This cake is by no means complex but it does involve a few bowls and benefits from being made in a stand mixer - unless of course you enjoy the dead arm you get from manually beating egg whites. There are certainly other more straight-forward recipes out there but I venture they wouldn't have the wonderful lightness of this one. A lightness that comes from separating and aerating the eggs, the extra light olive oil, small amount of flour, and modest quantity of frosting, which is used to stunning effect to separate the two layers. The resulting cake resembles nothing like the dense, dumpy loaf slices you see suffocated in plastic wrap in bad cafes worldwide, but is sleek, sophisticated and utterly scrumptious. Here's to open minds.
Recipe adapted from The Bourke Street Bakery Cookbook
This bakes as one cake and then is cut in half to form two layers. If you wanted to speed things up, you could certainly bake the cake in two tins and halve the cooking time. However, you'd then have to level off the top of one to make it sit flat in assembly, which would be a bit of a waste... unless of course you ate it, in which case, it's a bonus!
70g (2 1/2 oz) walnuts
150g (5 1/2 oz / 1 cup) self-raising flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites
60g (2 1/4 oz / 1/4 cup) sugar for egg whites
1 egg yolk
160g (5 3/4 oz / 3/4 cup) sugar for egg yolks
170ml (2/3 cup) extra light olive oil
125g (4 1/2 oz) carrots, peeled and grated
cream cheese frosting
20g (3/4 oz / 1 tablespoon) icing (confectioner's) sugar, plus extra for dusting
20g (3/4 oz / 1 tablespoon) butter, softened
145g (5 1/4 oz) cream cheese, softened
40ml (2 tablespoons) pouring (whipping) cream
Preheat the oven to 200 deg C / 400 deg F. Grease an 18cm (7 inch) round cake tin and line the base and sides with baking paper.
Place the walnuts on a tray and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Cool and cut into thirds. Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarb soda and spices into a bowl and mix to combine.
Beat the egg whites in an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until soft peaks start to form. Slowly pour in the sugar for the egg whites, while the motor is still running, being careful not to overmix - the meringue should reach soft peak stage. Quickly transfer to another bowl and put aside.
Put the egg and egg yolk in the bowl of the mixer and add the sugar for the egg yolks. Mix on high speed for 3-4 minutes, or until the mixture doubles in volume and is quite airy. With the motor running, slowly pour in the oil in a thin stream being careful that it doesn't split or deflate too much.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and gently fold in the flour mixture til combined. Fold in the carrots and walnuts. Then quickly and lightly fold in the meringue - do not fold it through completely, you should still be able to see streaks of white through the mix. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. You may need to drop the oven temperature to 180 deg C (350 deg F) after the first 30 minutes if it's browning too quickly.
Meanwhile, make the cream cheese frosting. Cream the icing sugar with the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer til pale and smooth. Add the cream cheese in small amounts, allowing it to be completely incorporated before adding the rest. Scrape down the sides of the bowl during this process to ensure even mixing. Add the cream and mix til smooth, being careful not to overmix at this stage or the cream may curdle and separate. Add a little more cream if necessary - the frosting needs to be of a spreadable consistency but not at all runny.
Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 30 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Using a serrated knife, slice horizontally through the centre of the cake to form two even-sized layers and fill with frosting. Dust the top of the cake with icing sugar to serve.