Today’s post is for my good friend Helen. A while back she was declared gluten intolerant and condemned to a life of missing out on amazing cakes, so when I started my blog Helen requested that I post some interesting gluten free desserts. There’s only so many meringues a person can eat and whilst a coconut macaroon is heavenly, sometimes you just fancy a change.
My search for a slightly more unusual gluten free cake led me to this wonderful carrot cake. Like all good carrot cakes it’s scrumptiously moist and this is only improved by the addition of ground almonds and sultanas. As well as being gluten free it’s also dairy free, and I’m sure you could replace the eggs with flax eggs to make it completely vegan.
The cake is unleavened so it’ll stay fairly flat, but it still feels light and fluffy, I guess it’s something to do with it not being weighed down by dense, wheat flour. This lightness makes this the ideal cake for an afternoon treat or a moderately virtuous dessert. We all need a little break from wheat every now and then, so why not give it a go?
I know some people aren’t fans of dried fruit in cakes, but much like my favourite tea loaf, the secret here is soaking the sultanas to make them fabulously squishy. They’re simmered in rum, resulting in incredibly alcoholic fumes, so keep the kids out of the kitchen and savour it! If you’re of the teetotal persuasion, you can replace the rum with orange juice with slightly less intoxicating results. If you’re entirely anti-sultana, just leave them out altogether, but I promise you, you’ll be missing out!
If your favourite part of a carrot cake is the cheese cream icing (I know there are a lot of you out there!) then don’t despair. Nigella suggests serving the cake with mascarpone cheese (aka posh cream cheese) mixed with a little icing sugar, and spiked with a cheeky splash of rum. I was after something lighter, but still with a tang, so I went with creme fraiche, which worked marvellously and thankfully, for lazy old me, didn’t require any preparation time!
Venetian Carrot Cake
Taken from Kitchen by Nigella Lawson
3 tbsp pine nuts
2 medium carrots (roughly 200g)
150g caster sugar
125ml olive oil (plus extra for greasing)
1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
250g ground almonds
1/2 tsp nutmeg
zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
Preheat the oven to 180 C / 160 C Fan / 350 F, grease and line the bottom of a 9 inch (23cm) springform cake tin using a little olive oil.
Now put the pine nuts into a small, dry frying pan over a medium heat and toast until lightly browned. Make sure you keep an eye on them! Next, coarsely grate the carrots, either by hand or using a food processor. Lay the grated carrots on a double sheet of kitchen roll and cover with more kitchen roll, to absorb some of the moisture.
Put the sultanas into a small saucepan with the rum, bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer gently for 3 minutes. In the meantime mix up your cake batter. Start by whisking together the oil and sugar (I used a stand mixer as I’m lazy!) until they’re well mixed and slightly creamy.
Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk again. Then fold in the almonds, nutmeg, carrots, sultanas (with any rum that sticks to them) and the lemon zest and juice. Pour the mix into the prepared tin and level it off with a spatula. Sprinkle over the pine nuts and pop the tin in the oven for 30-40 mins. You’ll know the cake is ready when it’s lightly golden and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out relatively clean.
Cool the cake in the tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then un-spring the tin and let it cool completely.
Serve the cake with creme fraiche or Nigella’s suggested rum spiked mascarpone. Enjoy!