Sometimes it takes the merest of suggestions.
Somebody says carrot cake and, before you know it, you have a grater in one hand and a familiar orange vegetable in the other.*
Something happens along the way, though. Your cake bypasses the well-travelled walnut and cinnamon route and takes a turn eastwards, where it discovers pistachios and cardamoms and dates – oh my! In these foreign climes, the familiar cream cheese frosting seems somehow out of place, and is quickly shed in favour of a generous lime drizzle. Before you know it, a new incarnation of an old favourite is born, admired and eaten – and you can’t help but wonder if it’s a touch of eastern magic that causes it to disappear at such speed.
*I hasten to add that I don’t always respond so readily to such suggestions – just in case you were gettin’ any notions, like
An Eastern Carrot Cake with Pistachios & Cardamom
Including pistachios and cardamom was an idea I got from Madhur Jaffrey, who includes just such a carrot cake recipe in her book Eastern Vegetarian Cooking, while dates put me in mind of sticky toffee pudding and were worth including on that basis alone. As for the lime drizzle, why that just seemed like the right thing to do.
On the subject of cardamom, while you can buy the already ground version, you’ll be greatly rewarded if you use freshly ground seeds instead – just remove the seeds from some green cardamom pods and then pound them with a mortar and pestle or grind using a spice grinder.
- 200g plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 0.5 tsp salt
- 0.25 tsp gnd cardamom seeds
- 100g pitted dates
- 150ml water
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 75g butter, softened
- 125g light muscovado sugar (or other soft brown sugar)
- 2 eggs
- 100g grated carrot
- 50g shelled pistachios (not salted), roughly chopped
- 75ml lime juice (juice of 2-3 limes)
- 2 tblsp demerara sugar
You’ll also need:
- A shallow-ish rectangular baking tin, mine was about 27cm x 18cm x 4cm deep
- Preheat the oven to 180C and either grease your baking tin well or line with parchment paper
- Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom together well and set aside.
- Ensure all stones are removed from the dates, then chop them and place in a small saucepan with the water. Bring to a boil over a medium-high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and add the bicarbonate of soda – the mixture will froth up.
- Cream the butter until light and fluffy, using a mixer if you have one or using old-fashioned elbow grease and a wooden spoon if you don’t. Add the light muscovado sugar and cream together well.
- Add the eggs one at a time and beat well to combine.
- Add half the flour and mix to combine. Then stir in the date mixture in 2 lots and finally mix in the rest of the flour until just combined.
- Fold in the grated carrot and chopped pistachios.
- Scrape the mixture into the tin and bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out fairly clean.
- While the cake is baking, combine the lime juice and demerara sugar. Immediately the cake comes out of the oven, poke the surface all over with a toothpick and pour the lime juice mixture over the cake. Allow to cool for about 30 minutes in the tin, then cut into squares and transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling (though you might have to sample one or two before they’re fully cool). I rather fancy they’d be nice served with some mint tea.
- I reckon that you could add perhaps another 50g of so of grated carrot to this recipe for an even moister result. I also rather fancy that a little ground ginger added to the cake batter would be good, while you could certainly replace some or all of the pistachios with almonds. You could also skip the lime drizzle and instead serve the cake warm as a dessert with cream, sour cream or yoghurt.
- Makes approx 24 x 4cm-ish squares of cake