Square Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing recipe

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A 20cm square carrot, nut and sultana cake with cream cheese icing from the Hairy Bikers. Orange zest and juice complement the spices perfectly.

  • Prep30m
  • Cook40m
  • Total1h 10m

Carrot cake has recently come up in a few conversations so I trawled Google for a recipe that a) makes use of a 20cm square tin and b) has cream cheese icing (not butter cream or whipped cream). This Hairy Bikers carrot cake recipe from BBC Food is perfect. Orange zest is an inspired addition and the feedback from multiple cakes has been great.

I make only the smallest of tweaks to the recipe; I reduce the cream cheese from 200g to 175g and use a mixture of walnuts and pecans. I don't have whole nutmeg so I use a heaped ¼ teaspoon of ground instead. I wholeheartedly encourage you to make this cake; it’s easy, a big crowd pleaser and it keeps for a while because it’s stored in the fridge (see notes).


If you don't have a loose-bottomed tin, line the bottom and sides of your tin with greaseproof paper.

It’s best to store this cake in the fridge (for up to 4 days) otherwise the cream cheese icing can melt. I’ve eaten the cake straight from the fridge with no warm up and it tastes lovely.

I haven’t tried freezing the cake yet but will update this post when I do. In general it’s advisable not to freeze cream cheese as it can become watery.

The original recipe says to cool the cake in its tin for 5 minutes before removing it to a rack but I find that it’s too fragile at this stage. I let it cool in the tin for 1-2 hours.


Square Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

  • Prep30m
  • Cook40m
  • Total1h 10m
Serves: 12-16


Carrot cake

  • 3 large room temperature eggs
  • 175ml sunflower oil (plus more for greasing)
  • 175g soft brown sugar
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 75g sultanas
  • 75g pecans or walnuts, roughly chopped (or a mixture of both)
  • zest from ½ a large orange
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • heaped ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 200g carrots, grated (roughly 2 large carrots)


  • 100g icing sugar (sifted)
  • 100g room temperature butter (I use salted)
  • 1 tsp orange juice
  • 175g full fat cream cheese
  • zest from ½ a large orange
  • 25g pecans or walnuts, roughly chopped (or a mixture of both)

You will need

  • a 20cm loose-bottomed square cake tin


  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C (160°C fan). Line a 20cm loose-bottomed square baking tin with greaseproof paper and generously grease the sides with sunflower oil.
  2. Cake: In a large mixing jug or bowl add 3 large eggs, 175ml of sunflower oil and 175g of soft brown sugar. Whisk until combined.
  3. In a large bowl, add 200g of self-raising flour, 75g of sultanas, 75g of chopped pecans and/or walnuts (total weight, not 75g each), the zest from ½ an orange, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, heaped ¼ teaspoon of ground nutmeg, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, ½ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and a pinch of salt. Mix until combined.
  4. Give the egg mixture another quick whisk before pouring it into the centre of the dry ingredients. Stir in 200g of grated carrots and mix until no dry bits of flour remain, then pour the batter into the prepared cake tin.
  5. Transfer to the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes. I check the cake after 30 minutes, rotate it and loosely cover the tin with foil if the cake is browning too quickly. The cake is done when a skewer comes out clean (40 minutes minimum in my oven).
  6. Once the cake is ready, allow it to cool in its tin for 1-2 hours before turning out onto a rack.
  7. Icing: In a medium bowl, use a wooden spoon to combine 100g of sifted icing sugar and 100g of room temperature butter until light and fluffy. Add 1 teaspoon of orange juice, 175g of cream cheese and the zest from ½ a large orange. Mix well then cover the bowl and place it in the fridge for around 30 minutes until the the icing firms up and becomes spreadable.
  8. Once the cake has fully cooled, spread the icing over the cake and top with 25g of chopped pecans and/or walnuts (total weight, not 25g each). Store the cake in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.

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