24 Sept 2013

Chocolat the Bear's Moroccan escape (Casablanca & Marrakech)

We got invited with my improv team (fbi-improvisation.com) a couple of weeks ago to Morocco to an improv tournament. We spent a delighting long week end in Casablanca and Marrakech and met great people. 
Obviously Chocolat came along, went to the beach and to the souk, made news friends and ate some delicious Morrocan food!

A long week end is way too short to discover these two great cities. There are so much to explore and experience, from food to architecture, taking time to walk around and meet people...
With cheap flights London to Morroca all year long (the train between Marrakech and Casablanca only costs 9€), we'll definitely have to go back!

16 Sept 2013

In search of the Best Ever Carrot Cake

Carrot cake is one of this cakes that scares you if you have never had it before (what, a cake made with vegetables?) but rocks your world when you try it.

Carrot cake is one of my favourite cakes ever, and since I've started baking, I've tried many recipes in search of the best ever carrot cake.
I don't know if I've actually found it yet (I like to think that I can always find ever more delicious recipes), but I found one that is pretty delicious. I've been making it time and time again, and it's never failed to amaze my taste buds.

By the way, what makes a great carrot cake?
- Texture: rich and moist. the more carrots, the better!
- A clever mix of spices: cinnamon for the comforting autumnal flavours, and ginger for a kick
- A fair amount of nuts and raisins, to bring extra texture and flavours
- A delicious icing. Here, you can either opt for a rich buttery icing or a lighter cream cheese icing (I chose the middle ground with my butter-cream cheese icing)

Ready, steady, grate!

The best ever Carrot Cake
(who knows?)

This carrot cake has everything to be divine: lots of carrots, a good pinch of spices, lots of walnuts and raisins, and a delicious icing.
Sometimes, I also add half a cup of chopped pineapple (but be careful not to add too much as the extra juice might mess up the cake's consistency) 

Ingredients for the cake:
350g light soft brown sugar
350ml sunflower oil
3 eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
350g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
2tsp ground cinnamon
2tsp ground ginger
350g carrots, peeled and grated
120g finely chopped walnuts and raisins
For the icing:
350g icing sugar
50g soft butter
1tsp vanilla extract
150g cold cream cheese
Walnut halves and a little ground cinnamon to dust

Make the best ever carrot cake: 
1/ Preheat the oven to 170C. Lightly oil 2 x 20cm sandwich tins or silicone moulds, and line the bases of each tin with baking parchment
2/ In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, oil, and eggs with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth and thickened. Add the vanilla extract, sift over the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and ginger then fold in until well mixed. Fold in the carrots, walnuts and raisins.
3/ Divide the mixture between the prepared cake tins. Bake in the middle of the oven for 30-35mins or until golden, risen and the middle bounces back when lightly pressed. 
4/ Leave to cool in the tin for 10 mins before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Make the carrot cake icing: 
1/ In a large bowl, sift the icing sugar, add the soft butter and vanilla extract. Beat on slow speed with an electric whisk, until well mixed. Add the cream cheese and briefly beat together again until just combined (Don't over beat or it will become runny).
2/ When the cakes are cold, peel away the baking parchment. Divide the icing between the  cakes, spreading it evenly over the top of each. Stack the cakes one on top of the other. Top with the walnut halves and cinnamon. 
carrot cake recipe

best carrot cake recipe

best carrot cake recipe

best carrot cake recipe
Not sure the cat is convinced though...

For the lost souls in Paris, my friend Rohanne for the lovely blog Entre biberons and Mascaras has found for you the Carrot Cake spots in Paris.
And of course, if you know an amazing carrot cake recipe, please share it, the search is still on!