Icing on the Side

The summer so far has been mild and humid. This has lead to a surplus of overripe bananas in my household. Bananas seem to be something I buy out of habit yet crave only in colder weather. I use them to adorn maple-drizzled porridge and to stockpile energy for shivering. Despite my passionate ‘homage’ to banana bread even I can tire of baking and eating the same thing. The bananas in the fruit bowl had, this week, begun to blacken, their sickly sweet scent creeping beyond the confines of the kitchen, begging for a purpose.

Carrot cake has it’s own strong identity, it is loved by most and adored by many as a cult favourite. Vegetable content keeps a carrot cake moist and fibrous with a sweetness that is noticeably different to it’s sugary cousins. It can be a nutty cake, rich with spices and intense flavours. Add bananas into the batter and the result is a hybrid that is rich, dense and seemingly more ‘fruit and veg’ than cake crumb. However, I believe the real glory of carrot cake is the presence of a cream cheese icing. I am not generally an advocate of icings or frostings, they are so often too sweet for my palate, dominating the crumb of a cake and numbing subtle flavour with an overabundance of sugar. The word ‘icing’ induces sharp thoughts of toothache and dry sponge. The word ‘frosting’ conjures images of halved cupcakes with imbalanced ratios of buttercream, toothmarks still visible, sickness inducing. Cream cheese icing tastes fresh, sour and decadent without a grating between the teeth.

When icing or frosting is involved I choose to keep it to one side. The simple reason for this is that it allows choice when consuming cake. If it is breakfast cake it can be left naked and unadorned. If it is dessert then icing can be spooned on in unreasonable quantities. This also means that my cake is not at risk of becoming sad and soggy, saturated with a gently weeping frosting. Above all I like the concept of providing a little side bowl and of creamy icing with slices of cake, I enjoy the ritual of spooning it out and spreading it roughly on the surface immediately before consumption. It is much the same as I would put butter on my toast or maple syrup on my pancakes, applying the final flourishes to my food at the table.


Banana Carrot Cake 

(Cream cheese icing on the side)


100g Soft brown sugar

3 Eggs (beaten)

175g Plain flour

1 tsp Baking Powder

1 tsp salt

2 tsp Ground Cinnamon

1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg

1/2tsp Vanilla extract

180ml Vegetable Oil

2 Bananas (ripe and mashed)

180g Carrot (grated)

For the icing 

220g full fat cream cheese

100g icing sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 170c (155c fan) and line/grease a 20cm round cake tin (would also work in a 2lb loaf tin)
  2. Measure and blend the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg together.
  3. In a separate bowl combined oil, sugar, vanilla extract, eggs, bananas and grated carrot.
  4. Combine wet and dry ingredients and mix thoroughly before pouring into cake tin.
  5. Back for 1 hour – 1 hour 15 mins or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
  6. Allow to cool in the tin for a while before turning onto a cooling rack.
  7. Combine icing sugar with cream cheese and serve in a separate bowl alongside the cooled cake.



  1. Gorgeous. Just reading your description of typical icing applications made my teeth ache! The body and tartness provided by the cheese is something something to love about a cream cheese icing.
    I will have to try putting icing on the side next time I make a cake. I’ve never even considered it before, but I love how it allows for options!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much 🙂 Yes it makes cake into ‘interactive’ food, I would probably even be inclined to put the icing on the side if I was making it for a crowd…like providing salsa with chips!


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