This is the best carrot and walnut cake ever! It's moist and crumbly at the same time, thanks to the addition of apple puree in the batter. And the lemon juice in the creamy, cheesy frosting provides both a sweet and tangy taste sensation!
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The only carrot cake recipe you will ever need
Believe me, once you've tried this carrot cake traybake you will throw away all your other carrot cake recipes. This carrot and walnut cake has it all.
- It's packed with loads of delicious flavours - cinnamon, ginger, apple, coconut, sultanas, walnuts and of course carrots.
- If I could describe a cake as 'juicy' then this is how I would describe this carrot and walnut cake. The texture is moist and crumbly all at the same time.
- This is the most forgiving of recipes - if you don't like one of the ingredients, then just swap it out for something else. If you have a nut allergy, then leave out the walnuts. Don't like sultanas? No problem, swap them for diced glace cherries. Not a fan of ginger? Leave it out altogether. Don't have apple sauce in the cupboard - just use mashed bananas or crushed pineapple instead.
- It is amazingly easy to make. Just mix all the wet ingredients together and then add them to the dry. Job done! There's no beating of butter and sugar because this carrot cake is made with oil.
- The cake is made in one tray, so there's no messing about spreading frosting between the different layers. Just pour the mixed icing on top and spread it. Of course, you could make this cake in 2 round 9" tins if you really wanted to.
- Because this is a traybake, it's easy to slice and I find you can get more slices from it than you would from a round cake. Also, the slices are smaller than from a round cake, so you can be excused for eating a second slice!
- It's the perfect way to get your children to eat carrots. There are two whole cups of carrots in this recipe, but once the cake is cooked you don't even taste them!
This is the perfect cake to make for Easter, and don't forget to leave a slice out for the Easter bunny. He loves carrots after all!
Ingredients for carrot and walnut cake traybake
**Get the complete list of ingredients and full instructions for making this carrot and walnut cake traybake on the printable recipe card at the end of this post**
I had to take 3 photos of the ingredients for the cake and frosting because there are quite a few ingredients, although they are all regular pantry staples.
- Self-raising flour - if you don't have self-raising flour you can use plain flour and add 1 teaspoon of baking powder for each cup (140g).
- Bicarbonate of soda - because this is a dense cake mixture, it needs a little extra help to rise (even though we are using self-raising flour) and the bicarb provides the extra help it needs.
- Milk - use full-fat or semi-skimmed - it won't make a difference.
- Eggs - you need 3 large eggs. If your eggs are on the small size then either use 4 eggs or increase the amount of milk slightly.
- Sunflower oil - cakes made with oil tend to be more moist and stay fresh for longer than cakes made with butter. You should use sunflower or canola oil or any other neutral-flavoured oil. Don't use olive oil in this recipe - the taste will be too strong.
- Light brown sugar - this adds a slight caramel taste. If you don't have brown sugar you can use caster sugar or white granulated sugar instead.
- Ginger and cinnamon - for added flavour. You can leave these out if you don't like them.
- Salt - optional, but I always think a little salt improves the flavour.
Other ingredients for the cake
These all add to the flavour and texture of the cake - I've tried to suggest substitutions where possible.
- Carrots - there are no substitutions here - this is a carrot cake after all 🙂 . When grating the carrots, use the largest holes on a cheese grater and keep the carrot perpendicular to the grater so that you don't get long strands of carrots. I would also tend to avoid shop-bought grated carrots as these can be quite dry and will upset the moisture content of the cake.
- Coconut - there is not much coconut in this cake - only a quarter of a cup. I think it adds to the texture, and it is not noticeable in the taste. If you don't like coconut, just leave it out, or add extra walnuts.
- Sultanas - I love how the sultanas plump up and add another element of juiciness to the cake. You can use currents or raising, or even swap the sultanas out for diced glace cherries.
- Walnuts - provide crunch and texture. You can use pecan nuts instead. Obviously, if you have a nut allergy you should leave these out altogether.
- Apple sauce - provides additional flavour and moisture. You can swap this out for an equivalent amount of ripe mashed bananas or well-drained canned crushed pineapples.
Note - when omitting any of these ingredients, try to keep to the stated amounts by increasing the other ingredients. For example, if you omit the coconut, add either an additional ¼ cup of carrots, sultanas or walnuts (or a mixture of all three).
If you want to leave out the apple sauce, then you should add extra milk to keep the moisture content the same.
And finally, the ingredients for the cream cheese frosting:
- Cream cheese - you can use your favourite brand.
- Butter - at room temperature to make for easier mixing. Use salted or unsalted - it won't make any difference.
- Lemon juice - for additional tang.
- Icing sugar (or confectioner's sugar / powdered sugar).
- Walnut halves - for decoration
How to make it
- Prep time - 15 minute
- Cooking time - 30 to 35 minutes
- Resting time for frosting - 30 minutes
- Equipment - 9" x 13" (23cm x 33cm) cake tin (or 2 x 9" (23cm) round cake tins)
To make this carrot and walnut cake you will need 2 mixing bowls, one for the dry ingredients and one for the wet. Once the dry and wet ingredients have been mixed separately, the wet ingredients get added to the dry ingredients.
The longest job is grating the carrots - once that is done it's just a matter of chopping the walnuts and mixing everything together.
- Start off by preparing the cake tin. Lightly brush the base and sides of a 9" x 13" (23cm x 33cm) cake tin with sunflower oil. Cut a piece of baking parchment to size and place it in the tray, and then brush the paper with oil too. Set it aside (image 1 above).
- Break the eggs into the mixing bowl and whisk them lightly (image 2 above).
- Add the oil and apple puree and mix in. Then add the coconut, sultanas, chopped walnuts and grated carrots (image 3 above).
- Mix well and set aside (image 4 above). The mixture will be quite runny.
Dry ingredients and baking
- In a separate bowl, sieve the flour, salt, cinnamon, ginger and bicarbonate of soda. Stir in the sugar (image 1 above).
- Add the prepared wet ingredients to the dry ingredients (not shown) and mix thoroughly until there are no streaks of flour left.
- Pour into the prepared baking tray (image 2 above). You can use 2 x 9" round cake tins instead of the oblong tray if you prefer.
- Bake in a preheated oven (180F/360C) for 30 - 35 minutes until browned, then remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan (image 3 above). If using 9" round cake tins, check for doneness after 30 minutes as they may take less time to cook.
- Test for doneness by sticking a toothpick or wooden skewer into the cake. It should come out cleanly. If there is any batter sticking to the cake, bake for a few minutes longer. If the cake is browning too much, cover the cake with a sheet of aluminium foil.
- To remove the baking parchment from the bottom of the cake, place a sheet of aluminium foil over the cake and then cover it with a large wooden breadboard.
- Flip the cake tin upside down and the cake will fall out.
- Peel the baking parchment away (image 4 above).
- You can apply the frosting either to the underside of the cake, or turn the cake over and apply it to the top.
Now mix the frosting and decorate the cake.
- Place the cream cheese into a mixing bowl and whisk with an electric beater until softened. You could also use a wooden spoon to do this.
- Add the butter and continue to whisk until combined (image 1 above).
- Add the lemon juice and about ¼ of the icing sugar and blend until combined.
- Repeat with the remaining icing sugar, adding ¼ at a time until all the icing sugar has been incorporated (image 2 above). Adding the icing sugar a little at a time ensures it all gets mixed into the frosting and does not end up in a white cloud all over the kitchen!
- The frosting will be very soft. Place the bowl into the fridge for half an hour or so to allow it to firm up.
- Tip the frosting on the cake and smooth it with a palette knife.
- If you have made 2 round cakes, sandwich the cakes together with half of the frosting and then spread the remaining frosting over the top..
- Decorate the top of the cake with walnuts, and cut into squares (or slices) to serve.
Because the frosting is very soft you should store this cake in the refrigerator.
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Can I freeze this carrot and walnut cake?
Yes, you can freeze the unfrosted cake for up to 6 months.
Wrap the cake in a layer of aluminium foil and then cover with 2 layers of plastic wrap or clingfilm.
To use, remove from the freezer and leave on the countertop to defrost.
Once defrosted, remove the wrapping and decorate the top of the cake with frosting and walnut halves.
Store the cake in the refrigerator.
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Best ever carrot and walnut cake traybake
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- 2 cups (280g) self-raising flour
- 2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1½ cups (300g) light brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup apple sauce or apple puree
- ½ cup sunflower or canola oil plus extra for brushing baking tray
- ½ cup milk
- 2 cups grated carrots about 4 medium carrots
- ¼ cup desiccated coconut
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- ½ cup sultanas
- 6½ ounce (180g) cream cheese
- 4 ounce (110g) butter softened slightly
- 2 cups icing sugar (confectioner's sugar)
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 16 walnut halves for decoration.
- Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F
- Prepare a 9" x 13" baking dish by brushing the sides and bottom with sunflower oil. Then line the bottom with a piece of baking parchment and brush the baking parchment with oil.
- Grate the carrots on a coarse cheese grater. Chop the walnuts coarsely.
- Sift all the dry ingredients (flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger) together into one mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar. Set aside while you mix the wet ingredients.
- Beat the eggs in a second mixing bowl and then add rest of the wet ingredients (oil and apple puree) and all the other ingredients (coconut, sultanas, walnuts and grated carrots). Mix well to combine.
- Add the combined wet ingredients to the flour mixture and mix with a spatula until there is no visible dry flour.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
- Place in the preheated oven and bake for 30 - 35 minutes until the cake is nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out with no batter sticking to it.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool while you prepare the frosting.
- Place the cream cheese into a mixing bowl and whisk with an electric beater until softened (or use a wooden spoon).
- Add the butter and continue to whisk until well combined.
- Add the lemon juice and ¼ of the icing sugar, blend until well combined.
- Repeat with remaining icing sugar, adding ¼ at a time, until all the icing sugar has been incorporated.
- Place the bowl of frosting in the refrigerator and leave for 30 minutes to allow it to harden slightly.
- Tip the frosting onto the top of the cake and spread with a spatula.
- Decorate with the walnut halves.
- Store the cake in the refrigerator.
- Place a sheet of aluminium foil over the cake and then cover it with a large wooden breadboard.
- Flip the cake upside down and the cake should fall from the tin.
- Peel away the baking parchment.
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.
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