Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Venetian Carrot Cake

I have been overwhelmed and touched with the messages of support and encouragement I have received over the past week!! The blog has put me in touch with friends whom I had lost touch with over the years despite the irony of all of us having each other on Facebook. And that's why this post is for one of my oldest and dearest friends - Deblina! She applauded the idea of the blog when I first floated it, thought of its name and when I had all but given up on it, prodded me along gently. Along with school friend, Mariam, she writes a blog - 'Made in Umami' - a definitive guide to Mumbai's (and post-marriage, London's) food landscape.

When I saw the recipe for this Venetian carrot cake, it just had her name written all over it. Carrot cake is her absolute favourite (she even served it at her wedding!). Its Venetian version, an ode to her plans for a honeymoon in Venice! Coincidence?? I'd say Serendipity!!

The recipe is from Nigella Lawson's latest offering, 'Nigella Kitchen'. I must confess, it was Nigella's cooking show that somewhere convinced me to enter the kitchen and try my hand. She made it look all so easy. Yes, the purists might frown at her techniques and she does overdo the cream and butter at times. But then, she also does cut everything from chicken to herbs with a pair of scissors!! She describes this cake as an earlier version to its American counterpart, made by Venetian Jews in their original ghettos.

The recipe is dairy-free and gluten-free. Before you rejoice, remember the flour is replaced by almond-meal and that makes the cake a bit on the richer side. The good news, however, is that a small wedge of it will satisfy you! And for those of you who hate their veggies, you don't taste the carrots but they do provide an added texture and a natural sweetness and moistness.

After baking, the cake turns a lovely, golden orangey - brown on the outside while the inside maintains a paleness owing to the almond meal. This is a lovely, moist and slightly crumbly cake which can be shared among a large group. The plumped-up raisins and the hint of that  zesty lemon (in taste and aroma) are the side acts that almost overshadow the main players! Try this cake while the carrots are in season and before their fresh, pinkish hue is bleached to an unappetising pale orange by the Indian summer!!

Venetian Carrot Cake

Cook time30-40 mins
serves 8-10 people

  • 2 medium carrots (approx 200-250 gms), roughly grated
  • 75 gms raisins
  • 60 ml rum/orange juice
  • 150 gms caster sugar (I took regular sugar and whizzed it)
  • 125 ml regular olive oil, plus a little extra to grease the cake tin
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 250 gms almond-meal*
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 lemon, grated zest and juice
* If you don't have access to store-bought almond meal, blanch the almonds in hot water, remove the skin, dry them completely and then pulse them in the food-processor until you achieve the required coarse, consistency. Don't over-pulse or don't make it into a paste as the oil from the almonds will begin to leach out spoiling the taste and texture.

Cooking Directions
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180 deg C.
  • Line a 23 cm/9 inch round, spring form cake tin with non-stick liner on the bottom and brush the sides with the extra olive oil.       
  • Place the grated carrots in a sieve to let the excess water drain out and then pat them dry with a kitchen towel or napkin.       
  • Put the raisins with the rum/orange juice in a small saucepan, bring to a boil and then let it simmer for 3 minutes.       
  • Whisk the sugar and oil with a hand-held mixer until creamy.
  • Whisk the eggs with the vanilla extract until well-mixed and then add and whisk into the oil mixture.
  • Fold in the almond-meal, grated carrots, raisins (and the liquid with it) and the lemon, juice and zest, until well-combined.
  • Pour into the cake tin, evenly distributed. The batter will be shallow.
  • Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the top is risen and golden-brown. The cake will not rise much as there is no baking powder/soda. The cake rises on account of the eggs.The skewer should come out clean, a tad sticky though.
  • Take out the cake and let it cool completely on a wire rack before you un-mould it. This is important as the cake has a moist, crumbly texture and if you try to unmould it while it is hot, it will come apart!!
* Serving suggestion by Nigella: Serve the cake with some mascarpone cream mixed with icing sugar and rum. I say try it only if you have complete disregard for the weighing scales!!!


  1. Looks amazing. The first picture is just great. I am on a no-grain diet now, so cannot bake, but I love that you baked a carrot cake with almond meal (nuts are allowed in my diet...no sugar). Once my diet is over, I am going to half all the ingredients and make a small cake.
    BTW, how do you measure grams? Do you have a kitchen scale? Internet resources on converting grams to cups are not very accurate (I once screwed up a bread, so I know)

    1. Hey Vamsee.. I do have a kitchen scale..a very elementary one..nothing fancy!! But the good thing with a Nigella recipe..a few grams here and there should not be a problem!! When you do try the cake do let me know how it turned out!! :)

  2. So very touched by this post! And what better than a carrot cake to seal it!! So glad I prodded you into the blog, it's even better than what I suspected it would be! Very intrigued by the almond meal and what it must do to the flavour if the cake. Please bake and get for me when we meet in Bbay next month :)

    1. Like I said when I saw it.. I only thought of you!! :) and yes will bake it for you!!

  3. This looks downright luscious! Thank God for our girlfriends and cake!

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  5. Hey Sarvani! Good gong with the blog, thanks to Deb I stumbled across it. And co-incidentally I happened to watch this particular Nigella show only yesterday, so currently this recipe is on the top of my baking list. Thanks for trying it out, and sharing the recipe. I will write in when I bake one. Btw, if you like almond meal based cakes, have a go at flourless chocolate cakes, they are sinful... Sharing a recipe link which I've tried and it is yummm - http://www.exclusivelyfood.com.au/2006/07/flourless-chocolate-cake-recipe.html

    1. So so good to hear from you Poonam.. that too after all this time!! Infact a flourless chocolate cake recipe has been on my mind, just didnt know which one to try.. but now that I have a tried and tested recipe from you.. will definitely give it a go!!! This was my first almond meal cake.. i must admit a bit on the heavier side..but then atleast you stop at a piece!! :)Thank you for stopping by.. do let me know how it turned out..and do stop by again!!! Again, so good to hear from you!!!

  6. omg im so hungry


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