1st birthday carrot cake

The Moo turned one last Saturday and, being relatively new to the kiddie-scene, I made an enthusiastic cake for the occasion. Not much of a baker, I started the project with relatively low ambitions, but grew in confidence until, with a third layer in the offing and a flight of icing butterflies spread over the kitchen table, The Heid said, “Enough!”

It was good advice. Any bigger and we would have had a Tree of Knowledge hat situation (see below) and struggled to transport it to Hyde Park.

Why is your hat so terribly tiny?

Thank god, the sun was shining so ten under-twos could run amok with my lovingly crafted egg sandwiches, mashing them into the picnic rug and taunting the dog, who licked the birthday cake and stole sausages, making toddlers cry until they found more Philadelphia to smear or ice-cream to dribble before swarming the cake.

Boys and their cake - a deceptively civilised scene

Through the chaos, I learnt a lesson that will no doubt guide me through the many years of children’s parties to come: drink Prosecco and lots of it. In doing so, any pointless angst over your perfect picnic being trashed by an army of bedlam-bent toddlers dissipates into a happy haze. And yes, the carrot cake was a hit. Thank you Paul Hollywood; Great British Bake Off, here I come!

Drink Prosecco - and lots of it!

1st Birthday Carrot Cake
Adapted from a Paul Hollywood recipe, taken from Delicious Magazine


For the cake (repeat for each layer – I did two)

155ml sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing
230g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground ginger
230g light brown muscovado sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 satsuma or mandarin, plus strips to decorate
100g pecans, halved (I used walnuts)
260g carrots, coarsely grated
3 medium free-range eggs, beaten

For the icing

50g butter, softened
200g full-fat cream cheese
150g icing sugar, plus extra to dust
2 tsp orange juice


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan160°C/gas 4. Grease an 18cm loose-bottomed round cake tin and line the base with baking paper. Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into a large bowl. Add the sugar, zest, pecans (walnuts) and grated carrots, then stir until well combined. Stir in the beaten eggs and oil, then mix well.

2. Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake in the oven for 1 hour or until a skewer comes out comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack leave in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn out and leave to cool completely before icing.

3. For the icing, beat the butter in a large bowl with a hand mixed until really soft. Add the cream cheese and beat again until well mixed. Sift over the icing sugar, add the orange juice, then beat until smooth. Store, covered, in the fridge until needed.

4. For the decoration, Paul recommends using an icing bag to pipe lines. In absence of one of these, I used a spatula to put icing into the middle and onto the top layer of the cake then grated lime and tangerine zest onto each. I took my first layer of cake out of the oven too early so that the middle collapsed into a depressing raw crater. I saved the day by cutting the raw bit out and filling the hole with tangerine segments, which had the advantage of being very baby friendly and looking pretty too. For decoration, I made a few flowers and a number 1 from coloured icing from Ocado then added wafer butterflies and happy birthday candles (also from Ocado) to complete the dazzling and delicious (well, I thought so…) end result.

The Moo and her cake

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