Carrots have been included in cakesfor many centuries because of their sweetness. During the Second World War, carrots were used to add sweetness to dishes because of the shortage of sugar and rationing, which made everyone become inventive with their food.

The carrot cake we are used to seeing in cafés and bakeries, with a sweetened cream cheese icing, was first popular in the US in the 1960s. The classic version is often decorated with carrots modelled from coloured marzipan and the recipe can include sunflower oil, raisins, pineapple, spices, coconut and/or walnuts or sometimes pecan nuts.

The cake is made by mixing the wet ingredients together, before adding to the dry ingredients. Sometimes they are made in loaf tins and, at other times, in round tins, but they should always be moist with a slightly dense texture.

There are other root vegetables that can be used for example, beetroot and potato although carrots are the sweetest. But a combination of carrot and parsnip also works well.

Try some different fruits and seeds and finish with an orange glacé icing.

Carrot and Parsnip Cake with Pecan Nuts and Orange Icing

Raisins, chopped dried apricots, or chopped dates400g

Orange juice200ml

Grated orange zest10g


Sunflower oil700ml

Light soft brown sugar800g

Ground cinnamon40g

Ground ginger10g

Self-raising flour1kg

Baking powder10g

Bicarbonate of soda10g

Pecan nuts, chopped400g

Sunflower seeds55g

Grated peeled parsnips400g

Grated peeled carrots400g

For the icing:

Icing sugar500g

Grated orange zest10g

Orange juice70ml


1. Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C. Grease four 22cm round cake tins and line the bases with baking parchment cut to fit.

2. Mix the fruit with the orange juice and zest and allow to marinade for a couple of hours.

3. Mix the eggs, oil and sugar together well to combine and aerate slightly.

4. Sift the spices and flour together with the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Add the orange juice and fruit to the wet mixture.

5. Mix the flour into the wet ingredients and combine quickly. Add the nuts, seeds and grated vegetables. Divide between the tins and put in the oven for approximately 40-50 minutes.

6. When the cake is cooked, leave in the tin for 10 minutes, before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

7. To make the icing, sift the icing sugar and gradually add the orange juice. The icing should be thick but just pourable. If it needs thinning, add a small amount of boiling water. Mix in the orange zest.

8. Once the cake is cold, pour the icing over the top.