Searching for the Perfect Carrot Cake

I've been conducting an experiment, in every cafe I eat only Carrot Cake, trying to establish the qualities of the perfect version. As Hubby and I are planning to open a cafe next year, you could say its essential research. This blog is to help assert more analytical clarity. Carrot Cakes vary, from 'this is just a brown sponge' to 'my god there's some mixed spice in that'. Even my very favourite cafes for coffee and ambience, can be let down by their cakes. So these cake reviews should not be taken as representative of the cafe's qualities as a whole. Anyway, on with the search.

CARROT CAKE REVIEW No 8 ~ A Nice Performance

Carrot cake eaten in The Old Theatre Deli, Southwell, Nottinghamshire.

I know this is not on the North Norfolk coast, but its been quite a while since we've found a new cafe we haven't already visited, let alone a carrot cake. Whilst in Nottinghamshire on a Pre-Christmas family visit we spent a delightful half a day in Southwell. We took in the Minister and found an excellent Deli/Cafe, with a rather passable carrot cake.

The cake was looking good from its external features, a healthy orangey brown tan with a substantail amount of filling and topping. Once you took a bite into it, the cake had that distinctly carroty texture to it, flavoured strongly with carrot too, and a decent enough amount of walnuts to be noticible on the palate. I think it had just mixed spices as additional flavouring, I couldn't detect anything else, but what there was was sufficient to complement rather than drown.

Both the filling and topping were a cream cheese, so glory halleluyah ! There was …

CARROT CAKE REVIEW No 7 ~ The Cakey Vanishes

Carrot Cake ~ eaten in Overstrand Garden Centre, Overstrand, Norfolk.
A strong aroma of citrus should have been sufficient warning, to indicate that all was not right here. The first mouthful. lost no time at all in confirming there was no trace of carrot flavour left in this travesty of a carrot cake, that had not been soaked, nay sozzled, in orange flavouring. Not a nice orange flavouring either, but that peculiarly pungent catering variety the synthetic orange essence, similar to sucking out the liquid centre of a boiled sweet.

A self-declared Gluten Free cake, it bore some of the sadly usual shortcomings of the genus. The cake had so little structure, stability or weight to it, that almost from the moment the cake hit my palate it quickly dissolved into nothing. Leaving a horrible dry after taste lingering like a layer of plaster dust on the tongue. Hubby suggests that they've used a gluten free flour of some kind without really doing enough to provide sufficient substance to …

CARROT CAKE RECIPE No 2 ~ by Nan on the All Recipes UK

Carrot Cake Recipe - by Nan on the All Recipes UK website.

I chose this recipe because of all the recipes I've found so far it had the highest amount of carrot in its mix. Most carrot cake recipes have between 200 to 300 grams, this has 650 grams !  I was intrigued to see how that would turn out. The mix has crushed pineapple, as well as sultanas and walnuts, so it really ups the moisture levels. It also has four eggs and bicarb, so, unsurprisingly the binding and rise on this cake look like being substantial. This is not going to be, by any stretch of the imagination, dairy free, so this wont be your all inclusive universal carrot cake to suit everyone.

The recipe looked to have enough moisture in it, so I drained the excess juice from the crushed pineapple and the steeped carrot and sugar mix too. The oven temperature of 180 degrees didn't say whether it was fan assisted or not, and was supposed to be for 45-50 minutes, but it ended up being an hour. I had to cover it in fo…

CARROT CAKE REVIEW No 6 ~ Crumbling Carrot Cake Batman !

Carrot Cake - eaten in Grey Seal Coffee, Sheringham, Norfolk.

For what was actually quite a modest sized piece of carrot cake, this was, at £3, quite an expensive piece of confectionery.  Also. this was basically a tray bake, not that I've anything against tray bakes, but for a cafe that's a bit of a cheaty short cut, particularly if you are going to charge £3.

Immediately noticeable as your knife cuts into the cake is that it instantly falls into crumbled heaps, never a good thing. The cake announced itself as being dairy free, but its been left without much else to bind it together. Apart from using the 'demon banana', there are other ways to bind it, such as a flour and water paste, an egg replacer, just using a wetter mix, or in this case avoiding over baking it.

Flavour wise, your taste buds are instantly hit by heavy tones of coconut, probably coconut oil this being quite a hipstery establishment, and any carroty flavour becomes a bit of an after taste. They'…

CARROT CAKE RECIPE No 1 ~ Neal's Yard Wholefood Cookbook

Carrot Cake Recipe ~ from Neal's Yard Wholefood Cook Book, Rachel Haigh,

Way back in April the impetus for making this cake was to celebrate Hubby's birthday. This isn't by any means my first cake, but it was my debut carrot cake recipe. I thought that I'd broaden my search for the perfect carrot cake, by trying out different recipes.

When I worked in Central London, I used to buy this carrot cake from Neal's Yard Bakery, sadly no more, and remember its as being rather good. I picked their wholefood cookbook up some years later in a remainder outlet, and some of its recipes are well established favourites.

This first attempt at the recipe was OK, but wasn't quite the archetypal carrot cake I remember it being. Rather than do a single cake, I split the mix into two sandwich tins. I had to adjust the baking time, but not by quite enough, so the cake got slightly over cooked, and hence a tad dry. The recipe has sultanas and walnuts in it, which is good from a mois…

CARROT CAKE REVIEW No 5 ~ In Carrots We Trust.

Carrot Cake ~ eaten in the National Trust Cafe, Sheringham Park, Norfolk.

It was quite a moderately sized slice of carrot cake, but the price probably reflects that. I've certainly had bigger, but then size isn't everything, and those huge slices often turn out to be flavourless sponges anyway.  The cake had a good open texture, with that reassuringly orangey brown that any half decent carrot cake will possess, like a healthy baked tan.  It also had a rugged smattering of sultanas and walnuts, some of which, unfortunately still lay on the bottom of the cake. They probably weren't well enough mixed in.

The first flavour you hit, once you stop observing the external indicators and sink your molars into it? Well, actually its an excellent carroty taste, not overly moist, but then not gingerbread dry, probably about right. The texture is good, the recipe appears to possess a goodly amount of carrot, it has avoided that weightiness, solid and soggy, that the truly worthy wholes…

CARROT CAKE REVIEW NO 4 ~ Finally Something Like The Real Thing

Carrot & Orange with Manuka Honey Cake ~ eaten at The Alby Crafts Tearooms, Alby Crafts & Gardens, Norfolk

Now, you might be forgiven for thinking, as I did when I read the name of this cake ~ ' this cake is wearing its hipster worthiness heavily tattooed on its arm' ~ Manuka Honey, honestly! Is this really a true blue carrot cake. or is it straight out of some fooffy cook book needlessly messing around with a traditional classic, just cos they can? I even thought twice about whether to review this as a carrot cake at all. Well, thankfully I pulled back from my high horses. As ever, what it looks like and what it tastes like are both qualities of a cake, but excellence in the former does not guarantee excellence in the latter. The proof is, as ever, always in the eating.

The slice was substantial in height rather than girth. conforming to a contemporary cake trend for constructing your cake from multiple layers of cake mortared together, in this case, with a light whip…