Ultimate carrot cake: Even the classics can benefit from a little upgrade

This three-layered, lightly spiced sponge uses soft mascarpone – and lovely gooey whiskey caramel

One of the first things I ever baked with my mum was carrot cake. The recipe came from a huge hardcover cookbook, her go-to for bakes and desserts. All I remember was that the cover was shiny and brick-red in colour, and the large pages were tattered and stuck together from dried cake splodges.

Carrot cake has always been Mum’s favourite, a perfect partner for an afternoon pot of tea. It is a classic recipe for a reason, and while there are countless near-identical recipes out there, sometimes even the classics benefit from a little upgrade.

This week’s recipe is for Mum, with a few tweaks thrown in. My ultimate carrot cake is a three-layered, lightly spiced sponge, with soft mascarpone filling and a rich whiskey caramel sauce.

Many recipes for carrot cake start with oil instead of butter, which adds moistness and helps keep the sponge fresher for slightly longer. This recipe is the same. A flavourless oil works best; I use sunflower.

The wet ingredients are simply added to the dry, then baked. Different recipes can include mixes of nuts or raisins, various spices and different sugars. Each variation will yield a slightly different result. I’m keeping the sponge quite straightforward here, with no raisins or nuts, but with an addition of coconut, which adds to the moistness of the cake and works quite well with carrot. I use light-brown sugar, which gives a slight caramel note, with orange zest for freshness and a blend of cinnamon and mixed spice for warmth.

Instead of the usual cream cheese frosting, I’m using mascarpone scented with a little orange zest and vanilla – a simple soft frosting that needs little added; it is less tangy than a cream cheese frosting and less fatty in the mouth than whipped cream.

The pièce de résistance? A gooey caramel drizzle spiked with whiskey. It is perfect served at room temperature drizzled on top of the finished cake. Cold or chilled in the fridge, it becomes thick and toffee like, and warmed, it is the perfect simple accompaniment for ice cream.

You can make all the elements a day or two in advance, keep the sponges and mascarpone in the fridge well covered, and keep the caramel at room temperature until you would like to assemble.

Recipe: Ultimate carrot cake