My First Cake: Nigella’s Ginger and Walnut Carrot Cake

I was recently talking with my mom and sisters in a group chat about what we all wanted for Christmas. I was listing off the usual baking and cooking needs and wants, one of which included a springform cake pan. My mom wrote back that she had one at home that she never uses anymore, and that I could take it home with me next time I came up.

This last Sunday I was off from work, so Julian and I drove up to my parents’ house for the day. It was a wonderful, cozy day catching up with my parents, sister, and brother-in-law, snuggling with the pets, and watching Avengers: Infinity War. The day ended with me bringing home not just a springform cake pan, but also a pie dish, a quiche pan, and some leftover curry (mom’s food is always the best.) Time to start baking.

A week or so ago, I was watching PBS Create and Nigella Lawson was on. Of course, everything she makes always look so good. But what particularly stood out to me was a delicious-looking carrot cake she made. It was a one-layered cake that included ginger for some extra spice and walnuts for texture. Here, have a look yourself:

I was drawn to the recipe for several reasons: I love carrot cake (carrots are good for you, right?), I love cream cheese frosting (who doesn’t?), and it looked like a relatively easy recipe to start with. I’d never made a cake before, except my mom’s pumpkin cheesecake recipe the last couple Thanksgivings, so I was feeling really intimated. The fact that this was one layer and a relatively easy recipe with familiar ingredients, I figured it would be a good first cake to try.

The recipe can be found on the BBC’s Food Recipes page. Unfortunately, all the ingredients listed use the metric system (could we Americans just switch to metric already??) so this slowed me down at first. I scoured the internet for help with converting measurements, which was harder than I expected. Finally I figured out a solution that worked for me.

For the cake:

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (plain flour)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2/4 cups plus 2 tsp light brown sugar (in retrospect, I think I put in two tablespoons….)
  • 2 large (at room temperature) eggs
  • 3/4 cups plus 1 tbsp (more for greasing) vegetable oil (I used canola)
  • 7 ounces peeled and coarsely grated carrots (I used three medium)
  • 1 cup roughly chopped or crumbled walnut pieces

For the icing:

 

  • 7 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sifted if lumpy powdered (confectioners) sugar
  • 1 tsp cornstarch (corn flour)
  • 7 tbsp cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp coarsely grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped or crumbled walnut pieces
  • 1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped crystallized ginger

The rest of the recipe you can follow at the original source!

Besides the conversions, the recipe was easy enough to follow, especially considering that I watched the video above about three times to make sure I got it into my head. For the main cake part, I followed the recipe exactly, except that I grated the first two carrots a little finer than was called for before I realized to change the side of the grater I was using. This just resulted in some smaller, finer bits of carrot, and some larger, more shaped pieces. I then baked it at 325F for 45 minutes while I prepared the cream cheese frosting. I used just a little bit less ginger than the recipe called for because I didn’t want to overwhelm the frosting with the ginger flavor. When frosting the cake later, I also skipped the walnuts and crystallized ginger on top, because I wanted to focus on the cake and the frosting itself (and I’m usually not a fan of nut toppings as it is.)

The result was absolutely marvelous. The color of the cake turned out lighter than Nigella’s, which I still am not sure why, but it still tasted amazing. The ginger adds an amazing, delicious warmth to the cake, and the walnuts add just the slightest bit of crunch without interrupting the experience. I spread the icing when it was a little too cold still, so it wasn’t entirely even, which would have docked some points for me if I were on the Great British Baking Show (but “good distribution of the fruit and walnuts,” and “the flavor is excellent! Absolutely scrummy.”) I shared the cake with my husband and my mother-in-law, and Mama-in-Law, who usually has small portions of food, took a huge piece, which is one of the best kinds of compliments.

So while I’m basking in the joy of my first cake success, I am also really excited at the possibility of starting some culinary classes in January, at a local college. I’ve applied, and am working on getting in the necessary paperwork, transcripts and whatnot. My hope is to start of the year with a sanitation and safety class and an introduction to cooking. I am so excited for what lies ahead, and am hoping I can really take this first step towards making cooking and baking a career, and maybe, ultimately, one day, a family business.

One can dream.

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