Carrot Almond Cake with Ricotta Cream
Adapted from Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison, which was generously sent to me by Ten Speed Press
Here’s where I tweaked the recipe: I used regular almond meal, regular cake flour, and orange carrots, because that’s what I had on hand and everything turned out beautifully. I’m sure that the cake taste even better (and looks even more captivating) if you follow the recipe to the letter of the law, but I couldn’t find blanched almond meal in my neighborhood – I’ll try again soon.
Don’t worry about not having the exact ingredients Madison calls for here, for this cake is pretty forgiving. The book didn’t specify on how finely the carrots should’ve been grated, however, I took that to mean, not coarsely shredded, but also not so finely grated it turned to mush. Since I used my food processor to get the almond flour mixture incorporated, I wound up using the same (unrinsed) bowl to grate the carrots on the “fine” attachment, but you can definitely grate by hand.
Normally, I have homemade ricotta on hand, but this time I was out, and I had Trader Joe’s in the fridge, which, as far as purchased ricotta goes, is actually quite decent. I mixed that with the crème fraîche, instead of the sour cream, and it was utterly delicious, but sour cream will work beautifully as well.
For the Cake:
4 tablespoons (57 grams) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
1 1/2 cups (150 grams) finely ground almonds, preferably blanched
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
3/4 cup (150 grams) plus 2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar, divided
1 1/4 cups (138 grams) unbleached cake flour
2 teaspoons (8 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Scant 2 cups (6 to 8 medium) finely grated carrots, preferably yellow
For the Ricotta Cream:
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
2 tablespoons mild-tasting honey
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Make the Cake:
Position the baking rack in the middle and heat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a small pot (or in a microwave) melt the 4 tablespoons of butter and set it aside to cool.
In a food processor fitted with a blade, pulse the almonds with the lemon zest and 2 tablespoons of the sugar until combined. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust the sides with some of the almond mixture. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Using an electric mixer, beat together the eggs and the remaining 3/4 cup sugar on high speed until pale, foamy, glossy, and thick, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the remaining almond mixture, the almond extract, and finally the flour mixture, incorporating it until well mixed. Pour the cooled melted butter over the batter and then, quickly, fold it in. Fold in the carrots.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth over the top, and place the cake in the center of the oven. Lower the heat to 350 degrees F and baking until the cake is springy to the touch in the center, lightly browned, and is beginning to pull away rom the sides of the pan, 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool completely in its pan, then release the spring and slide the cake onto a platter.
Make the Ricotta Cream:
While the cake is cooling, place the ricotta, crème fraîche, honey, and zest either by hand or with a mixer until smooth. Taste and adjust the ingredients for flavor and texture: i.e. you might want a little bit more sour cream or a citrus pop from the zest. As the cream sits, it will thin out, forming a lovely sauce for the cake. The tang of the sour cream is a perfect complement to the carrot flavor in the cake.
Just before serving, dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar. Serve with the ricotta cream on the side.
Makes one 9-inch cake.