Carrot and Almond Cake (Torta di Carote)

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One of my co-workers, a nice lady called Heleen, mentioned that she had a great recipe for carrot cake. That got my attention as I was looking for a dessert recipe with vegetables. She lent me a book from Slow Food Editore full of recipes from Italian trattorie (simple restaurants that serve traditional food). I liked the book so much that I ordered my own copy in Italian (to make sure that nothing would be ‘lost in translation’. The recipe for carrot cake is from Trattoria all’Isolo from the great city of Verona.

Baking is more of an exact science than cooking in general, as the margins of error are smaller. That is why good recipes for baking always include measurements in grams. This recipe mentioned “il succo di 4 arance” (the juice of 4 oranges), which is not a precise measure at all.

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This is what happened when I made the carrot cake for the first time, following the recipe exactly. My oranges were apparently bigger or more juicy than those used in Verona, and thus the batter ended up too thin and the cake ended up being too moist and not completely cooked through. I could still tell that it had a wonderful flavor, and so I thought it would be worth fixing the issue. I asked Heleen about it, and she said she didn’t actually use 4 oranges but just how much she thought felt right.

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The second time around that is what I did too, and the result was a delicious cake. It has a wonderful flavor and texture, which is nicely moist and not dry at all like so many cakes.  It is also gluten free. I have measured the amount of orange juice I used, so you can make it first time right. I also reduced the amount of sugar a bit as I thought the first cake was too sweet.

Although this cake is called Torta di carote in Italian (carrot cake), it also includes almonds and so I’m calling it a carrot and almond cake. The recipe in the book does not include five spice, which was suggested by Heleen. It works very well with the cake, but you could also omit it or substitute with something else. I bet fresh ginger juice would also be nice. If you can’t buy five spice, you can make your own. It is usually a mixture of cinnamon, star anise, pepper, cloves, and fennel seed. Here’s my version of this wonderful cake. Thanks, Heleen!

Ingredients

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For a 24 cm (10″) cake

300 grams carrots

250 grams blanched almonds or almond meal

135 grams egg whites (4 egg whites)

65 grams egg yolks (4 egg yolks)

200 ml freshly squeezed orange juice (about 2 oranges)

125 grams granulated sugar

125 grams cane sugar

1 Tbsp honey

pinch of salt

1 tsp five spice

butter for greasing the pan

Preparation

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Preheat the oven to 160ºC/320ºF. Peel the carrots and grind or grate them…

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…until very fine. Grind the almonds as well if using whole almonds rather than almond meal.

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Combine the granulated sugar with the egg yolks in the bowl of a mixer.

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Mix until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes.

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Add the carrots, almonds, cane sugar, honey, and five spice.

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Mix until homogeneous.

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Squeeze about 2 oranges to obtain 200 ml of orange juice.

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Add the orange juice to the batter…

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…and mix to incorporate.

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Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt in a clean bowl with clean beaters until they look like snow (that is what is called in Italian and I think it is a good way to describe it).

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Gently fold the egg whites into the batter in 4 additions with a spatula working from below, trying to keep as much air in the batter as possible.

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Grease a cake pan with butter.

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Pour the batter into the pan.

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Level the top if needed.

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Bake at 160ºC/320ºF for 80 minutes. Due to the type of batter it is difficult to test with a skewer whether the cake is cooked (as I found out the hard way with my first rendition of this cake).

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Allow the cake to cool to room temperature.

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Remove the pan.

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Serve as is, or sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar to make it look nicer.

Wine pairing

This is great with an amber colored passito, for instance a Passito di Pantelleria. Passito is an Italian dessert wine made from dried grapes, often moscato (not to be confused with the light fizzy Moscato d’Asti). If passito has an amber color, this usually means that it has a nutty flavor and that goes well with this cake. Vin Santo may also work if it is sweet enough; many Vin Santo are not (unless you reduce the amount of sugar in the cake).

Flashback


Mackerel ceviche is easy to make and delicious.

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20 thoughts on “Carrot and Almond Cake (Torta di Carote)

  1. Hummm, as a brazilian I am heartbroken (but happy) to see other countries also have their carrot cake recipe. I dont know if you know, but this is one of the most famous cakes we have in Brasil, but instead of sugar on top, we put chocolat (very sweet, like everything we do! hahahaha) We have a lot of italian decendents in Brasil, maybe we got the recipe from them, but i never heard anyone talking about it, I think we just liked it so much that at some point someone said “OK, let’s never mention this was actually italian” hahahha you can take a look at our carrot cake by typing “bolo de cenoura” on google 🙂 enjoy!

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    1. Thanks Giuliana, for visiting and taking the time to leave such a nice and interesting comment. I do not know about the carrot cake from Brazil, so I’ll have to check it out. Chocolate is never a bad idea 😉

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  2. 4 oranges is pretty random. The author should have weighed the juice. In my next post I gripe about 1/3 cup of olives, which the recipe actually lists, and it’s the example I used when I was talking about measurements and writing recipes. Anyway, this cake sounds and looks absolutely wonderful. You’re just as good of a baker as you are a cook!!

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  3. This sounds like a wonderful cake, Stefan. You’ve proved your talent for baking here. ‘d have had no idea why the cake was undercooked nor would I have thought to reduce the amount of orange juice. You also correct to buy cookbooks in their native languages, particularly if you’re fluent in that language. I’ve a Greek cookbook that was apparently translated by a “universal” translator — unless “headlights” really are ingredients common to Greek cuisine. 🙂

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    1. LOL. That looks more like Google Translate. Unfortunately the majority of cookbooks are more about making a quick buck and pretty pictures than helping others to cook better. Since I’ve started blogging, I’ve all but stopped using cookbooks and rely on what I combine from various online sources.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. One healthy ingredient after another in this torta di carote. I know I am going to love this cake. What if I skip the five-spice (are they cinnamon, star anise, fennel seeds, peppercorn and cloves?). Maybe just the cinnamon?

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      1. But my confusion stems from the fact that in this recipe you refer to it in two ways.
        So, you are saying that one should purchase beet sugar for this recipe? Where does one buy such a thing?

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        1. Hi Vicky, thanks, this helps to understand what you mean.
          The definitions for sugar seem to be different in every country (just like flours by the way), which can make it difficult. I hadn’t realized that granulated (white) sugar is also made from cane sugar in other countries.
          In the food encyclopedia you linked to it says: “Granulated or white sugar is highly refined cane or beet sugar.”
          So the recipe calls for 125 grams of granulated white sugar (it doesn’t matter whether it is cane or beet) plus 125 grams of UNREFINED cane sugar.
          In both Italy and the Netherlands, cane sugar is always unrefined.
          I don’t know why the recipe calls for two different kinds of sugar. I thought it was strange as well. They are different in color and sweetness (unrefined cane sugar is less sweet than refined sugar and has a light brown color instead of white).
          A friend of mine has recently studied Italian patisserie, so I’ll ask her if she knows. I have seen many Italian recipes that use either refined granulated sugar (zucchero semolato) or unrefined cane sugar (zucchero di canna), but this is the first recipe that has both.

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  5. Hi Stefan,

    I’m new to your blog and let me say firstly that I admire both the content and presentation of your blog.

    On the subject of sugars I believe that the brown sugar may be being used to add a little extra flavour to the cake.

    Brown sugar is typically sucrose that has a little of the molasses left in from the refining process.

    You could simulate this by substituting the brown sugar called for in the recipe with a mixture of white granulated sugar and muscovado sugar which has a higher molasses content.

    Liked by 1 person

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