This post is part of Nielsen-Massey and Baking Mad's Easter baking campaign, where they asked baking bloggers to try one of their twenty four delicious vanilla based recipes. They asked me if I would like to take part and I jumped at the chance as I love Nielsen-Massey vanilla so was very happy to be sent some for free! (I'm not just saying I love it because I was given free stuff - I genuinely mean it and I get through vast quantities of the stuff!). They sent me a lovely hamper full of vanilla extract, vanilla paste, vanilla bean pods and Billington's golden caster sugar and golden icing sugar.
I decided to try their carrot cake recipe as I really like carrot cake but it had been several years since I had made/eaten any. The recipe was fairly simple and straightforward, but is a little different to the standard carrot cake as it contains pineapple, pistachios and pecan nuts; the cakes are also brushed with a lemon and vanilla sugar syrup when they come out of the oven, which not only provides a burst of flavour, but also helps to keep them lovely and moist.
The icing is a cream cheese icing (you can't have carrot cake without cream cheese icing!) but again is a little different as it is flavoured with vanilla bean paste and made with golden icing sugar which lends it a fantastic fudgy caramel flavour (you could get away with using regular white icing sugar but I really do recommend trying the golden one - it has a completely different taste). It also contains more sugar than standard cream cheese icing, which means that there is no chance of it going runny - it is the perfect texture for spreading and piping. Even though it is sweeter, when paired with the cake I found it to have the perfect level of sweetness, and you still get a tang from the cream cheese.
The cake is made with wholemeal rather than plain flour, which, combined with the fact that it is packed full of fruit, vegetables and nuts, means that you can almost feel good about eating it (I'm not saying it's healthy - it is still cake after all, just a healthier choice than say, chocolate fudge cake...). I can honestly say it was one one the nicest carrot cakes I have ever eaten, the addition of things like pistachios, vanilla bean paste and golden icing sugar made it feel a little bit dressed up and special, a slightly more grown-up version of carrot cake, but still one that everyone will enjoy. I decorated mine with chopped pistachios and freeze dried raspberry pieces for a bit of colour. You can find the recipe on the Baking Mad site here.
Something to take note of if you decide to make it that I didn't do but you should (I was pressed for time to take photos) - I suggest refrigerating the cake for an hour or so after you ice it, as all of the fruit, nuts and wholemeal make it a little crumbly and I found it difficult to slice neatly. Mine kept well and stayed moist for about four days in airtight container, it may well have kept for longer, but by that point it was all gone...