25 February 2009
FRENCH CARROT CAKE – a Journey
Can I tell you a secret?
I have always had a terrible weakness for American style carrot cake – the soft, moist slices, filled with spices and topped with thick cream cheese icing. However when it came to the subject of nuts – as far as I was concerned they had no business being in my carrot cake. That was until now.
It all started with my new French cook book, Des Recettes du Potager. On first glance this little green book is filled with savoury recipes for garden vegetables, but on closer inspection I found 1 or 2 sweet treats nestled inside. One of these was le carrot cake, made with ground toasted hazelnuts!
The French are famous for knowing a thing or two about baking, so why oh why did I have so much drama with this new recipe??? The first time I made this cake I followed the recipe to a T, and from an outsiders perspective I had triumphed – the cake rose well, had a nice crusty golden outside & soft moist inside. I especially like the small twist of flouring the cake pan with brown sugar (cassonade), which added a sweet caramel effect. But that’s where the joy ended. Taking a bit of this lovely looking cake, my 1st thought was, oh how delicious …., then wait, hold on, what’s that funny aftertaste, a sort of acidity that rests on your tongue, lingering in the background. Another bite confirmed that I was not hallucinating.
So it was back to the drawing board, for trail N°2. This time I replaced the ground toasted hazelnuts with almonds & used chestnut flour instead of all-purpose white. The result was better, as the aftertaste was less noticeable, but it was still there, lingering, & I wasn’t happy.
You see – drama drama drama drama.
At this point you’d think that common sense would have prevailed & I’d have moved on. But you would be wrong. Perhaps I can blame my stubborness on the fact that I am born under the sign of the Ram & tend to drive on not matter what…. apparently even when it comes to carrot cake. I just couldn’t let this recipe go – there was something intrigued about it. The fact that they could sneak in ground nuts to replace part of the flour & it worked, was enough justification in my mind to journey on.
So I geared up for trial N°3, this time using only untoasted ground almonds and replaced the butter with vegetable oil. Please don’t cringe. I love butter and normally do not cave in to using oil. But in my defence I have recently read many a carrot cake recipe, to discover that several called for oil instead of butter (justifications of WW2 & shortage of butter, plus the binding of oil working better with flour).
And it work, by golly it worked!!! Just call me Sherlock, Sherlock Holmes. Gone was that little aftertaste that had been offending my taste buds, while keeping all the things I truly loved about this cake from the beginning. Plus this is a gluten free cake recipe, using only 1/2 a cup of oil (unlike some recipe which call for twice that), so you can have your cake & eat it too!!!
RECIPE : SWEET PEA Blog
- 2 to 3 large whole carrots (250 gr)
- 125 gr ground almond meal
- 100 gr (1/2 cup) vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 100 gr brown sugar (cassonade) + extra for flouring the cake pan
- 50 gr chestnut flour (us all-purpose white flour if you prefer)
- 3 1/4 teaspoons baking powder (1 sachet if you are in France)
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- sprinkle of ground nutmeg
- pinch of salt
- icing sugar for decoration
- Preheat the oven to 210°C / 410°F
- Butter a cake pan with removable bottom & then “flour” it with the extra brown sugar
- Peel & finely grate carrots. Set aside
- Beat the eggs till light & frothy, then add the grated carrots and almond meal
- Add the oil, sugar, flour, baking powder & cinnamon. Mix well. The batter will be liquidy.
- Pour the batter in the cake pan and cook for 35 -40 minutes or until a cake tester (toothpick) comes out clean.
- Wait 5 minutes before removing the sides of the cake pan.
- Dust with icing sugar & serve.
NOTE : this cake keeps well, remaining nice & moist. It is just as good the 2nd or 3rd day!