Dame Edna was all set for a lovely retirement of book clubs and chardonnay in Moonee Ponds, Melbourne, when she got the call from the dame of baking himself, Paul Hollywood. If Dame Edna can steal the show for the Great British Comic Relief Bakeoff then sure as hell, I can make carrot cake.
But baking does require the decorative skills of a good plasterer – or of a woman who loves the colour wisteria so much she matches her hair with her icing. And sadly these are skills I have never mastered. In fact presentation just doesn’t come easily at all to someone who hated art class so much that I used to cry until the ordeal was over.
But then there is the science and precision bit in baking, which I can do when pushed. But it’s the requirement for exact measurements that puzzles me most when reading American cookbooks, as measurements are given by volume, not weight. Even Dame Martha Stewart does this, and she’s such a perfectionist she probably stencils the insides of her rubbish bin. Yet how much exactly is a cup of grated carrot? Surely that depends on how tightly you pack the cup?
This recipe, adapted from Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins The Silver Palate Cookbook, is given in volume and weight measurements.
360g/3 cups unbleached flour
360g/3 cups granulated sugar
375 ml 1 ½ cups rice bran oil or a similar flavourless vegetable oil
1tbs baking soda
1tbs ground cinnamon
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1tbs vanilla extract
180gm/ 1 ½ cups walnut pieces
180gm/ 1 ½ cups shredded coconut
180 gm/ 1 ½ cups grated carrot
100gm/ ¾ cup unsweetened and drained tinned pineapple
1. Preheat the oven to 165C/350F (fan assisted). Grease two 8-inch springform pans.
2. Sift dry ingredients into food mixer bowl. Add oil, eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Fold in walnuts, coconut, carrots and pineapple with large metal spoon.
3. Divide mixture evenly and pour into the prepared pans. Bake for 50 minutes, until the cake has pulled away from sides and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
4. Cool on a cake rack for at least two hours. Fill cake and frost the sides with cream-cheese frosting. Then decorate the hell out of it, if you’re the arty type.
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
8 oz cream cheese
6 tbs butter at room temperature
360g/3 cups icing/confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
juice of ½ a lemon
1. In the food mixer, beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth.
2. Slowly sift in icing sugar and continue to beat until mixture is smooth and without lumps.
3. Add the lemon juice and vanilla.
So what could possibly go wrong? Plenty – as I found out when I went to put the frosting on. The cake kept sliding off as the layers were different sizes. So I slapped on more of the frosting to hold the two layers together. Then I bunged the cake in the fridge to try to see if that would help cement it together. It worked – until I had to get the cake out and cut it. As it had serious subsidence, I fobbed it off on the family, who were far too polite to say anything about it’s leaning tower of Pisa tendencies.
After my own baking comedy of errors, I’m grateful to all those willing contestants, prepared to make complete tits of themselves on national television.
The final of the Great Comic Relief Bakeoff is on Wednesday 4th March and if you’re in the UK why not sling them some money, as Comic Relief is a great cause. Text £5 to– BAKE (70005).