Spiced Orange and Carrot Cake with Lemony Cream Cheese Frosting

Carrot cakes have never been part of my habitual baking repertoire. I was recently asked by a colleague if I could make a couple of cakes to celebrate his promotion. He asked if one of them could be a carrot cake, and naturally I obliged. I think I’ve made one carrot cake in the past, and it was enjoyable. It’s never the cake that I would naturally gravitate towards if I had a choice. So I wanted to develop a recipe that appealed more than the retro carrot classic. To start I consulted this Lorraine Pascale recipe for a three-layer cake and adapted it in a few ways to suit.

I had such rave reviews for this cake. I had a slice and I have to say I bumped it straight into my favourites. It’s easy to make, although it takes a bit of dedicated time, keeps very well for a week or so, is very moist and light and looks decorative on a stand.

Apart from general small tweaks, the key digressions from the original recipe are:

– using two-thirds of the recipe stipulations to make a two layer cake. I have to admit I’m surprised that a three layer cake using these quantities is feasible! The two layer version was super tall and fluffy. Three would have been absurdly enormous!

– using wholemeal self-raising flour instead of white self-raising flours. You can buy wholemeal flours in major supermarkets nowadays and this is the perfect recipe for it. It enhances the rich colour of the cake and adds a more natural flavour. It also makes the cake slightly healthy, doesn’t it?

– Using “Canola” oil to make the cake instead of vegetable oil (as I’ve read it’s slightly better for you).

– Adding a dash of orange extract to the mixture to enhance the orange flavour of the cake.


Cake Frosting
350ml Canola or rapeseed oil 200g icing sugar
6 medium eggs, I used my favourite Burford Browns 40g unsalted butter
350g soft dark brown sugar, or a mix of 175g soft light brown sugar and 175g soft dark brown sugar zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
350g wholemeal self-raising flour half tsp vanilla extract
5 large carrots, grated coarsely 115g full fat cream cheese
zest of 3 large oranges walnuts, halved, to decorate
2 tsp/10g bicarbonate of soda candied peels or orange and lemon jelly slices, to decorate
1 tbsp/15g mixed spice
half tsp/2.5g orange extract
half tsp/2.5g vanilla extract, I used Nielsen Massey


1) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees or 160 degrees fan. Butter and line two 20cm cake tins with baking parchment.

2) Add the oil, eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, orange extract, carrots and orange zest and whisk in a free-standing mixer until everything is well mixed and a dark caramel colour with the carrot visible.

3) Sift the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and mixed spice into the wet mixture. Whisk again until everything is well mixed and no lumps are visible.

4) Pour into the tins evenly. The mixture should be quite runny and pour easily from your mixing bowl.

5) Bake for 40 minutes. The cakes will have a rich brown top when fully cooked. Leave to cool in the tins and turn out onto a wire rack after 10 minutes or so.

6) For the frosting, sift the icing sugar and whisk together with the butter, lemon zest and vanilla in a free-standing mixer. Add the cream cheese and whisk on high speed for 2 minutes or so until the mixture is fluffy.

7) If necessary leave the frosting in the fridge for half an hour to firm up.

8) Slice the top off one cake (your least favourite one!) so that the top is flat. Add a generous amount of frosting (just under half) and place your second layer on top.

9) Add the rest of the frosting to the top of the cake and pile up as necessary. Make a few swirly patterns with your palette knife. Decorate with your halved walnuts, candied peel or jelly slices.

Give it a go at the weekend and keep it in an airtight tin over the week to have a sneaky slice with a cup of tea, use it as a celebration cake or even adapt it for cupcakes. I’m a carrot cake convert after using this recipe!