Reading Nigella Lawson's book Kitchen is turning out to be quite an educational experience. She has certainly packed a lot of recipes in there, but there is also plenty of great tips, and very interesting facts about food.
For example, while reading this recipe for her Venetian Carrot Cake, I learnt that it was not the Americans that invented carrot cake, but rather, it was the Venetian Jewish community who made the first carrot cake. Unlike the American version which is usually quite big and accompanied with heavy cream cheese frosting, this cake is not a lot to look at. However, as Nigella promises "it is divine to eat". I couldn't agree more, but I'll give you more on my verdict a bit later.
The other great thing about this cake is that it is gluten free AND dairy free! Great to have another allergy-friendly recipe up my sleeve that isn't chocolate or orange and almond :)
First, here is the recipe for the cake, as well as the mascarpone cream to have alongside the cake if you wish.
Venetian Carrot Cake
(From 'Kitchen' by Nigella Lawson)
3 x 15ml tablespoons toasted pine nuts
2 medium carrots (200-250g)
75g golden sultanas
150g caster sugar
125ml regular olive oil, plus some for greasing
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g ground almonds
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
finely grated zest and juice of half a lemon
For the mascarpone cream (optional):
2 teaspoons icing sugar
2 x 15ml tablespoons rum
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/gas mark 4. Line the base of your cake tin (Nigella suggests 23cm round springform tin, I used a 20cm tin) with reusable 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 food processor (for ease) or with a coarse grater, then sit them on a double layer of kitchen roll and wrap them, to soak up the 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 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 into the oven for 30-40 minutes or until the top is risen and golden and the 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 in 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.
Delicious! This cake might not be the prettiest cake around, but what it lacks aesthetically it makes up for in flavour and texture. It is wonderfully moist, and the flavour is superb - not obviously carroty, and with a hint of lemon. This recipe is definitely a keeper!