When times get tough and life seems a bit of a slog there are always a few things you can do. I know we each vary greatly but in my experience I know of few ills that aren’t at least lessened by a) walking the hills until you feel cleansed by fresh air and exercise (dog for company optional but preferable) b) disappearing into a book, a cup of tea in hand c) phoning your best friend, putting the world to rights and lamenting that not enough people think just like you (note: you can only do this with your best friend, everyone else will think you’re an idiot) d) cooking up a storm, more specifically, baking up a treat and even better if you’re baking for someone special. If there is one thing I feel sure of is that a gift of cake never goes down badly and bringing pleasure to other people is a sure fire way of making your own day better. Cake making is a methodical, meditative practise and whether it’s baking, decorating or eating them, there’s always a stage of the process that just feels lovely. Personally, I enjoy the slow, steady progression of making cakes the best, though I’m not adverse to a cup of tea and a bite of something sweet, really the joy is in the mixing, spooning and that unbeatable sweet/spice fragrance that wafts around your kitchen. For all of these things and more this cake is the winner: grated apple and carrots, caramel syrup and brown sugar and a delicate ripple of mixed spice make it deliciously aromatic and moist – the lemon icing is just the proverbial cherry on top. Despite a bit of melting, grating and folding it is incredibly easy to make and keeps really well (I opt for an airtight tin or if pushed, a big freezer bag clipped over a plate) making it a real cut-and-come-again type bake, ideal for a friends and family do or a weekend when you know lots of people will be coming by, or if necessary, ready for a quiet moment when you want to slow down, take stock and think of the happy things in life.
CARROT AND APPLE CAKE WITH LEMON ICING
You will need an 8 inch/20 cm cake tin with removeable base for this recipe
150g dairy-free margarine
100ml golden syrup or agave syrup
200g soft light brown sugar or coconut sugar
1 eating apple
100g apple puree
250g gluten-free self raising flour
3 tsp baking powder
½ tsp mixed spice
25g ground flaxseed
For the icing
150g icing sugar
2-3 tbsp lemon juice
The grated zest of 1 lemon and orange
Preheat the oven to 180c and lightly grease and line the cake tin.
Place the margarine, syrup and brown sugar (or coconut sugar) into a saucepan and heat gently over a low heat, stirring every now and then, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Take off the heat and pour into a large mixing bowl and leave to cool for 10 minutes.
Trim the ends from the carrots and core the apple, finely grate both – I don’t worry about peeling either the apple or carrots (though I do give them a good scrub first) but please, feel free to peel both if you want to.
Spoon the apple puree into the syrup mixture and stir together, sift over the flour, baking powder and mixed spice and fold together. Next, add the grated apple, carrot and the ground flaxseed and fold together until completely combined and fragrant. Pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin and then bake in the oven for 1 hour – 1 hour 10 minutes or until risen and golden and firm to the touch.
Leave the cake to cool in its tin for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Place the icing sugar into a mixing bowl and add the lemon juice, bit by bit, until the desired consistency. Spread over the cake and scatter over the lemon and orange zest.