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Venetian Carrot Cake

by . Featured in KITCHEN
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Introduction

I long thought that carrot cake was an American invention, until I found out that an early version was made by Venetian Jews in the original ghetto. This modest disc is very different from the gargantuan US model with its rich sweet cream-cheese filling and topping, and although - apart from a glorious goldenness - it's not much to look at, it is divine to eat. It also has the added virtue of being attractive to those with dairy and gluten allergies: it came to me dairy free, and I decided to use ground almonds in place of flour to keep the gluten-averse brigade happy, too, but more particularly because it tastes perfect to me like this. Only those with less austere eating habits will care to dollop alongside each damply crumbling wedge of cake my Italianate nod to the American cream-cheese frosting - a soft, rum-flavoured mascarpone cream.

I long thought that carrot cake was an American invention, until I found out that an early version was made by Venetian Jews in the original ghetto. This modest disc is very different from the gargantuan US model with its rich sweet cream-cheese filling and topping, and although - apart from a glorious goldenness - it's not much to look at, it is divine to eat. It also has the added virtue of being attractive to those with dairy and gluten allergies: it came to me dairy free, and I decided to use ground almonds in place of flour to keep the gluten-averse brigade happy, too, but more particularly because it tastes perfect to me like this. Only those with less austere eating habits will care to dollop alongside each damply crumbling wedge of cake my Italianate nod to the American cream-cheese frosting - a soft, rum-flavoured mascarpone cream.

Image of Nigella's Venetian Carrot Cake
Photo by Lis Parsons

Ingredients

Serves: 8-10

Metric Cups

for the carrot cake

  • 3 x 15ml tablespoons toasted pinenuts
  • 2 medium carrots (approx. 200-250g/2 cups)
  • 75 grams golden sultanas
  • 60 millilitres rum
  • 150 grams caster sugar
  • 125 millilitres regular olive oil plus some for greasing
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 250 grams ground almonds
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • finely grated zest and juice of ½ lemon

for the mascarpone cream (optional)

  • 250 grams mascarpone cream
  • 2 teaspoons icing sugar
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons rum

for the carrot cake

  • 3 tablespoons toasted pinenuts
  • 2 medium carrots (approx. 200-250g/2 cups)
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • ¼ cup rum
  • ¾ cup superfine sugar
  • ½ cup regular olive oil plus some for greasing
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 2½ cups almond meal
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • finely grated zest and juice of ½ lemon

for the mascarpone cream (optional)

  • 1 cup mascarpone cream
  • 2 teaspoons confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rum

Method

You will need 1 x 23cm springform or other round cake tin (1 x 9-inch springform pan)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180℃/160°C Fan/gas mark 4/350°F. Line the base of your cake tin with re-usable non-stick silicone liner or baking parchment and grease the sides with olive oil. Toast the pine nuts by browning in a fatless pan; the oven alone is not enough to scorch out the paleness.
  2. Grate the carrots in a processor (for ease) or with a coarse grater, then sit them on a double layer of kitchen roll and wrap them, to soak up excess liquid.
  3. Put the golden sultanas in a small saucepan with the rum, bring to the boil, turn down and simmer for 3 minutes.
  4. Whisk the sugar and oil - I use my freestanding mixer, but it wouldn't be much of a faff by hand - until creamily and airily mixed.
  5. Whisk in the vanilla extract and eggs and when well whisked, fold in the ground almonds, nutmeg, grated carrots, golden sultanas (with any rum that clings to them) and, finally, the lemon zest and juice.
  6. Scrape the mixture into the prepared cake tin and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula. The batter will be very shallow in the tin.
  7. Sprinkle the toasted pine nuts over the cake and put it into the oven for 30-40 minutes or until the top is risen and golden and cake tester comes out sticky but more or less clean.
  8. Remove from the oven and let the cake sit in its tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes before unspringing and leaving it on the rack to cool.
  9. Remove the cake to a plate to serve; mix the mascarpone with the icing sugar and rum and put in a bowl to spoon alongside, for those who want.

You will need 1 x 23cm springform or other round cake tin (1 x 9-inch springform pan)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180℃/160°C Fan/gas mark 4/350°F. Line the base of your cake tin with re-usable non-stick silicone liner or baking parchment and grease the sides with olive oil. Toast the pine nuts by browning in a fatless pan; the oven alone is not enough to scorch out the paleness.
  2. Grate the carrots in a processor (for ease) or with a coarse grater, then sit them on a double layer of kitchen roll and wrap them, to soak up excess liquid.
  3. Put the golden raisins in a small saucepan with the rum, bring to the boil, turn down and simmer for 3 minutes.
  4. Whisk the sugar and oil - I use my freestanding mixer, but it wouldn't be much of a faff by hand - until creamily and airily mixed.
  5. Whisk in the vanilla extract and eggs and when well whisked, fold in the almond meal, nutmeg, grated carrots, golden raisins (with any rum that clings to them) and, finally, the lemon zest and juice.
  6. Scrape the mixture into the prepared cake tin and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula. The batter will be very shallow in the tin.
  7. Sprinkle the toasted pine nuts over the cake and put it into the oven for 30-40 minutes or until the top is risen and golden and cake tester comes out sticky but more or less clean.
  8. Remove from the oven and let the cake sit in its tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes before unspringing and leaving it on the rack to cool.
  9. Remove the cake to a plate to serve; mix the mascarpone with the confectioners' sugar and rum and put in a bowl to spoon alongside, for those who want.

Additional Information

MAKE AHEAD NOTE:
The cake can be baked up to 3 days ahead. Wrap tightly in clingfilm and store in airtight container in a cool place. Will keep for total of 5-6 days.

FREEZE NOTE:
The cake can be frozen (still on base of tin if easier), carefully wrapped in double layer of clingfilm and 1 layer of foil, for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight at room temperature.

MAKE AHEAD NOTE:
The cake can be baked up to 3 days ahead. Wrap tightly in clingfilm and store in airtight container in a cool place. Will keep for total of 5-6 days.

FREEZE NOTE:
The cake can be frozen (still on base of tin if easier), carefully wrapped in double layer of clingfilm and 1 layer of foil, for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight at room temperature.

Tell us what you think

What 5 Others have said

  • I made this cake recently, while I was putting it together I was in doubt of how it would taste! But the end result was just delicious and sooo moist!! Definelty making this cake again! Thank you!

    Posted by Ang85 on 22nd June 2018
  • Can't wait to try this. I love the idea of mascapone & rum frosting. The whole idea appeals to me more than the huge American version. Thank you Nigela, Anne

    Posted by Pilates4ever on 17th June 2018
  • This is simply the best carrot cake I have ever eaten. I'm diabetic so substituted caster sugar for Coconut crystals and powdered xylitol in the mascarpone. Amazing!

    Posted by Pavlovamad on 17th June 2018
  • Ticks a lot of boxes for me: (1) easy to make; (2) gluten free; (3) delicious!

    Posted by haXYZ on 17th June 2018
  • This is a delicious variation of a carrot cake. I love how it differs to all other carrot cakes I have tried before. Very yummy, and could eat the whole thing in one ;).

    Posted by Livvytish on 2nd November 2017
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