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For the praline, line a baking tray with baking parchment, then tip the sugar into a saucepan with 1 tbsp water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1-2 mins until the sugar starts to caramelise. Scatter in the pecans and a pinch of sea salt, and stir until the nuts are fully coated. Carefully scrape the hot pecan mix onto the tray and leave to set for at least 10 mins. Break about 12 whole pecans out of the praline and reserve for decorating later, then chop or smash the rest of the praline into small shards. Set aside. Will keep in an airtight container for a day.
Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Oil two 20cm round sandwich tins and line with baking parchment. Tip the butter and sugar into a bowl and beat using an electric whisk for 3 mins until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs, one at a time – or do this using a stand mixer. When the eggs are incorporated, fold in the flours, bicarb, spices and a pinch of salt, followed by the carrots, raisins and half of the smashed praline.
Divide the batter between the tins and level the surface with a spatula. Bake for 25-30 mins until the sponges are springy and a skewer inserted into the middle of each comes out clean. Cool in the tins for 10 mins, then put on a wire rack to cool fully. Will keep wrapped overnight.
To make the icing, beat the butter and sugar using an electric whisk until smooth. Add half the soft cheese and lemon zest and beat again, then add the remaining and beat until smooth.
To assemble, place one sponge, flat-side up, on a cake stand or plate and spread with a third of the icing. Scatter with most of the remaining smashed praline, then top with the other sponge, also flat-side up. Spread the rest of the icing over the top and sides, then decorate with the whole praline pecans. Chill for 1 hr to set, then slice and serve with any remaining smashed praline for sprinkling over. Will keep in an airtight tin for three days.