Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Venetian Almond and Carrot Cake

Having lots of almond products on hand means that lots of gluten-free baked goods are on the menu. With the excessive amounts of food that I've eaten in the last week or so, baking a relatively healthy cake seemed like a good idea (rather than a decadently rich chocolate cake - which also sounded like a good idea for different reasons). 

The ever-reliable Nigella Lawson had a recipe for a Venetian Almond and Carrot cake that looked simple, moist, and perhaps even healthy with the inclusion of nuts, vegetables and olive oil. The end result was deliciously crumbly and moist, with an slight sweetness, and was surprisingly filling. I don't think you can ask for much more from a cake that's good for you.  
Lucky Nuts Almond Meal & Slivered Almonds

To increase the depth of flavour of the slivered almonds, they should be toasted by browning in a dry frying pan. This also adds a nice colour to the nuts which you don't get from the oven alone.

Slivered Almonds
Being an almond and carrot cake, it's logical to start with almonds and carrots! I was baking in a half-familiar kitchen and couldn't locate a grater so I used a peeler and a knife to cut the carrots down to size. A little time consuming, but the end result didn't suffer at all from the more noticeable carrot pieces. Mind you, next time I make this cake, I'll use a grater.  

Being woefully unprepared (as usual) I didn't have access to any sultanas and instead found a stash of  dried longans as a substitute. The longan fruit is related to the more common lychee, and in Traditional Chinese Medicine, longans are believed to relieve anxiety and aid relaxation. Who am I to argue with more healthy additions?

Longans Soaked in Rum
Soaking them in rum probably takes away from the health, but definitely adds to the flavour and texture of the cake. 

The batter is then a mixture of sugar, oil, vanilla extract, eggs folded together with the ground almonds, grated carrots, longans/golden sultanas and lemon zest and juice.

Folding the Batter
The mixture is then ready to be poured into the cake tin and sprinkled with the toasted slivered almonds. Of course I'd forgotten this step and the toasted almonds had already gone into the batter. Not to worry, un-toasted almonds would have to do, and the colour would have to be paler than I would have preferred. I won't forget next time. 

Batter Ready for the Oven

30–40 minutes in the oven allows time for the top to rise and turn golden, and after cooling, it's ready to serve.

Venetian Almond and Carrot Cake
See, the almonds are not quite browned, but who's complaining? The taste is delicious regardless, and doesn't come with any guilty feelings. Unless you eat the whole cake, then I can't guarantee anything. 

Venetian Almond and Carrot Cake
Adapted from a recipe by Nigella Lawson

  • 3 tbsp slivered almonds
  • 3 medium carrots 
  • 75g dried longans (or golden sultanas)
  • 60ml oz rum
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 125ml regular olive oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 200g ground almonds
  • ½ lemon, finely grated zest and juice
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line the base of a 23cm round spring-form cake tin with baking paper and grease the sides with olive oil.
  2. Toast the slivered almonds by browning in a dry frying pan; the oven alone is not enough to scorch out the paleness. Set aside.
  3. Grate the carrots in a processor (for ease) or with a coarse grater, then sit them on a double layer of kitchen paper and wrap them, to soak up excess liquid. Set aside.
  4. Put the longans/golden sultanas in a small saucepan with the rum, bring to the boil, then turn down and simmer for 3 minutes.
  5. Whisk the sugar and oil until creamily and airily mixed.
  6. Whisk in the vanilla extract and eggs and, when well whisked, fold in the ground almonds, grated carrots, longans/golden sultanas (with any rum that clings to them) and, finally, the lemon zest and juice.
  7. Scrape the mixture into the prepared cake tin and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula. The batter will be very shallow in the tin.
  8. Sprinkle the toasted almonds over the cake and put it into the oven for 30–40 minutes, or until the top is risen and golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out sticky but more or less clean.
  9. Remove from the oven and let the cake sit in its tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then unspring and leave it on the rack to cool.
Venetian Almond and Carrot Cake

Thanks to Lucky Nuts and Nuffnang for providing the almond meal and slivered almonds. This is part of a series of posts sponsored by Nuffnang.