The Carrot Cake King of Cradock

The breakfast chef at Victoria Manor Hotel in Cradock has a gift for baking.

Words by Julienne du Toit. Photographs by Chris Marais

Maswazi Mabusela is the breakfast chef at Cradock’s Victoria Manor Hotel. He also harbours a deep passion for baking. Which was why Desray Britz on the hotel’s reception desk nagged him to enter the carrot cake competition at the local Karoo Food Festival at the end of April.

When the day came, he arrived at work cake-less. “Where is it?” demanded Desray.

“I wasn’t happy with the icing,” shrugged Maswazi.

“Doesn’t matter. Just enter it. Here are my keys. Fetch that cake!”

Maswazi, originally from a tiny village between Tarkastad and Queenstown, started baking while working at various hotels in East London and Cape Town. By 2015, he had had enough of cities, and yearned to go back to the Eastern Cape to be closer to his family.

He was delighted to be hired by the Vic Manor as breakfast chef, and started a cake-baking business on the side, calling it Cape to Karoo Catering.

Which is why he thought he might enter the Carrot Cake Competition. But then there was the matter of the less-than-perfect icing, and also his cold feet.

Badgered by Desray, Maswazi took his cake down to the festival venue. He had more misgivings when he saw who would be doing the judging: international chef Klaus Beckmann (who coached South Africa’s junior culinary Olympic team in 2016), Johannesburg-based Slow Food champion Caroline McCann, and Chef-Restaurateur Marco Nico.

They sat down at a table full of beautifully iced carrot cakes. Maswazi couldn’t bear to watch and returned to the hotel, waiting anxiously for the results. Only later did he hear his cake had come a credible second to the prizewinning efforts of local baker Anine Barnard.

award winning carrot cake recipe

There was no prize, but the orders for his carrot cake, moist and subtly flavoured with nutmeg and citrus, are flooding in. Now he knows better than to hide his carrot cake under a proverbial bushel…

And here’s Maswazi’s Carrot Cake Recipe (Basic version)

Maswazi’s Carrot Cake Recipe

2 cups cake flour

2 cups grated carrots

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

12 tablespoons cooking oil

12 tablespoons milk

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1 cup chopped pecan nuts

3 large eggs

In a bowl mix dry ingredients – flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt, cinnamon, sugars and carrots.

In another bowl mix eggs, oil, milk and vanilla essence.

Add egg mix to the dry ingredients then add nuts. Bake in oven at 180 degrees for 30 – 45 minutes.