The Carrot-Almond Breakfast Cake
For months now, I’ve been leaving a glowing trail of dessert recipes. Recently I’ve begun to gather them up, turn on my oven, and bake. But once I get going, I’m like Hansel and Gretel gnawing on the witch’s house: I CAN’T STOP MYSELF. I want a taste of this, and oooh, what does that taste like, and what would it be like if I mixed this with that one over there… and before I know it, I’ve cooked enough to build my very own magical sugary cottage.
There are an infinite number of scrumptious cakes, and I don’t know if it’s even possible to pick favorites, but I loooove carrot cake. I picked carrot cake for my many-moons-ago July wedding (frosted, too-sweet, still wonderful), and baked carrot cake cupcakes for my daughter’s first birthday (overly dense, but with the simplest, best walnut cream cheese frosting ever). There are so many ways to make a lovely carrot cake, and even if they’re not everything you’d hoped for and then some, usually they’re still pretty great.
My personal preference is for a less-sweet carrot cake. You know, the kind you can respectably gobble up for breakfast. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I definitely get excited about sweet-sweets. But, I’ve always felt there are two kinds of sweets: after-dinner-only sweets, and breakfast-sweets. My version of carrot cake — adapted from this gem of a recipe, and this — is definitely a *breakfast*-sweet. A flourless cake, it’s loaded with moist carrots and light, ground almonds and just the right amount of sugar and spice. And FYI, it’s totally worth it to buy almond extract if you don’t have it already — it makes the cake smell like Passover almond macaroons.
I’ve spotted versions of this cake with ground roasted hazelnuts instead of almonds (which I think would be incredible, right??). Toasted almond slices on top would be a fine touch, too. And I’ve seen versions topped with cream cheese frosting, vegan coconut-cream frosting, whipped cream, and powdered sugar. Personally, I thought the cake was perfect as is, but you can decide for yourself.
Let’s just bake “healthy” sweets all spring and summer long. Are you in?
1 3/4 cups almond meal (or 1 ½ cups ground almonds or other nuts)
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
a pinch of ground cloves
a pinch of salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup raw sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 ½ cups carrots (3–4 large carrots), peeled and finely grated (I used a food processor, but you can also use the smallest holes on a box grater. Or, in a pinch, you can buy a bag of pre-shredded carrots at a place like Trader Joes, though they’ll be drier; soak them for an hour or so first!)
2/3 cup raisins (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9” cake pan with olive oil spray plus a drizzle or two more olive oil; set aside.
2. Combine almond meal (or grind your own in a food processor), spices and baking powder in one bowl; set aside.
3. Beat the eggs (with a mixer fitted with a whisk, or briskly with a fork). Slowly add the raw sugar and beat until it’s thick and ribbon-y. Add in the almond extract and olive oil, keep beating. Ahhhh that gorgeous almond smell!
4. Gently fold in the almond-spice mixture, and then slowly add the carrots and raisins.
5. Pour the batter into the cake pan. Bake for about one hour.
For me, this tasted best the next morning, after the flavors had time to develop. And then the morning after that, and the one after that…