A couple of years ago, my nieces (aged eight and 11 at the time) 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.
Carrot cake with cardamom, currants and ginger-crème fraîche Chantilly
Makes 1 large cake, or 8 servings
Active time: 30 min
For the cake
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon finely grated nutmeg
1 cup organic sugar
4 extra large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup orange juice
1 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest (use a microplane grater)
1lb (454gr) carrots - peeled and finely grated (4 cups)
2/3 cup currants (soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes and drained)
For the Chantilly
1 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 teaspoons fresh ginger juice (finely grate fresh ginger root with a microplane grater and squeeze flesh between fingers to release the juice)
1/4 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup crème fraîche
1/4 cup pistachios - coarsely chopped, as garnish
1 - 9" non-stick round cake pan or springform pan - buttered and floured
Preheat oven to 350°F (180ºC).
Step 1: In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cardamom and nutmeg. Stir well and set aside.
Step 2: Place the eggs, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat at high speed until the mixture is pale and ribbony, about two minutes. Reduce 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. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes. Unmold and place on a cooling rack. Let cool to room temperature.
Step 3: To make the Chantilly, place the heavy cream, ginger juice and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat at 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.
Step 4: 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.