A couple of years ago, my nieces asked me to make a carrot cake — with no walnuts or cinnamon — for a birthday party. One of their friends was allergic to both ingredients, but they really wanted a carrot cake for this occasion.
So I got to work and decided to turn to one of my favorite spices, cardamom, to give this carrot cake some spunk. The exotic spice ended up pairing magnificently with the carrots! As for the walnuts, I replaced them with juicy, plump currants that contribute a bit of sweetness to the cake.
But that's not all! Instead of choosing a bland vegetable oil, I decided to use olive oil. The results were splendid! The olive oil not only makes the cake incredibly moist, but it adds a wonderful delicate flavor to it. As a last touch, the cake is decorated with a featherweight Chantilly spiked with fresh ginger juice and crème fraîche. Need I say more?!
This carrot cake met the approval of all the children at the birthday party that day… I even heard that not a crumb was left. Serve this at any birthday party, special occasion, or even Thanksgiving dinner and everyone will be impressed.
*Note: Finely grate fresh ginger root with a Microplane grater and squeeze the flesh between your fingers to release the juice.
For the cake
- 2 Cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
- 2 1/2 Teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 Teaspoon sea salt
- 1 Teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/4 Teaspoon finely grated nutmeg
- 4 extra-large eggs
- 1 Cup sugar, preferably organic
- 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 Cup orange juice
- 1 Cup olive oil
- 1 Teaspoon finely grated orange zest
- 1 Pound carrots, peeled and grated finely
- 2/3 Cups currants, soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes and drained
- Butter, for the pan
For the Chantilly
- 1 Cup heavy cream
- 2 1/2 Teaspoons fresh ginger juice*
- 1/4 Cup sugar, preferably organic
- 1/2 Cup crème fraîche
- 1/4 Cup pistachios, chopped coarsely, for garnish
For the cake
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cardamom, and nutmeg. Stir well and set aside.
Place the eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on high speed until the mixture is pale and ribbony, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and slowly beat in the orange juice, oil, and zest until smooth.
Add the flour mixture and fold until almost incorporated. Add the carrots and currants and continue folding until just incorporated. Do not overmix, or the cake will be stiff.
Butter and flour a 9-inch round nonstick cake pan or springform pan. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, for 60-70 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes. Unmold and place on a cooling rack. Let cool to room temperature.
For the Chantilly
Place the heavy cream, ginger juice, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium speed until soft peaks form. Add the crème fraîche and continue to beat until just incorporated. Transfer to a container and refrigerate until ready to serve the cake.
Place the cake onto a large serving platter. Spread the Chantilly on top of the cake with a silicone or pastry spatula. Sprinkle with the pistachios and serve.