Thursday, July 12, 2012

dancing with cake

A few weeks ago I put on a leotard, tights and shoes and fronted up to the first ballet class I've been to since I was a teenager. I was nervous as hell but to my surprise and delight I actually enjoyed myself. I was not the most uncoordinated person there nor the tallest, oldest or curviest (all worries I had entertained beforehand) and I was surprised to find that I still remembered some of the moves and dance step names, including the tasty sounding fondu which, rather aptly, describes a lowering of the body by bending the knee of the supporting leg and sliding the other leg along the floor.

There is something to be said for seeing your body in figure hugging gear in a massive mirror a few times a week and I have been a bit more conscious of eating my greens and standing up straight since starting the classes... but I have to admit that I crumbled last week and ate a rather large amount of carrot cake. Lydia, my whippet thin ballet teacher, would not be thrilled.

I haven't eaten or made carrot cake in a really long time, not as long as I haven't done ballet, but still quite a while. Carrot cake seems like one of those overlooked classic cakes, not as popular as chocolate, not as straightforward as lemon or banana, and much like with ballet I can't remember why I personally left it so long in between takes.

So last Saturday afternoon, tired after doing hilariously bad pirouettes all morning and feeling like baking something, I realised I had a few carrots in the fridge and the idea was born. The marvellous thing was that I even had a good reason to bake as we were having Kristian's sister, brother-in-law and niece over for lunch the following day.

Unlike say a pliƩ or a rond de jambe, you can bend the rules a bit when it comes to making carrot cake - there is no right way to do it. By which I mean that if you want to add sultanas or walnuts or leave nuts out entirely go right on ahead. It's your cake after all. I went with the sultanas no nuts option for mine to make it niece friendly.

Carrot Cake
Adapted from Women's Weekly Classic Cakes

For the cake
olive oil, to grease
3 medium carrots, grated
1/2 cup sultanas
1 cup wholemeal self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup vegetable or safflower oil
1/2 cup golden syrup
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence

For the icing
175g cream cheese, softened
100g butter, softened
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup icing sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 170°C and grease well a 20cm round cake.
Peel and grate the carrots and set aside.

In a large bowl sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon. In a separate bowl combine the brown sugar, oil, golden syrup, eggs and vanilla in a medium bowl and whisk until combined.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. Stir through the grated carrot and sultanas.

Pour the mixture into your pan and bake for 1 hour. It should be looking nice and brown on top and a skewer should come out relatively clean. Set aside for 5 minutes, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, place the softened cream cheese, butter, icing sugar and lemon juice in a bowl. Use a wooden spoon to mix until well combined. Spread the icing over the cool cake. Cut into generous wedges and serve to your guests with a hearty cup of tea.

Kristian's little niece burnt off her cake running up and down our stairs all afternoon having a wonderful time. As for me, I think I'll be doing some more penance at the barre.


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