Let's talk about carrot cake first. Then I'll move on to talking about books. This cake is W-O-N-D-E-R-F-U-L! So moist! So full of flavour - from the citrus undertones to the somethin' somethin' the toasted pecans and desiccated coconut bring - and covered in a truly wonderful frosting. It is light, and fluffy and not too sweet! The original recipe calls for only one tablespoon of caster sugar and I've upped this to four but it's still the least amount of sugar I have ever put in frosting before! And it works so well! It's luscious even though it's not too sweet and the cinnamon offsets the flavours in the cake wonderfully. I'm not the biggest carrot cake fan - and by that I mean that I do actually like carrot cake but if given menu with all the other wonderful cake flavours in the world, I wouldn't ever pick carrot - but this is delish! It is easily my favourite carrot cake I've eaten.
So books ... I've been wanting to rant about the Hunger Games for a while and then I realised, I have a blog which for some reason people seem to read, so why not take liberties here and post about literature instead of cake. Or with cake. That's cool with you guys right?
So who has read the Hunger Games trilogy? Watching the film doesn't count. I saw a trailer for the first film mid-2011, absolutely loved the concept and decided I wanted to read the books. It took me a whole year to get to them but I finally read them this year. My general criticism of all the books is that it glosses over the most powerful themes; the violence, and loss and despondence. I realise that it is probably due to the fact that it is written for teenagers but I feel that the powerful statement they are attempting to make is never quite achieved due to the fact that Collins steps back every time she talks about the violence which is so central to the books.
My other criticism is that at crucial moments of the books, Collins begins to write in a weird dream-like voice which gives an unclear picture of what is happening and throws the reader off a bit. This happened at the end of the second book Catching Fire (I don't understand any of the last major event in this book) and towards the end Mockingjay when a character close to Katniss dies. It bugged me big time!
Saying that though, I really really enjoyed the first book and resented work on more than one occasion for taking me away from such a great story. And while it wasn't as good, I also really enjoyed Catching Fire. Mockingjay on the other hand was pretty poor though in my opinion, it isn't exciting and it's unnecessarily sad and most of all, most of all, I don't agree with who Katniss ends up with. I'm not going to give anything away but I think Collins matched her up with the wrong person!
Okay, that's my opinion of The Hunger Games series done. Let me know what you all think. And make this cake. You'll thank me. Oh and this is funny innit?
Recipe adapted from Delia Smith
For the cake
200g wholemeal self-raising flour
3 level teaspoons mixed spice
1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
175g dark brown soft sugar
2 large eggs
150ml sunflower oil
Grated zest 1 orange
200g carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
50g desiccated coconut
50g pecan nuts
For the syrup glaze
Juice 1 small orange
1 tablespoon lemon juice
75g dark brown soft sugar
For the topping
1 x 250g tub mascarpone cheese
200g Philadelphia Cream Cheese
4 rounded tablespoons caster sugar
1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon
50g pecan nuts
You will need 2 x 8 inch or 3 x 6 inch sandwich tins (I used 3 x 6 inch tins)
- Preheat Oven to Gas Mark 6/200C/400F then turn it down to Gas Mark 3 /170C/325F when you have toasted the pecan nuts.
- First, place all the pecan nuts on a baking sheet and, using a timer, toast them in the oven for 8 minutes. Now chop one half roughly for the cake and the other more finely, for the topping later. Then don't forget to turn the oven down for the cake.
- To make the cake, whisk the sugar, eggs and oil together in a bowl with an electric mixer for 2 -3 minutes, then check that there is no sugar left undissolved.
- Now combine the flour, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda into the bowl. Then stir all this into the sugar, eggs and oil mixture gently, followed by the remaining cake ingredients.
- Divide the batter evenly between the prepared tins and bake the cakes on the centre shelf of the oven for about 30 minutes. They should be nicely risen, feel firm and springy to the touch when lightly pressed in the centre, and show signs of shrinking away from the sides of the tin. If not, give them another 2 - 3 minutes and test again.
- Meanwhile, make the topping by whisking all the ingredients together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Then cover with clingfilm and chill for 1 - 2 hours, until you are ready to ice the cakes.
- To make the syrup glaze, whisk together the fruit juices and sugar in a small pan and place onto medium heat until it starts to boil and all sugar is dissolved. Take off the heat and allow to cool.
- When the cakes come out of the oven, stab them all over with a skewer or toothpick and quickly spoon the syrup evenly over the hot cakes. Now leave them to one side to cool in their tins, during which time the syrup will be absorbed.
- When the cakes are completely cold, remove them from their tins. Spread one-third of the filling over one of the cakes, place the other on top, (repeat again one more time if making a 6" 3 layer cake) then cover the top and sides with the remaining icing.
- Scatter the remaining toasted pecan nuts over the top.