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Go East, Young Carrot Cake

Carrot cake

Observe closely... this is not your usual carrot cake

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

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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.

You’ll need:

  • 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

The Steps:

  • 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.

The Variations:

  • 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.

The Results:

  • Makes approx 24 x 4cm-ish squares of cake


  1. Jenni

    You are so smart. Love the lime drizzle; it was Exactly the right thing to do! =D

  2. Daily Spud

    Hey Jenni, I’m glad you agree. So did the folks hereabouts who were lucky enough to nab a sample!

  3. Aoife Mc

    You are a GENIUS. This sounds and looks so delicious that I’m willing to conquer my baking fears to give it a go. Wow!

  4. Daily Spud

    Go for it Aoife! It’s well worth a shot :)

  5. Meeta

    Oh this is exquisite! Yes it’s reminiscent of the STP. I really like Madhur Jaffrey as her recipes are usually spot on and simply tasty. Will definitely try this out!

  6. Daily Spud

    I do hope you try this one out Meeta, I think you’ll enjoy it! And I have to say that I feel exactly the same way about Madhur Jaffrey, have always been a big fan.

  7. 5 Star Foodie

    Wow, a very unique carrot cake for sure! I love the cardamom, and pistachios, and dates here, a fantastic combination!

  8. Daily Spud

    Thanks Natasha, glad you like the combination!

  9. Lisa

    I don’t like carrot cake but your additions may make me change my mind. I love cardamom and pistachios and dates are just brown sugar in fruit form. Mmm…

  10. Travel Food Phil

    I’m defo liking this baking lark and will probably be giving this a go sometime soon. Especially as it’s matching my new year resolution to do more eastern influenced food. And you’re right, the lime drizzle was the right thing to do!

  11. Rufus

    Definitely one of the perks of working in this office is that we’re sometimes unofficial test tasters of Dailyspud’s work; the lime drizzle was simply a brilliant touch.

  12. Catherine

    I’m so jealous of your workmates who get to sample your food! I like the creative twist on the carrot cake; lime drizzle mmmmm I bet it would go wonderfully with a cocktail.

  13. Daily Spud

    Lisa: If it helps to further persuade you, this probably has less carrot than some versions, though your comment has now set me off thinking about yet more variations. Perhaps you could try replacing the carrot with grated apple and the pistachios with almonds? In fact I might just have to try that out myself…

    Travel Food Phil: sounds like an excellent new year’s resolution to me!

    Rufus: glad to see you know which side your cake is drizzled on :D

    Catherine: Yes, lucky workmates indeed! As for the cocktail suggestion, while I might prefer to have this with some tea, I do like where you’re going with that one…

  14. gastroanthropologist

    Love this very different direction for carrot cake! My very health conscience husband has tricked himself into believing that carrot cake is better for you than other cakes so can’t wait to try one for him that doesn’t use the traditional pumpkin pie spices…

  15. katie

    hmmm – this is brilliant. thank you! (ps – when are you coming back to SF?)

  16. Sophie

    Yummie, yummie for my tummy,…:) !!!

    I love your Eastern spiced carrot squares a lot! Who wouldn’t love this? Who???

  17. Daily Spud

    gastroanthropologist: I’m familiar with that logic :) With fruit, veg and nuts, your husband will probably think this cake is practically health food, lol

    katie: not soon enough is the answer to that question!

    Sophie: I have no idea who wouldn’t love this :)

  18. OysterCulture

    Ha my health conscious husband must have some connection to gastro’s as he feels the same way. I am not going to lie, no matter how bad the carrot cake can be for you and thankfully its not that bad, it tastes just too good to ignore. I love the addition of the atypical spices and not having the cream cheese frosting – its getting healthier already. This is like one tasty vitamin that I must try, now if I can only find my grater.

  19. Daily Spud

    I’m with you on all of the above OysterCulture – now, off you go and find that grater!

  20. Tangled Noodle

    There’s nothing like a journey to an exotic locale to rekindle a tired old romance – in this case, my old love of carrot cake. The spark was fizzing out after too many subpar versions (dried, bland or over cream-cheesed) and I strayed with zucchini-chocolate cakes, but this is just the thing to bring me back to the orange veg! 8-D

  21. Daily Spud

    Oh dear TN, over-cream-cheesing sounds like a heinous crime against carrot cakes. This cake may be the rehabilitation you need :)

  22. Malooba

    Having lurked for quite some time, just wanted to say that I was inspired by this recipe. I say inspired because I didn’t have any pistachios or dates, so substituted some chopped crystallised ginger and some dried ginger to punch it up. It was so fragrant you could use it as a scent! It went down very well – and quickly :-). It’s a definite keeper.

  23. Jackie (Phamfatale.com)

    pistachio, cardamom and carrot dessert. Enough said… I love it!

  24. Daily Spud

    Malooba: Hi there and thanks for de-lurking :) So glad to hear about your inspired-by version of the cake – delighted it went down well.

    Jackie: I hear ya!

  25. Nora

    Wow! And yum! I love carrot cake and this sounds like such a wonderful, fragrant version.

  26. Daily Spud

    Thanks Nora – it is wonderfully fragrant. I’m getting a bit of a hankering to make some more!

  27. Sarah, Maison Cupcake

    That’s a stonkingly good looking carrot cake – must admit though to being slightly disappointed there’s no spud in it?!

  28. Daily Spud

    Ah, Sarah, sorry to disappoint! Must try harder next time :D

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