CARROT CAKE WITH ORANGE BLOSSOM LABNEH ICING

I’m going to go out and say it, I think this is probably the best cake recipe that I’ve ever made and if you want an afternoon of baking fun, THIS is the recipe for you. The secret is all in the orange blossom labneh icing and the Grand Marnier soaked raisins, and I promise that you can’t taste the alcohol too much. I’m not normally one to spike a dessert with alcohol, but the Grand Marnier plumps up the raisins and packs them full of flavour. I could probably pretty shamelessly eat both of those things alone by the spoonful but when all whipped up into this cake, they are really taken to the next level.

For any of you wondering what labneh is, it’s a strained yogurt popular in Middle Eastern cuisine that’s surprisingly easy to make. I first had labneh at Man’Ouchy, a Lebanese restaurant in Lausanne that I love, and have been making it for all sorts of things ever since. Using it for the icing gives you a light creamy icing (similar to cream cheese frosting but infinitely better) that has a perfectly balanced sweetness and tang to it.

Here’s what you need to make this Grand Marnier soaked raisin carrot cake with an orange blossom labneh icing:

Ingredients for the labneh, required the day before:

  • 1.5kg full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1.5 teaspoon salt
  • Cheesecloth/muslin

Ingredients for the soaked raisins, required the day before:

  • 150g sultanas
  • 100ml Grand Marnier

Ingredients required on the day:

  • 50g caster sugar
  • Remains of Grand Marnier from soaked raisins
  • 1/2 orange, juiced
  • 450g carrot, finely grated
  • 1/2 orange, zested
  • 325g plain flour, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 150g light brown sugar, packed
  • 50g dark muscovado sugar
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 240ml canola oil
  • 140g canned pineapple, blended to a pulp
  • 100g walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 150g Grand Marnier soaked raisins, strained
  • 1.5 kg labneh
  • 120g icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons orange blossom water
  • 50g walnuts, toasted and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried edible flowers (optional)

Instructions for the day before:

  • To make the labneh, in a large bowl, mix the salt into the yogurt. Place the cheesecloth or muslin over a sieve sitting over a large bowl. Twist tight and place a plate or two on top to push out excess water. Leave the bowl in the fridge or a cool room for 24 hours.
  • For the Grand Marnier soaked raisins, put the sultanas in a small bowl and pour the Grand Marnier over the top. Cover and leave to soak overnight.

Instructions on the day:

  • Preheat oven to 175°C. Grease and line 3 x 20cm round cake tins with baking paper.
  • To make the Grand Marnier syrup, strain the raisins, keeping the Grand Marnier in a separate bowl. Mix the remaining Grand Marnier with 50g castor sugar and the juice of half an orange. Leave to sit for the sugar to dissolve while you make the cake mix.
  • In a large bowl, grate the carrots finely and zest the orange. Sift the dry ingredients together and mix. Using an electric mixer, whisk the sugar and eggs together until sugar has dissolved and the mixture is almost creamy. With the mixer running, add the canola oil and vanilla extract. Using a spatula or a wooden spoon, fold the dry mix into wet ingredients
  • In a separate bowl, toss the strained raisins in 2 tablespoons plain flour. This will make sure the raisins don’t sink to the bottom of the cake. Add the grated carrot, chopped walnuts, crushed pineapple and floured raisins to the cake batter and stir well.
  • Divide the cake batter evenly between the three cake tins and flatten the mix. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
  • As soon as the cakes are baked, use a skewer to poke little holes on the surface of the cake. Brush with the Grand Marnier syrup mix while still hot. Remove from tins and leave to cool completely.
  • To make the labneh icing, remove labneh from refrigerator. Discard excess water in the bowl. Place labneh in your mixing bowl with sieved icing sugar and orange blossom water. Whisk until smooth.
  • To decorate the cake, divide the labneh into four equal parts. Two will be used for the topping and the other two between each layer. Place one cake layer on a cake stand and cover generously with one portion of the labneh icing. Place the middle layer on top and repeat. Place the final layer on top and cover roughly with the remaining two portions of icing. Sprinkle crushed walnuts and edible flowers on top to decorate.

Tips and tricks:

  • If you’re making the cake for kids or anyone who doesn’t drink alcohol, you could soak the raisins overnight in hot water with a teaspoon or two of orange blossom water and use more orange juice instead in the Grand Marnier syrup that you brush onto the hot cakes.
  • Make sure to leave the cake layers to cool completely before you start assembling the cake or your icing will melt.
  • If you really like the orange blossom flavour, you may want to increase to 3 tablespoons if you want it to be more fragrant.

Trust me with this one – it requires a little bit of work but it’s definitely worth it. It’s got all of those lovely autumnal spices in and is surprisingly light! I’ve already had requests to make it again and will definitely be doing so before the end of the year.

If you do give the recipe a go, do let me know! I love hearing from you and seeing people recreate my recipes or DIYs has to be one of my favourite things. xS

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