Carrot and Coconut Teatime Cake
I don’t mean to name drop but Ottolenghi and I are tight. If you follow me on Instagram (@belleannee) you’ll even find a pic of the two of us totally hanging out at Food Blogger Connect in London a few weeks ago. And that picture — during the 15 seconds it took for the shot to get set up, snapped, double checked, and snapped again — well, during that time it was just the two of us. Arm in arm. Sharing a moment in time. Who can even remember what we chatted about, laughed about or sighed about? Of course i was thinking, “OH MY GOD I LOVE THIS MAN’S FOOD” and he was probably thinking, “I must remember to pick up loo roll on the way home.”
So maybe the relationship is a bit one-sided but I have still been a rider on the Ottolenghi bandwagon since way before Plenty hit the shelves. Before Jeruselem. And before the soon-to-be-released Plenty More (I originally typed that as More Plenty thinking that was the name. I don’t know why but that is cracking me up #needmorefriends). I have been extolling the virtues of Ottolenghi since, well, 2008, the year it was published. I feel like that gives me some kind of special “in.” It does, doesn’t it?
Aaaaaanyway. Here I am, hanging out on the beach in Barbados in a bright, breezy house we rented right on the beach. Not a care in the world except making sure we have enough sunscreen and books for 10 days when I heard the bookshelves whisper out to me…“I know you’re there. I know your kind. You want to cook. I know you want to bake. Come. Come and see. Come and see the cookbooks.” Hmmm. I was intrigued. I strolled casually by, barely paying attention to those tempting little books, barely noticing the aged but familiar spines of Delia Smith, River Cafe, Tom Aiken and….there….barely getting any notice….there was Ottolenghi. I cracked it open, flipped quickly to the back (where I knew I could find desserts) and immediately settled on a cake that has been haunting me lately: Carrot and Walnut Cake.
I knew it was going to be a winner because I love carrot cake but I am turned off by the addition of crushed pineapple in every recipe I come across. I have been searching and searching for the answer and had just accepted that I would have to figure it out myself when I came across this beauty! After baking it exactly as he wrote the recipe I made a few changes that I prefer. I added nutmeg (or ginger as you will see in the notes), simplified the frosting and added a bit more egg white to the batter. The recipe below reflects my changes but his exact recipe can be found in the original Ottolenghi cookbook.
Keep in mind this not a fluffy, double-layer, birthday-cake carrot cake. This is a spicy, coconutty, single layer sheet-pan or loaf pan cake. It would be great in any season and would make an excellent cake as a gift for someone (like for the word’s best plumber in New Orleans whom I promised a carrot cake nearly a year ago… stress). And this is actually absolutely perfect for afternoon tea wherever you might be in the world.
- 160g (1 1/4 c) plain flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 large eggs
- 235 ml (1 c) sunflower oil
- 270 grams (1 heaping cup) caster sugar
- 50 grams (1/2 c) walnuts, chopped
- 50 grams (1/2 c) desiccated coconut
- 150 grams (1 c) carrot, peeled and grated
- 2 egg whites
- a pinch of salt
- 175 grams (heaping 3/4 c) cream cheese at room temperature
- 70 grams (5 T) unsalted butter
- 35 grams (4 T) icing sugar
- 25 grams (1 T) honey
- 30 grams (2 T) walnuts, chopped and lightly toasted
- Preheat the oven to 170°C / 330°F. Grease a standard springform cake tin and line the base and sides with baking parchment paper.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices and set aside.
- Whisk the 2 eggs together with a fork.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle blade, combine the oil and the sugar and beat on medium speed for two minutes. Lower the speed and add the two eggs that you whisked together already. Let the mixer beat this together for another two minutes on low. Scrape down the sides halfway through.
- Add the walnuts, coconut and carrot. Mix on low for a minute. Scrape down sides and slowly add in the flour mixture. The second the flour mixture is blended in, turn the mixer off. Do not overmix.
- Transfer that mixture into a clean mixing bowl.
- Clean the mixer bowl absolutely thoroughly and completely dry. Return to stand mixer this time fitted with the whisk attachment.
- Add the two egg whites and the salt beat until they reach stiff peaks.
- Fold the egg white mixture into the cake batter mixture gently, leaving some streaks of white.
- Pour the cake mixture (that now has the egg whites in it) into the prepared tin and place in the oven. Cook for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.
- Remove from oven and let it cool completely. Seriously.
- Beat the cream cheese with a mixture until light and creamy. Add the butter, sugar, honey and beat for 3 minutes. Add the walnuts, beat for another minute. Remove and scrape down the sides, stirring it with a rubber spatula if necessary. Put in the refrigerator if it is too runny.
- Ice the cake only once it is fully cooled.
- This is an unexpectedly light and tasty carrot cake. I don't know how it would taste as a traditional two-layer cake but I suspect too dense for that. I'd use this one as a sheet pan cake maybe or a loaf pan. It is old-fashioned-tasting and is perfect for a teatime treat.
- Consider leaving out the nutmeg and adding 1/2 teaspoon of dry ginger instead!