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Mary Berry vs Paul Hollywood Carrot Cakes

Celebrity Recipes
Close-up of Paul Hollywood's carrot cake made with orange buttercream and sliced of pared orange peel on top

First thoughts on the bakes:

Both of these recipes produced delicious, flavour-rich carrot cakes - I’m a huge carrot cake fan so I was delighted with how they turned out. The Paul Hollywood recipe was definitely a little more complex than Mary Berry’s carrot cake recipe, but Mary’s end result was just as tasty.

Mary Berry’s carrot cake recipe recommends popping all of the ingredients into a bowl and mixing them, which I thought might affect the end result - but both bakes came out of the oven with a delicious golden-brown topping, and they were fully baked through. I didn’t need to adjust the timings at all.

Mary Berry’s carrot cake recipe contains mashed banana, so it might be a good choice for people who like a milder-tasting carrot cake with subtle banana flavouring. Paul Hollywood’s cake was definitely punchier - it has more spices and flavourings added, and the orange buttercream goes really well with the carrot cake. 

Paul Hollywood's carrot cake, made with orange buttercream, in front of a bag of flour and some eggs

Mary Berry’s carrot recipe - a top-level look:

  • Ease of baking: 10/10 - super simple, and perfect for first-time bakers
  • Enjoyment to bake: 8/10
  • Time to bake: 50-60 minutes
  • Appearance of bake: 9/10 - This bake looked really tasty, and came out of the tin easily, too
  • Taste test: 7/10 - I loved the cake’s flavours, but the icing could be worked on
  • End result: 7/10 - A really simple, easy to follow recipe that produced a nice result

Want to bake this cake for yourself? Here’s Mary Berry’s carrot cake recipe

Paul Hollywood’s carrot cake recipe - a top-level look:

  • Ease of baking: 6/10 - This recipe definitely has some more complex steps, such as making the peel parings
  • Enjoyment to bake: 7/10 - I’ve given Paul’s bake a lower mark than Mary’s as it was quite complex
  • Time to bake: 1 hr
  • Appearance of bake: 9/10 - I really loved how golden brown this cake looked - it was a ‘textbook’ carrot cake
  • Taste test: 9/10 - The orange flavours were delicious and I loved how they complemented the carrot
  • End result: 9/10 - The only thing stopping me giving Paul’s bake a 10 are the peel parings!

Fancy making this bake? Here’s the recipe for Paul Hollywood’s carrot cake

Slice of Mary Berry's carrot cake on a plate with a forkful of cake resting nearby

Mary Berry vs Paul Hollywood:

I thought Mary Berry’s recipe was so much easier to bake - but it also felt much ‘safer’ than Paul Hollywood’s bake, which was more complex, but used big, bold flavours to complement the carrot base. The addition of mashed banana into Mary’s carrot cake kept the bake moist and added some depth of flavour, but I still prefer a carrot cake where the overall flavour is just carrot - not carrot and banana.

Both recipes use nuts - Mary’s uses walnuts, and Paul’s uses pecans. The pecans added a richness I wasn’t expecting - I’ll definitely be using them more in my baking in the future. The walnuts in Mary’s recipe were lovely, but I wasn’t sure they were needed in the icing as well.

I tend to also judge a carrot cake on its icing, and Paul Hollywood’s doesn’t disappoint - the orange flavour of the cream cheese and butter is perfect. Mary’s recipe uses mascarpone and vanilla essence, which people with a sweet tooth will love - but I found it overpoweringly-sweet and not ‘rich’ enough.

Mary Berry carrot cake verdict:

How did it taste?

Sweet, light and not dry at all - the mashed banana helped with that. The taste was lovely but wasn’t really ‘memorable’; it was quite a mild-tasting fruit-based cake. 

Mouthfeel and texture:

Really lovely - light, not chewy at all and the finished bake had a delicious crumb. 

What would Mary Berry’s banana bread pair well with?

I think this bake could do with a punchy flavour alongside it to bring out the flavours of the bake - a latte or an espresso could do the job nicely.

Paul Hollywood’s carrot cake verdict

How did it taste?

Absolutely delicious - rich, sweet and almost caramelly - everything I expect in a carrot cake. 

Mouthfeel and texture:

This bake felt denser, but it wasn’t chewy or stodgy - it’s definitely not as ‘fluffy’ as Mary’s bake, though. 

What would Paul Hollywood’s carrot cake pair well with?

I think this cake works best when it stands alone - the flavours and richness are too big for ice cream or cream. Maybe a cup of Earl Grey tea?

Close-up of Mary Berry's carrot cake recipe showing the inside of the cake and rich vanilla mascarpone icing

Overall verdict:

Overall winner: Paul Hollywood

Although both bakes looked and tasted delicious, Paul Hollywood’s recipe had the edge for me. The richness of the orange buttercream icing, the spices, the pecans and the slightly more dense cake mix really worked for me. 

Mary’s recipe is lovely, and my family and friends preferred this to Paul Hollywood’s carrot cake - they prefer lighter bakes though with sweeter flavours, whereas I go for richness and bold flavours. 

What went well?

Both recipes produced such lovely results - the cakes both came out of the tins easily, were cooked through in the recommended baking time, and cooled quickly and evenly. They didn’t dry out, even after a night in the fridge (they were covered, though) and they both travel surprisingly well.

Even though I preferred Paul’s bake, Mary’s recipe is more ‘classic’ with a lighter cake and more subtle flavours, and produced a really delicious end result. Paul’s recipe has spices, including allspice, cinnamon and ginger, which really opens up the flavour profile. 

What was a challenge:

I wasn’t able to cut Paul’s sponge in half, as the recipe suggests - the bake wasn’t thick enough after baking so next time I’d probably use a slightly-smaller tin, or increase the amount of baking powder used to make the sponge rise a little more.

I also really struggled with Paul Hollywood’s peel parings at the end of his bake - I don’t have a parer, so despite my best efforts to cut ultra-thin pieces of peel, the peel parings were too thick and I ended up taking them off the cake.

I think even if the parings had been very thin, the taste might have been overpowering - they were very sweet, like the chunks of peel in marmalade. I don’t think the recipe needed them.

How would you improve these recipes?

I’d make Mary Berry’s icing much less sweet and more rich - she recommends 2-3 tsp of vanilla extract, which is a lot, and the icing is very strongly vanilla flavoured. If she swapped out the mascarpone for cream cheese, reduced the vanilla essence, and even added a bit of butter for richness, that could definitely improve this recipe in my opinion.

Paul’s recipe doesn’t seem to benefit from the sweetened peel topping - I’d argue it could do without it. 

Mixing the ingredients for Paul Hollywood's carrot cake in a blue bowl