Ruby's Carrot And Pistachio Cake
Both the carrot cake, flavoured with spices, nuts and raisins, and the buttercreams are dairy-free. Chocolate ‘planks’ are used to clad the shed and make the fencing surrounding the plot and the veg garden. You can fill the veg patch with shapes of dried apricot and sliced pistachios for carrots, seedlings made from shreds of lime peel, tomato vines made from lime peel and goji berries and so on.
- For the carrot cake:
- 800g self-raising flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp ground mixed spice
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- finely grated zest of 4 limes
- 750g carrots, grated
- 200g shelled, unsalted pistachios, chopped
- 100g pecan nuts, chopped
- 300g raisins
- 9 large eggs, at room temperature
- 500g light brown muscovado sugar
- 360ml corn flower
- 250ml coconut milk
- For the pistachio buttercream:
- 200g dairy-free spread (or unsalted butter), softened
- 500g icing sugar, sifted
- 200g shelled, unsalted pistachios, coarsely ground
- 1 tbsp lime juice, or to taste
- For the plain buttercream:
- 100g dairy-free spread (or unsalted butter), softened
- 350g icing sugar, sifted
- juice of 1½ limes
- For the wooden planks:
- 600g dark chocolate (about 70% cocoa solids), tempered
- For the decoration:
- 70g poppy seeds (for the soil)
- 100g shelled unsalted pistachios, ground (for the grass)
- 2 tbsp freeze-dried mango pieces (for the path)
- plus your choice of ‘fruit’ and ‘veg’ for the plot
- For the shed roof:
- 225g caster sugar
- 80ml water
- 100g flaked almonds
1 To make the cake, heat your oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and spices into a very large bowl. Add the lime zest, grated carrots, all the chopped nuts and raisins and mix thoroughly, breaking up any clumps of carrots. Break the eggs into another bowl, add the sugar, oil and coconut milk and mix well with a wire hand whisk. Add this mixture to the flour mixture and mix everything together well with a wooden spoon.
2 Transfer the mixture to the 2 prepared tins, filling them both to the same height. Place in the heated oven and bake for 40–45 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre of each cake comes out lean. Leave to cool in the tins set on a wire rack.
3 While the cakes are cooling, make the pistachio buttercream. Beat the spread (or butter) with an electric mixer until creamy, then beat in the icing sugar, using slow speed at first. When all the sugar has been incorporated beat at a higher speed for a minute or so until light. Stir in the ground nuts and enough lime juice to make a spreadable icing. Cover and leave at room temperature until needed.
4 Make the plain buttercream in the same way, to make a smooth icing that can be piped. Cover and leave at room temperature until needed.
5 For the ‘wooden planks’, first cut strips of baking paper to be used as templates for the chocolate. For the fence, cut two 6 x 30cm strips and two 6 x 21cm strips. For the veg patch, cut two 4 x 9cm strips and two 4 x 14cm strips. For the shed cut ten 2 x 14cm strips (for the long sides), five 2 x 10cm strips (for the back), ten 2 x 2.25cm strips (for the front) and one 3 x 5cm strip (for the door) as well as two triangles with a 9cm base and 6cm high (for the gable ends). Set all of these cut paper shapes on a very large sheet of baking paper.
6 The tempered chocolate should be cool and starting to thicken. Spread it fairly thickly – about 3mm – over the paper shapes using an offset palette knife. The chocolate shouldn’t be too smooth – you want it to have a textured ‘wooden’ grain. Leave to set (the chocolate must be completely firm before you assemble the cake.)
7 When ready to assemble, turn out the cakes and trim the tops so they are completely flat. Split the larger cake in half horizontally and sandwich the 2 layers with some of the pistachio buttercream. Set on a large serving board. Spread more of the pistachio buttercream over the top of the cake.
8 Use the smaller cake to make the shed. Cut two 9 x 13cm rectangles. Split each in half horizontally to make a total of 4 layers. Sandwich 3 of the layers together with pistachio buttercream (this is the shed). Spread pistachio buttercream over the fourth layer and save to make the veg patch.
9 Make the roof with the piece of cake left over from the shed (which will be about 20.5 x 7.5cm). Cut it lengthways in half. Trim one of the pieces into a 3-sided prism shape and stick it in place on top of the shed with pistachio buttercream. Cut the remaining piece of cake in half horizontally, then cut each of these 2 slices into a triangle 6cm high with a 9cm base. These are gable ends of the roof – stick them on to the ends of the prism shape with pistachio buttercream. Cover the whole shed with a thick layer of plain buttercream. Set the shed in place near one end on the large cake, and place the veg patch near the other end.
10 Next attach the fence around the sides of the large cake and around the veg patch. First spread (or pipe) plain buttercream on to the sides of the cake and on to the cake surface where you are going to place the veg patch fence. Carefully peel the chocolate strips away from the paper and press them on to the cake (make sure your hands are clean and very dry). In the same way attach the ‘planks’ to the shed, slightly overlapping them, to cover the sides, and the chocolate triangles to cover the gables.