Recipe: Carrot cake with lemon and bergamot frosting

Make our tasty carrot cake with lemon and bergamot frosting.

Make our tasty carrot cake with lemon and bergamot frosting. - Credit: Archant

This carrot cake with its unusual, citrussy frosting is perfect with a cup of tea on a chilly day.

'Mum, you have to try that!' My youngest was jabbing his finger at the telly this week as the latest round of Great British Bake Off contestants tried to make board games out of biscuits.

'Yeah, yeah, alright then,' I replied wearily.

'When? At the weekend?'

'Sure, whatever.'

A creeping sense of dread has lingered since Tuesday night. After all, Ethan's not really at the age where I can fob him off anymore. I'm praying football practise, a session at the scooter park and some family movies will distract him from his fantasy that I'll be making a life size edible version of Labyrinth this weekend.

Don't get me wrong. I love baking. I spend a huge fraction of my life cooking, creating recipes, and rustling up cakes. But I am the most rubbish designer/artist ever. I can make you a super-duper Sacher torte, Battenburg, tart, éclairs – you name it. However, when it comes to fondant figurines, or making foodie constructions, I'm more budget Holiday Inn than The Ritz.

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I remember a few Christmases ago making a gingerbread house with a friend for my daughter. It looked amazing, but collapsed into a sorry mess of royal icing and broken biscuit all over her in the car. She was not amused!

For years and years friends and family have begged me to go on the Bake Off, but the prospect of presenting Paul Hollywood with a three tier cake that looks like it's been attacked by rabid dogs fills me with dread. Also, I am probably the messiest cook in Suffolk – my husband can attest to that.

No I'm quite happy in my own kitchen thankyou very much, cooking classics with a twist, and occasionally veering into the world of sugar or chocolate work.

I'd much rather make cakes and bakes my family can actually eat, and appreciate. Proper wedges of coffee and walnut cake. Decadently rich brownies studded with white chocolate buttons. Scones.

It's tradition in our house to have homemade cake on Bake Off night, and this week it was carrot cake. This, to me, heralded the beginning of the autumn cake season. Gone are strawberry tarts and lemon meringue pies. We're now in the territory of the apple pie, blackberry crumble, and nutty, dense, warming cakes designed to distract us from the waning summer, tempting us towards Christmas.

Carrot cake should have a whiff of spice about it. And (unless you have allergies) it needs the bite of toasted walnuts too, which give it a wholesome kind of nature.

I've brightened this cake with my favourite lemon and bergamot icing, made with a not-so-secret ingredient. It works with lemon drizzle sponges, Victoria sponges, and even between layers of deep dark chocolate cake.

If you like raisins and sultanas, soak 100g of these in tea and add to the mix. My kids pick them out (despite actually liking raisins) so I don't bother putting them in at home.

Carrot cake with lemon and bergamot frosting

(serves 8-10)


250ml vegetable oil

4 medium eggs

100g dark brown sugar

120g caster sugar

225g self-raising flour

1 large carrot peeled and grated finely

1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda

2tsps mixed spice

100g walnuts, toasted and chopped into small pieces


60g unsalted butter, softened

Juice 1 lemon

Earl Grey teabag

250g icing sugar

Walnuts to decorate


Heat the oven to 180C and grease and line two 20cm round cake tins.

Whisk together the oil, eggs, sugars, mixed spice, carrots and walnuts. Combine well. Sift the flour and bicarbonate together and fold into the oil mix.

Equally divide between the tins and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until risen and firm.

For the icing place the butter and icing sugar in a bowl. Add 1tsp of the inside of your teabag. Pour in the lemon juice and mix well until you have a thick frosting.

Allow your cakes to cool completely, then sandwich and top with the frosting. Finish with a scatter of walnuts.