Ever since I saw the Venetian Carrot Cake on one of Nigella Lawson's programme I had it in my mind to make it. It naturally reminded me of the justifiably famed gazar ka halwa (carrot halwa) that is made with the surfeit of carrots in winter. Carrot halwa used to be a very seasonal fare back when I was a child when carrots were really around at affordable prices only in the cooler months. Perhaps it was just as well; halwas are not for the calorie freak :). Neither is this cake! It might lack the clarified butter and high fat milk added to halwa but it makes it up with the three eggs. It was the use of olive oil in a sweet cake paired with nutmeg and lemon which intrigued me. I made a few changes to the ingredients listed in Nigella's recipe, so maybe I should call it Indian carrot cake. I upped the amount of grated carrot. Used ground cashew instead of almond and pine nuts and increased the amount of lemon zest. Mine didn't rise at all. But inspite of that it is a soft, moist cake. The so much larger allowance of nuts of course makes it taste quite different from carrot halwa, but it is very likely, the canny Venetians took the idea of the cake from their trading partners in the Orient!
2 tablespoons toasted coarsely chopped cashew
1 and half cup cashew ground to flour
3/4 cup cashew ground finely but with visible bits
Carrots, grated 200-250g
75g golden raisin
150g caster sugar
125ml regular olive oil, plus some for greasing
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice half a lemon
Ground the toasted cashew into various degrees of coarseness in batches. Tip the cashew flour and next most finely ground nuts into a large bowl. Zest the lemon into it. Boil the rum with the raisins until they have plumped up. Cool. Grate the carrots. I made a big batch of grated carrot and left them overnight in the refrigerator, so that they dried out a bit. Mix the carrot into the nut flour. Add the raisins along with the rum and stir thoroughly. Cream together olive oil, sugar, vanilla extract, grated nutmeg until it is creamy. Add the eggs one by one to the creamed mixture, beating thourougly. Add the lemon juice last. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and fold in, so as to wet it. Grease a 9 inch cake pan with olive oil. Pour the batter. Smooth it over. Strew the top with the coarsely chopped cashew bits. Bake for 40 minutes at 180 degree centigrade. Test by a fork to make sure it is completely cooked.