Carrot Almond Cake

I’ve given in to my obsession, again.  I have acquired some new cookbooks (it’s okay, I had a gift certificate).  The past few days I’ve been working my way through “Vegetable Literacy” by Deborah Madison, and what a treasure!  Fans of Ms. Madison will be thrilled with this comprehensive and visually stunning collection of facts and recipes.  The book is arranged by plant family and includes twelve categories; each comes with gardening and kitchen information.  Of course, the baker in me was drawn to one of the few sweet cake recipes.  If you’re looking for a healthier, lighter take on carrot cake, this is it.  It’s a single layer of almond and lemon-scented cake that eschews the usual large amount of oil for a mere four tablespoons of butter.  Instead of a cream-cheese frosting, the cake is served with a honey-sweetened ricotta cream sauce.  I think it’s brilliant and just right for easy summer menus.  I wasn’t able to find the yellow carrots that Ms. Madison prefers for this cake, so I used the freshest organic carrots available.  I also used almond meal flour, which is nothing more than finely-ground blanched almonds.  Give this a try; I’m betting you won’t miss the cream cheese frosting.

Carrot Almond Cake with Ricotta Cream
(makes one 9-inch cake)
4 tablespoons butter, plus more for the pan
1 1/2 cups finely ground almonds, preferably blanched
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Scant 2 cups grated carrots
The Ricotta Cream
1 cup ricotta cheese (the freshest, best quality you can find)
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons honey
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Heat the oven to 375F.  Melt the 4 tablespoons butter and set it aside to cool.  Pulse the almonds with the lemon zest and 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar in a food processor.  Butter a 9-inch springform pan and then dust the sides with some of the almond mixture.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Using an electric mixer, beat together the eggs and the remaining 3/4 cup sugar on high speed until pale, foamy, and thick, about 5 minutes.  Reduce the speed to low and add the remaining ground almond mixture, the almond extract, and finally the flour mixture, incorporating it just until well mixed.  Pour the cooled butter over the batter and then quickly fold it in, followed by the carrots.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and put the cake in the center of the oven.  Lower the heat to 350F and bake the cake until it is springy to the touch in the center, lightly browned, and beginning to pull away from the pan sides, 35 to 45 minutes.  Let cool completely in its pan, then release the spring and slide the cake onto a platter.  To make the ricotta cream, work together the ricotta, sour cream, honey, and zest by hand or with a mixer until smooth.  Taste and add more of any of the ingredients, if needed.  The cream will thin out as it sits, forming a nice sauce for the cake.  Just before serving, dust the cake with confectioner’s sugar.  Serve the sauce alongside.
(minimally adapted from “Vegetable Literacy” by Deborah Madison)



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