A Massive Carrot Cake

March 6, 2012

Carrot Cake

I wasn’t going to tell you about this cake (as you can presumably tell from the shoddy Iphone photo) but it’s so good I can’t help myself. Basically, I’m on a mission to make the ‘ultimate’ carrot cake because I think it’s just the best cake ever. The crumb stays so moist with a particular kind of sweetness from the carrot shreds, which along with the walnuts also give it an amazing texture. The final whammy is of course, CREAM CHEESE ICING, which should be a clincher in anyone’s book because it is the most delicious icing known to woman. Butter, cream cheese, sugar. Hubba.

So anyway, I’m trying out different recipes to get a feel for things. This is the Hummingbird Bakery version.

To their standard recipe I added the zest of half an orange, plus I used half walnuts and half pecans to mix things up a bit. I didn’t use vanilla extract in the cake because I er, forgot and I reduced the sugar in the icing by 100g because I er, ran out. That’s minimal, mostly unintentional tinkering so this is still basically the Hummingbird recipe and it’s excellent. It’s not quite my ultimate, but it’s definitely food for thought.

This behemoth proved far too much for two people, so I lugged it into work and gave it to my colleagues. It barely lasted a day.


Hummingbird Bakery Carrot Cake 


300g soft light brown sugar
3 eggs
300ml sunflower oil
300g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp vanilla extract (I forgot this)
300g carrots, grated
Zest of half an orange
50g shelled walnuts, chopped, plus extra, to decorate
50g pecans, chopped, plus extra to decorate

For the icing

600g icing sugar (I only used 500g and it was fine)
100g butter, at room temperature
250g cream cheese, cold


Preheat the oven to 170C. Prepare 3 x 20cm cake tins with loose bottoms by greasing then lining the bottoms with greaseproof paper.

Put the sugar, eggs and oil in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment and beat until all the ingredients are well mixed (don’t worry if it looks slightly split). Slowly add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt, orange zest and vanilla extract and continue to beat until well mixed.

Stir in the grated carrots and walnuts by hand. Pour into the prepared cake tins and smooth over. Bake in the preheated oven for 20–25 minutes (mine took 40 minutes, which seems to be the feedback from other cooks, too), or until golden brown and the sponge bounces back when touched. Leave the cakes to cool slightly in the tins before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.


To make the icing, beat the butter and sugar with the paddle attachment again until well mixed. Add the cream cheese, then beat again until well mixed. Turn the speed to high and continue to beat until light and fluffy but stop when you reach this point; if you over beat it the mixture will turn runny.

When the cakes are cold, spread about one-quarter of the cream cheese icing over it with a palette knife (I used less). Place a second cake on top and spread another quarter of the icing over it (again, I used less). Top with the last cake and spread the remaining icing over the top and sides. Decorate with walnuts around the edges and chopped pecans on top. Hummingbird suggest adding an extra dusting of cinnamon but I’m really not into that at all – the cake is now delicious.

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  • Avatar
    Reply The Ginger Gourmand March 6, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    I think carrot cake might be my favourite cake. A good one is a delight but isn’t it so disappointing when the cake is too dense or the frosting is too sugary and not cream cheesy enough? This recipe looks quite similar to the old Family Circle recipe I often use. A friend swears by the Ottolenghi recipe where you whisk the egg whites and fold them into the mixture. It’s not the best I’ve ever had though and I’m not keen on the addition of coconut.

    The hunt for the perfect recipe goes on…

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      Reply Helen March 7, 2012 at 6:15 am

      Agreed! Possibly the best of all cakes ever ever. Yes, I agree it is SO disappointing! I would say that the icing on this is possibly not QUITE cream cheesy enough. Possibly. Especially considering I used less sugar than I should, too. I did have a look at the Ottolenghi recipe and was intrigued by the egg whites but having tasted this I’m not sure they’re necessary and like you I don’t like the idea of the coconut.

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        Reply Ros July 28, 2016 at 2:27 pm

        Hello gonna make this cake Tom .
        Please can you explain cooking time please . You said 20-25 mins but yours took 40 mins .
        Thank you Ros

        • Avatar
          Reply Helen Graves July 29, 2016 at 9:50 am

          It is simply that the original recipe stated 20 – 25 minutes, but mine took 40 – just as I said in the text. Other people have commented that it also took 40 minutes.

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    Reply Louise M March 6, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    Have you tried the Bourke Street Bakery version? Quite unusual process – involved separating the eggs – but very good result. Much lighter than most recipes – and crucially, doesn’t miss out the cream cheese icing.

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      Reply Helen March 7, 2012 at 6:15 am

      No I haven’t! Sounds interesting though…is it online anywhere?

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    Reply Sally - My Custard Pie March 7, 2012 at 5:13 am

    Magnificent. So if this isn’t your ultimate carrot cake recipe what is?!!

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      Reply Helen March 7, 2012 at 6:15 am

      Well, the icing although amazing wasn’t *quite perfect*. The cake on the other hand…almost there!

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    Reply Em March 7, 2012 at 8:41 am

    I always throw in a couple of mashed bananas – it makes the cake a little bit less light, but extra moist. And (light) muscovado sugar – but maybe that’s what you used anyway! Either way, yours looks absolutely delish; three layers of cake is exponentially better than two layers for some reason!

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      Reply Helen March 7, 2012 at 9:33 am

      Ooooh, mashed bananas!! Radical! I am going to try that. I made some peanut butter and banana fairy cakes (NOT cupcakes, thanks) recently and they were really moist for days. I’m liking this idea!

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    Reply Gin and Crumpets March 7, 2012 at 9:43 am

    Cream cheese icing is the best food in the world. I always make slightly too much for whatever cake I’m icing just so I can sit and eat the excess straight form the bowl. If it was possible to live off cream cheese icing, I would be a happy woman.

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      Reply Helen March 7, 2012 at 9:51 am

      Me too. I imagine that when I retire I will go and live in a world where there is nothing but bacon, wine (lots of good wine), pasta, cream cheese icing, oh god…I shouldn’t have started this list.

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    Reply Die Küchenschabe March 7, 2012 at 10:03 am

    I always use the Ottolenghi version, since I had this cake in his restaurant in January and I love it :-)!

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen March 7, 2012 at 10:07 am

      I did look at that actually, the technique with the egg whites is interesting. The coconut though…does that work? I feel like it might sling things off in another direction.

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    Reply Platter March 7, 2012 at 10:27 am

    Non, le photo c’est magnifique. Looks like one for the ages.

    Particularly like the sombre murk in the background – precisely the atmosphere where carrot cake is at its best.

    Hubba bubba.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen March 7, 2012 at 10:38 am

      THE MURKY DEPTHS! The weather was just perfect for this cake on Sunday.

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    Reply Shu Han March 7, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    that really is a massive slice of carrot cake. i love carrot cake too, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s my favourite cake. it is oen of my mum’s favourite though, so I’m also on the lookout for good carrot cake recipes. the ottolenghi one was a close contender too! looking forward to your next few versions (:

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      Reply Helen March 7, 2012 at 12:45 pm

      Lots of love for the Ottolenghi version!

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    Reply aoife @ the gannet March 7, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    I’m really getting into fruity/vegetably cakey things at the moment and this looks spectacular!
    I only have 23 cm tins – do you think the recipe would translate into two of them? I know I need some smaller ones, most cake recipes call for them….

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen March 7, 2012 at 1:08 pm

      To be honest, baking isn’t my area of expertise. I’m often told though that you simply MUST always use the right size tin so if you want to try it, I think you would run the risk of it not cooking properly and evenly. Now might be the time to take the plunge and buy those tins…

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    Reply Dom March 7, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    Helen it looks amazing!! To go a bit old skool on you, Delia does an Ultimate Carrot Cake which is very very good so do try that. I think the original recipe is in her Vegetarian Cookbook of all places. I use a very special cream cheese recipe which is 1/3 rd marscapone 1/3rd regular cream cheese and 1/3rd whipped cream. It’s also amazing!! Dom x

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      Reply Helen March 7, 2012 at 1:36 pm

      Ooh lovely! I don’t have her vegetarian book although I do have a lot of the others. Will see if I can pick up a copy on the cheap.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen March 7, 2012 at 1:36 pm

      Oh it’s online ha ha

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    Reply Robert March 7, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    I’m licking the screen… When will we get scratch ‘n sniff PC’s. Lol

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen March 7, 2012 at 1:39 pm

      Oh I hear the arrival is imminent

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    Reply thelittleloaf March 7, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    I adore carrot cake but was massively put off by an experience in university halls involving finding a piece of BOILED CARROT in my slice of cake one evening. I’ve just about overcome that and think this looks absolutely divine… Hummingbird icings are always ridiculously sweet but other than that I can imagine this is pretty close to perfect 🙂

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      Reply Helen March 7, 2012 at 1:40 pm

      Oh my goodness, that is DISGUSTING!! Blatantly just trying to use up the leftover carrots ha ha! Yeah, I’m glad I reduced the sugar in the icing…

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    Reply ileana March 7, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    That cake looks huge! And yummy.

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      Reply Helen March 7, 2012 at 2:39 pm

      oh yeah, she’s a beast. Oh I mean, she *was* a beast

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    Reply Katrina March 7, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Hello, I’m a big fan of the banana and carrot combo – and tend to use this recipe:
    Which is v easy (and a lot less hassle than a certain Ottolenghi version).
    Generally I replace the walnuts with sultanas (as they go black) – or half sultanas / half pecans. And put a bit of cinnamon in the mix, and vanilla. And make more icing than is says (the best bit as you say…).
    It also freezes well if you can manage not to eat it…

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen March 7, 2012 at 2:40 pm

      Yeah the Ottolenghi one does seem to be a load of hassle I must admit. i certainly couldn’t be bothered when I looked at it the other day. Thanks for the link, will give it a go!

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    Reply KSalty March 7, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    That is epic – not a shoddy photo at all. Hummingbird recipes do seem to use a LOT of icing sugar in the frosting. I’ve halved it before which does make it less thick but has the bonus of not making teeth jangle with sugar. Alice Hart has a good carrot cake recipe in her first book too.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen March 7, 2012 at 4:19 pm

      Innit, so glad I didn’t have enough! I could have reduced it further too and upped the cream cheese to make sure it wasn’t too runny. In full agreement on that one. Will check out the Alice Hart recipe as I have the book.

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    Reply Laura@howtocookgoodfood March 7, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    This is what I call a cake. Carrot cake is virtually impossible to beat in the flavour stakes when it’s god. And this is! x

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen March 7, 2012 at 7:46 pm

      Thanks! I think you probably meant ‘good’ rather than ‘god’ but I like the idea of this sandwich being your god much better.

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    Reply Lucy March 7, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    I love carrot cake – the cream cheese icing is just so good! This looks like an incredible version and one very difficult to resist.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen March 7, 2012 at 8:04 pm

      Cheers! It’s a good un. Careful with that icing if you make it though…I reduced the sugar.

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    Reply Tash March 7, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    I’m not much of baker of cakes as I tend to find it too faffy, but just wanted to say that this one looks MEGA good, so good in fact that I might just give it go.

    Btw, glad your site is running smoothly again as I find your recipes inspiring.

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    Reply Rachel March 7, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    Please, never add dried fruit, I think it totally ruins it! Perhaps because I don’t like dried fruit, but still… The Soho Secret Tea Room does a lovely carrot cake, the nicest I have tried in a long time. Only the one layer though, not quite the beast above!

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      Reply Helen March 8, 2012 at 8:13 am

      I’m with you on that one Rach! No dried fruit in my carrot cake thanks. Wuuuuurggghhh.

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    Reply Maunika March 8, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Love this Helen! Just wishing I could get my teeth stuck into a slice. Not much of a baker me. Maybe we can swap? I’ll cook the curries while you bake me some cake:) M x

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      Reply Helen March 8, 2012 at 9:35 am

      Neither am I Maunika! You could count the sweet recipes on this blog one hand – ICE CREAM EXCEPTED> I ADORE ICE CREAM! This is why I need to get a lot of practice in to make the ultimate carrot cake! x

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    Reply Jess March 8, 2012 at 9:41 am

    Mmmm this looks so good! And meat free 😉

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      Reply Helen March 8, 2012 at 9:43 am

      Ha ha ha ha ha. Yes, a fair cop. I DID consider putting some bacon in there but managed to hold myself back…

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    Reply The Grubworm March 9, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    Wow, that really is a monster (in the best possible way) of a cake! And it sounds too delicious. I love the sweet sharpness of cream cheese icing and would probably happily have it on any cake, loaf, slice of bread… Your colleagues must love you.

    The photo is damn good for a phone as well.

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      Reply Helen March 9, 2012 at 2:12 pm

      She’s a BEAST! The sweet sharpness is indeed the key. This one = bit too sweet though – the search continues!!

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    Reply Francesca March 9, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    The Ottolenghi recipe originally came from Baker and Spice and that is the best Carrot Cake in the world. Ottolenghi has added coconut and honey but it is not necessary. You can find the recipe in Dan Lepard’s Book for Baker and Spice at Amazon. Lots of other really good recipes in there too.

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    Reply Tv Food and Drink March 11, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    That is a spectacular piece of kitchen engineering!

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    Reply Anne March 13, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    I add banana and pineapple to my carrot cake, and if I’m feeling adventurous some rum soaked coconut – keeps it moist and makes it even more delicious. The banana and pineapple really help though. It’s taken me ages to perfect cream cheese frosting and now I have I really love it.
    Your cake looks great btw!

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      Reply Helen March 14, 2012 at 9:17 am

      That sounds fantastic! Any tips on the frosting??

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    Reply Lizzie March 14, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    That is a looming BEAST of a cake. Carrot was never one of my favourites, due mostly to the cinnamon a lot of recipes use, but this looks awesome.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen March 14, 2012 at 1:22 pm

      Yeah man, you gotta steer clear of over-cinnamoninginging.

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    Reply Anne March 15, 2012 at 10:47 pm

    Frosting tips -for cream cheese always add some lemon juice, or for carrot cake I always add some orange juice and zest (or Clementine/satsuma if in season).
    I tend to whip the cream cheese first, then add the butter then add (roughly) double the two of those in weight in icing sugar – this is what we do at the bakery as well. Obviously we tend to be piping it so need it quite stiff!
    Did you see you’re cake is mentioned in The Guardian’s article on how to cook the perfect carrot cake today?

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen March 16, 2012 at 6:37 am

      Hi Anne, I did see that yes, thanks! And thank you for your brilliant tips, too. It seems everyone likes some kind of zest in the icing, be it orange, lemon or lime.

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    Reply beachhutcook March 16, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    This looks fantastic and just what every mum needs presented to them on Mother’s Day. Well I can hope can’t I.

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    Reply Hayley Davies March 29, 2012 at 12:46 am

    I Love this cake …but added chopped figs to the cake mixture and used the full 600g of icing sugar for the icing, I used extra chopped nuts to decorate the side and top of the cake and used walnut halves around the top and base, with a sprinkle of cinnamon plus took the frosting advice of Anne, looked fantastic and had really lovely comments from family and friends….thanks for sharing.

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      Reply Helen March 29, 2012 at 7:57 am

      Great, really pleased you enjoyed it Hayley and thanks for the feedback. H

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    Reply Sue March 29, 2012 at 9:37 am

    Carrot Walnut Cake is probably my all-time favourite cake. I’ve made it a couple of times using a recipe calling for similar ingredients as this one, but results have not been as consistent as I would have liked. I’ve had to tweak each time! So I’m still in search of a better recipe and I’m really glad you posted this. I’ll be trying it out for sure. Thanks. And by the way, I love your writing style.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen March 29, 2012 at 9:43 am

      Aw, thanks Sue! Glad you’re enjoying the blog. Let me know how you get on if you try the recipe.

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    Reply Chris April 4, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Fab to see this carrot cake recipe….we have a Horticulture & Craft Show and the “MEN ONLY” cake is a carrot cake, so this looks like one that I will practice, then keep tucked into my shirt sleeves (messy!) and unveil on the day – you will have to be patient though….it only takes place 21st July 🙁
    Oh! And in case you think I am particularly silly letting you all know this, the entries are only open to residents of Warboys.

    PS I am a BIG fan of citrus juice/zest in icing….and if allowed, also a drop of kirsch – is that a fair swop?

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen April 4, 2012 at 2:57 pm

      Hi Chris. Your comment is…well, very funny indeed! I mostly have no idea what you’re talking about but as for the kirsch, I’m not sure that would work with the carrot cake. Only one way to find out I suppose.

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    Reply Sue April 18, 2012 at 10:31 am

    Hi Helen,

    I tried this recipe last week and it was pretty good. The only tweaks I made were to reduce the icing sugar in the frosting, and an adjustment to oven temperature and baking time (because I made a whole cake and sliced it horizontally to make 2 layers instead of baking 3 separate cakes and stacking them). Came out beautifully.

    Thanks again for sharing the recipe. I’ve posted an entry about it on my blog, if you’re interested.

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    Reply Martina Redding April 22, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    When I read Carrot cake, I simply thought wowwwww. It looks fantastic and at least mine, tastes fantastic too. I love baking and I spent lot of time looking for cake recipes. I found this one: Orange Sponge Cake. It’s become one my “specialities”.

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    Reply Jean May 7, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Nice fluffy moist cake – but the icing was way too sweet, and I’d already reduced it to 450g. Next time will try 300 or 250g.

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      Reply Helen May 7, 2013 at 10:39 am

      And I’d reduced it already…

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    Reply Jude May 14, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    I (we, Team Mustard, the office) need such a cake in our lives. Any chance you could make it again in this…

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      Reply Helen May 14, 2013 at 4:15 pm

      That is a pretty cool tin/mould thingy I have to say…I could be persuaded.

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    Reply Jeni November 24, 2013 at 6:06 am

    Just a thought, but I’m now dreaming of a scoop of carrot cake ice-cream & a scoop of cream cheese icing ice-cream. Basically making one of my favorite cakes into one of my favorite food groups (ice cream is a food group in my world)

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen November 24, 2013 at 11:06 am

      I could definitely get behind the idea of carrot cake ice cream…

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    Reply Charlotte Hoyle September 13, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    I am not a baker but I’ve just made this cake and it’s easy and delicious!!!! Thank you

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    Reply Caprera Foods September 29, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    This recipe is easy and amazing! Nice, fluffy and moist cake!

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    Reply Sandra May 29, 2017 at 10:55 am

    Are you able to scale this fab recipie up for to make a 12″ round please?

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen Graves June 1, 2017 at 3:16 pm

      Hi Sandra, I really don’t know sorry, I’ve never tried it.

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