around 100 ml water
25g granulated sugar
dessert spoon of Demerara sugar

Heat the oven to 180 C/160 C fan/350 F/gas 4 and line the base of your chosen tin. I used a 20cm loose bottom tin.

Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into a bowl.

Using a food processor or by hand mix the sugar and oil together until smooth incorporating the beaten eggs. Stir in the carrots and nuts to the mixture then fold in the dry ingredients.

pour into your cake tin smoothing gently with the back of a spoon. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, test with a skewer, if it comes out with only a few crumbs your cake is ready.

leave to cool completely in the tin.

Whilst cooling make the lemon cream cheese topping and your sugared cashews.

For the cream cheese frosting simple mix together the cream cheese and icing sugar gently until all the icing sugar has dissolved, stir through the lemon zest and set aside back in fridge until needed.

For the sugared cashews start by lightly toasting the cashews in a dry frying pan. Add the granulated sugar to the water heating in a small pan until simmering and the sugar has been dissolved. Pour into the warm nuts in the fry pan (be careful the pan is not too hot!) let. Leave simmering the sugar-water and nuts until becomes syrupy and add the demerara sugar. Continue to cook until the liquid has gone and the nuts are sticky. Set aside to cool.

Turn out your cooled cake, frost with the cream cheese mix and decorate with your sugared cashews. Eat immediately or keep in the fridge until consumed.

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The Gingerbread Allotment Shed

 

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Nothing says Christmas like gingerbread. I love it, I could live off the stuff year round. Something about the warming spice, dark molasses rich sugar and the lightly chewy texture from the golden syrup that just warms the cockles and gets me in the festive spirit. This recipe has a lovely aromatic to it with the addition of the Orange zest and freshly grated nutmeg. Ideal for edible or decorative use, but why would you want to waste a good biscuit on the tree?
Continue reading “The Gingerbread Allotment Shed”

Oh no, not another marrow! A marrow & ale chutney recipe for when you’re not expecting a marrow.

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It happens to us all, we go away on holiday, forget to pick a courgette or discover a hidden monster of a marrow under a forest of leaves, that’s not to say many of us grow marrows on purpose. We fall into the first category, preferring a nice courgette or zucchini over a hefty marrow. We try to avoid having a marrow monster on our hands, but sometimes you just can’t avoid the odd marrow. Of course that’s not to mention those ‘gifted’ to you. We’re a generous bunch us allotmenteers, and I bet a fair few of use have been offered a marrow from a plot neighbour at some time or other, offered with look of marrow induced panic in their eyes (please take the marrow PLEASE!). And so that’s what we did accepting a marrow from Con, one of the loveliest, gentlest of the old-timer allotment holders at our site, you just can’t say no to Con, he’s such a quiet man and it must have taken a lot to think of us and offer up one of his marrows. It was delicious, we made a lovely stuffed marrow with wild rice and made the mistake of telling someone down the plots. Since then we keep finding flipping marrows left for us on our shed step!
Continue reading “Oh no, not another marrow! A marrow & ale chutney recipe for when you’re not expecting a marrow.”

Straw-mendous Strawberry Jam

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If I was to pick just one jam to take away to a desert island (or should that be dessert island!), it would be strawberry. I adore it. It peps up my porridge in winter, the jewel on the crown of a cream tea, essential for a Victoria sponge and who would say no to simple strawberry jam sandwich? And whats more its dead easy to make, virtually makes itself. The varieties we have in our strawberry patch are a mix of ‘Cambridge Favourite’, ‘Florence’ and an everbearer ‘Albion’. ‘Florence’ are my favourites. They are a lovely big mid-season strawberry, dark red all the way through. The plant is large and bushy and hold their fruits high but also disguising them from foe.
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An Apple a Day. Apple Day 2012

So today Sunday 21st of October 2012 was Apple Day. The day itself was a grey, damp and rheumy one but that didn’t matter, today was the apples big day. To celebrate Apple Day our allotment kids club, The Young Gardeners Club had a special little meet up in the community hut. Apple Day was started in Covent Garden on 21st Oct. 1990 to demonstrate the significance of the apple to British culture, landscape and wildlife. It is now celebrated countrywide and is part of the festive calendar. The Young Gardeners Club celebrated by making apple juice using a borrowed traditional apple press and bevy of surplus apples kindly donated by plot holders. So you can imagine there was a wide array of varieties, flavour, textures, shapes and sizes of apples on offer. With many of the fruit trees potentially being 75 years old or more there where plenty of heritage and unusual apple varieties to show. A great opportunity to teach the kids about the vast varieties and diversity of British apples. And more importantly that the uniform flavourless apples found in the supermarkets are not necessarily the norm. They had a good turn out, I didn’t realise there was so many children at our plots. The apple juice flowed and someone even made an apple cake! A successful first Apple day for the Young Gardeners Club. Continue reading “An Apple a Day. Apple Day 2012”

King of Carrot Flowers. My Mocks & Spencer Sweet Carrot Chutney.

Carrots are a tricky beast. Easy to grow yet difficult to successfully grow. Like so many other frustrated veggie growers our carrots are constantly plagued by carrot fly. Pursued incessantly throughout the summer months (most active May to September, so that’s basically ALL summer) by this destructive little fly. On paper the carrot fly sounds monstrous; smelling a thinned or freshly pulled carrot on the wind flying a distance to find your baby carrots, laying their eggs so that their grubs feast on the poor defenceless carrot. All the while the veggie grower is blissful in their ignorance, unaware of what horrors lurk beneath the soil. Not only do we have the carrot fly to do battle with but enter the ant and if you’re really unlucky, a mole. Our plot neighbour insist that ants constantly eat their carrot seedlings (jury are still out on that one). It’s not just the marauding pests but their quite picky about their environment. Lovers of fine sandy, free draining stone free soil. Snubbing any manure splitting and growing knobbly at the first sight of a stone. And we’ve all got conditions like that, right? Continue reading “King of Carrot Flowers. My Mocks & Spencer Sweet Carrot Chutney.”

We’re Jammin’. Rhubarb & Elderflower Jam

It’s jam time! Just as in our house we’re getting through the last jars of homemade jam from last years batches, its time to start all over again. First up; Rhubarb & Elderflower jam. Rhubarb and elderflower is a flavour combination I’ve been meaning to have a go at for sometime. I’ve been coveting an Elder tree at our local recreation ground. Admiring and keeping a keen eye out for its blooms from the top deck of my bus to the tube station everyday.

Traditional Gooseberry is the popular pairing with  Elderflower, but one in reality I’ve never been able to work. In that my gooseberries are never ready when the elderflowers are out, it just never ever happens! The Elderflowers bloom and fade in a blink of an eye here in London. Which began my thinking about other jammy alternative combinations. Continue reading “We’re Jammin’. Rhubarb & Elderflower Jam”