Deliciously moist and delicately spiced carrot sponge, sticky fig and walnut jam, covered in a light cream cheese frosting and adorned with candied carrot curls and maple-glazed walnuts.
Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas 4.
Make the sponges. Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract together in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until tripled in volume.
With the mixer running, pour in the oil. Add the grated carrots and orange zest and whisk to incorporate.
Switch to the beater attachment. Add the flour, baking powder, spices, salt and ground almonds to the egg mixture and set the mixer running on its the lowest speed, mixing until all the ingredients are just incorporated.
Slowly pour in the orange juice, mixing until all the liquid is fully incorporated.
Divide the cake batter between the three prepared tins. Bake for 30–35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of each sponge comes out clean. Leave the sponges to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn them out onto a wire rack. Turn the sponges the right way up and leave them to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the fig and walnut jam. Tip the figs, orange zest, sugar and pectin into a heavy-based saucepan set over a medium heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and boil the mixture for 10 minutes, until thick. Remove the pan from the heat and set the jam aside to cool – it will set as it cools. Once cool, stir through the chopped walnuts.
Make the cream-cheese frosting. Beat the butter and icing sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the beater, on medium speed for 3–5 minutes, until pale and creamy. Add the vanilla and orange zest, and beat again to incorporate.
Add the cream cheese and beat to incorporate, being careful not to overmix. Transfer three quarters of the frosting into the large piping bag. Divide the remaining frosting between the three piping bags fitted with a nozzle and chill until required.
Make the candied walnuts. Toss the walnuts in the maple syrup and tip them onto the lined baking sheet. Bake for 20–25 minutes, until golden. Leave the walnuts to cool completely.
Make the candied carrots. Using either a mandolin or vegetable peeler, peel the carrot into long strips. Tip the sugar and 100ml of water into a medium saucepan set over a medium heat and bring the syrup to the boil. Add the carrot strips, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, until softened. Remove the carrots from the syrup using a slotted spoon and wrap each piece around the greased handle of a wooden spoon. Leave the strips to harden and air-dry, then gently slide them off the handles.
Snip the end of the large piping bag. Pipe dots of the cream-cheese frosting onto a cake plate or stand. Place one of the sponges on the stand or plate and pipe frosting on top, spreading it evenly to the edges with a palette knife. Pipe a ring of frosting around the edge of the sponge and fill in the middle with half the fig and walnut jam. Place a second sponge on top and repeat.
Add the final sponge and pipe a generous layer of frosting on top. Smooth it out with a palette knife to an even layer.
Pipe thick stripes of frosting around the side of the cake and scrape away the excess with a cake scraper to give a semi-naked effect.
To decorate, using the icing in the piping bags fitted with nozzles, pipe differently shaped kisses of icing to create a crescent shape on the top of the cake. Decorate with the fresh fig pieces, candied walnuts and carrot curls to finish.