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Carrot & Pineapple Cake with Orange & Pistachio Praline
Prep 1hr30min (+ cooling time)Bake 3hr20minMakes 10-12 serves
I often create unique cakes for friends to celebrate special occasion and milestones – cakes that reflect their personalities and our friendship. This one was for my close friend, Tina, to celebrate her 50th. It is based on a recipe by well-respected Australian cooking teacher Greta Anna Teplitzky (from her cookbook The Greta Anna Recipes, published by Angus & Robertson in the 1970s). Tina’s mum made it often while she was growing up and it became childhood favourite. I have zhooshed the original up with a dried orange and pistachio praline and some fun dried pineapple flowers to match Tina’s gorgeous, vibrant and creative personality – quite appropriate I think!
Orange and pistachio praline
- 1 orange
- 45g ( ⅓ cup) pistachios, lightly toasted
- 55g (¼ cup) caster sugar
- 1½ tablespoons water
Dried pineapple flowers
- ½ firm, ripe pineapple
- 300g (2 cups) plain flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 2 teaspoons mixed spice
- 300g brown sugar
- 200ml light olive oil, plus extra to grease
- 4 eggs, lightly whisked
- 2 teaspoons natural vanilla essence or extract
- 450g tin pineapple slices in syrup, drained and finely chopped
- 300g (2 cups, firmly packed) coarsely grated carrot
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 250g cream cheese, at room temperature
- 75g butter, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon natural vanilla essence or extract
- 185g (1½ cups) icing sugar mixture, sifted
- To make the Orange & Pistachio Praline, preheat the oven to 100°C. Remove the rind from the orange with a vegetable peeler and then use a small sharp knife to remove any white pith from the rind. Place the rind on a wire rack over an oven tray and place in the preheated oven for 2 hours or until dry and crisp but still bright orange in colour (see Baker’s Tips). Remove from the oven and set aside (leave the oven on). Line an oven tray with non-stick baking paper. Spread the pistachios and dried orange rind close together on the lined tray. Combine the caster sugar and water in a small saucepan and use a wooden spoon to stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium and bring to the boil. Boil for 8-10 minutes without stirring, brushing down the side of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water to dissolve any sugar crystals, until the mixture turns a deep caramel. Pour immediately onto the lined tray over the pistachios and rind. Set aside to cool completely (this will take about 30 minutes). When cool, use a mortar and pestle to grind the toffee into a coarse praline. Transfer to an airtight container and set aside (see Baker’s Tips).
- To make the Dried Pineapple Fowers, stand the half pineapple upright on a cutting board and use a large sharp knife to cut off the skin in strips. Use a mandoline slicer to cut the pineapple into very thin rounds (about 1-2mm thick). Use a small sharp knife to remove any remaining dark bits of rind from the slices and then pat both sides with paper towel to remove any excess moisture. Place the slices on a wire rack on an oven tray (see Baker’s Tips). Place in the oven for 2½ hours or until crisp around the edges but still slightly pliable. Remove from the oven and pinch each slice in the center while still warm to form a flower. Set aside to cool and then store in an airtight container until needed (see Baker’s Tips)
- To make the Cake Layers, preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Brush two 18cm round cake tins with extra olive oil to lightly grease and line the bases with non-stick baking paper.
- Sift together 150g (1 cup) plain flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda and 1 teaspoon mixed spice into a large bowl. Add 150g brown sugar and stir to combine, breaking up any lumps.
- Combine 100ml of the olive oil, 2 of the eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla, half the chopped pineapple and 150g of the grated carrot and mix well. Add to the flour mixture and use a spatula or large metal spoon to gently mix until just combined.
- Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared tins and spread with the back of a metal spoon to smooth the surface making a shallow well in the center of each cake. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer.
- Stand the cakes in the tins for 5 minutes before turning onto wire racks to cool (this will take about 1 hour). Repeat with the remaining cake ingredients to make 2 more cake layers.
- To make the Cream Cheese Frosting, use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla until very smooth. Gradually add the icing sugar, beating well after each addition and beat until well combined and very creamy.
- To assemble the cake, first trim the tops of the cake layers if necessary (if the well you made in the mixture before baking was deep enough you won’t have to do this). Place one cooled cake layer, top side up on a cake stand or serving plate. Spread with ½ cup of the Cream Cheese Frosting and then sprinkle with about 1½ tablespoons of the Orange & Pistachio Praline. Continue to layer with the remaining cake layers, spreading each with ½ cup of frosting and sprinkling with about 1½ tablespoons of praline, and finishing with a cake layer, top side down. Spread a thick layer of frosting over the top of the cake, evening the surface with a large palette knife. Spread any remaining icing around the side of the cake to create a ‘naked’ look. Decorate with the Dried Pineapple Flowers and sprinkle with a little of the remaining praline.
- You can dry the orange rind for the praline (in step 1) and the pineapple for the flowers (in step 2) at the same time if you like.
- The praline will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
- You will only need 5-6 slices of pineapple to make the dried pineapple flowers for this cake but if you would like to make more, place the slices on an extra wire rack on top of the first one and separate the racks with balls of foil at the corners between them.
- The Dried Pineapple Flowers will keep in an airtight container in a cool spot for up to 4 days. If they soften too much and lose their shape, return to an oven preheated to 100°C for 20-30 minutes or until crisp around the edges again. Reshape as in step 2.
- This cake will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving.