It’s around this time of year that I always start to get a bit impatient. The first few days of spring are so very welcome but as soon as I’ve had a taste of the longer days and warm (!) sunshine, I’m desperate for more.
I always think that April seems one of the most tedious months, second only to January. My excitement, therefore, at waking up this morning and seeing ‘Thursday 1 May’ displayed on my phone should not be underestimated. Not least because it means that the communal heating in our block of flats should finally be turned off and I’ll no longer have to angst over the fact that the radiators are on and all the windows are open.
I have a bad habit of wishing my life away. Not on a particularly grand scale but in the way that I count down the hours until the end of the day and focus on how long it is until the weekend, rather than on the here and now. In yearning for summer, I write off the spring and lose another few months.
I’ve written before about my indifference towards carrot cake. It’s not like I’d turn down a slice if you offered me one but it would never be my first choice of cake. In fact, short of anything involving bananas (ugh), it would probably be my last choice.
This is my latest attempt to try and see the point of carrot cake and, I think, I might just about be getting there. The beauty of this recipe really is in the lack of flour. The crunchy and nibbly ground pistachios and ground almonds give the cake a bit of bite while keeping each bite sticky and fragrant. There’s a subtle spice from the nutmeg and ginger and an earthy sweetness from the carrot. Everything is brought together with rich, vanilla-flecked mascarpone and finished off with a scattering of chopped pistachios.
I don’t know who decided that carrot cake was associate with spring. Is it as simple as carrots = bunnies = easter? In which case, I suppose that I should have posted this recipe a couple of weeks ago. It seems fitting for this time of year though; a celebration of the new season’s produce (even if the carrots in the shops at the moment are most likely still the dregs of last year’s harvest), full of vibrant orange and greens. For someone who has a tendency to lose themselves in anticipation of the future, it’s a good reminder to live a little more in the moment.
There's nothing particularly complicated about this recipe but there are just a couple of crucial points to bear in mind. Firstly, it's imperative that you really squeeze out as much liquid from your carrots as possible. I decided to see if this step was optional during one of my tests and learnt the hard way that it wasn't. It's also important to grease your tin well - the texture of these cakes makes them a little more inclined to stick than usual. I tend to melt some butter and use a pastry brush to paint a couple of layers but you could use oil or just save yourself the stress and use paper cupcake liners. The lightly sweetened mascarpone is a rather nice topping but you could make a more traditional cream cheese frosting if you prefer. To keep it dairy free, I think some whipped coconut cream would be pretty perfect.
- 2 smallish carrots, grated (about 140g or1 1/3 cups)
- 80ml (1/3 cup) extra virgin olive oil
- 100g (a very scant 1/2 cup) demerara sugar
- 2 medium eggs, beaten
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- 100g (1 cup) ground pistachios (make sure to measure after you've ground)
- 65g (2/3 cup) ground almonds
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- A pinch of salt
- 150g (3/4 cup) mascarpone (homemade or otherwise)
- 2 teaspoons icing sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- Chopped pistachio kernals, for decoration.
- Preheat the oven to 170C/325F and grease two twelve-hole mini cupcake tins exceedingly well. Grate the carrots and squeeze as much water out of them as possible; set aside on a couple of paper towels to dry off.
- To make the cakes, beat together the oil and sugar until light and well-mixed. Gradually add the eggs and vanilla, continuing to beat well.
- Fold in the grated carrots ground pistachios, ground almonds, nutmeg, ginger, baking powder and salt. Dollop heaped teaspoons of mixture in the prepared cupcake tins and bake for about 20 minutes until slightly risen and golden brown. Allow to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before removing.
- When the cakes have cooled, make the sweetened mascarpone by beating together the cheese, icing sugar and vanilla bean paste. Top the little cakes and sprinkle with chopped pistachio.
Adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe.