This is one of my favourite ever cakes. It’s just incredible – if you like almondy moistness, that is. It’s very different to the classic, dark, spiced, fruit and nut filled and cream cheese icinged version. I have to credit Nigella for sharing this recipe with the world, and while she says it’s not much to look at, I, on the other hand, think it’s a thing of beauty – perfectly golden brown on the outside and pale yellow on the inside, with fluorescent orange strands of carrot. Now then, something of a confession: I have been making this cake about once a year for a few years now. When I’d originally seen the recipe, I’d copied it down, and every time I made it, followed the version in my notebook. Yesterday I looked at the noted version, and saw the recipe called for 350g of ground almonds. We only had 250g, so I added 100g of self raising flour, and worried if it wouldn’t be as good as usual. Meanwhile, I went and sat with my laptop, to calculate how many calories were in each slice (300 if you cut the cake into twelve, if you want to know!) Anyway, I looked up the recipe online to do this and noticed that it used 250g almonds, not 350. Ah… It also said the it made an ‘almost gooey, custardy textured cake’. Now, I’ve obviously been making this with the wrong quantity the whole time. When I’ve used all almonds, it’s always been very moist, and completely delicious. This version, with 100g flour, was moist, and completely delicious. I’m giving the recipe as made yesterday.
I tweak a few other things, too – alongside the lemon zest, I also add the zest and juice of an orange, I use a little mixed spice as well as nutmeg, and I add a hint of almond extract.
250g ground almonds
100g self raising flour
150g caster sugar
125ml light olive oil or rapeseed oil
About 200g grated carrot (two medium)
Zest of one lemon
Zest of one orange
Juice of one orange
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. mixed spice
25g pine nuts (flaked almonds work, too)
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
Line a cake tin with baking parchment (I use a 24cm tin for this cake.)
Put the sultanas in a saucepan with the rum and orange juice. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until plump. Alternatively, if your an organised person, let them soak for an hour or two before you start making the cake.
In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and oil until pale and creamily mixed. Lightly whisk the eggs, vanilla and almond extract with a fork, then add to the sugar mixture and whisk until well combined.
Next, sift in the flour, and add the almonds, ground spices, citrus zest, carrot, and sultanas (you may have a little liquid left over, depending on how much they’ve plumped out.) Gently fold everything through with a wooden spoon until evenly combined.
Pour into the tin, then sprinkle with the pine nuts. Bake for around 30 – 40 minutes (ours actually only took 25, our oven seems to like cooking things extra quick), but check after twenty to make sure the top isn’t browning too fast (cover with foil if so.) It’s ready when a knife comes out more or less clean.
Let cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Portion up and post some to far away friends, give some to a neighbour, or take some to work, because, believe me, you’re going to want to scoff the lot! Also, it freezes well – it’s a very nice thing to find behind the frozen peas a few weeks down the line…