I am not sure why, maybe it’s some sort of masochism, but I have been going all out on the dessert front recently. I am still on a food lock-down and can’t even try the recipe as I go along but I have been committed to making cakes, tarts and desserts of any kind. And, in turn, I am sharing them with you. This is, of course, completely out of character as I don’t even have a sweet tooth and I have embraced a healthy lifestyle of reduced sugar consumption. But still the urge to bake haunts me. Perhaps it’s that I never really had the time to whip up a cake on a Wednesday afternoon and that this freedom has encouraged me into creating a dinner menu from start to finish. I do cheat on hors d’oeuvres and buy cheese and crackers and the like but I have even entertained the idea making my own crackers.
Another logical conclusion is that I recently bought the Ottolenghi cookbook and have become obsessed. I am blessed to be within 5 minutes walking distance to my nearest Ottolenghi and my most frequent lunch companion, Gaby, has one in spitting distance (no kidding, and you don’t even have to be a master spitter) from her house. Thus we walk in and survey what’s on offer quite regularly, carefully choosing among the delicacies and blocking out the beautiful pastries and cakes that loom in the corner of your eye. You have to; otherwise a trip to Ottolenghi would not just be detrimental to your waistline but also your wallet. I am, however, a devotee as you might have noticed. I had heard raves about this book, particularly from a vegetarian friend with a non-vegetarian husband (Skye and Paul) who plan weekends around cooking from this cookbook, “a versatile book with so many options, they say.” I had to have it.
So when planning out my menu for a recent dinner party I was going to cook from the Ottolenghi cookbook alone and it was wonderful. One of the highlights of my musings was when I asked Pascal whether I should bake a chocolate or carrot cake for dessert, “EVERYONE bakes chocolate cake, you should do carrot,” he replied. Now I think that the young man might be getting a little bit spoiled because certainly not EVERYONE is baking chocolate cakes for a Wednesday night dinner, either way I got the point.
As usual, I subbed out the refined sugar and flour with unrefined brown sugar and whole wheat flour, but the result (or so I am told) was great. Doesn’t it just kill you that I can’t even try one bite! I was unable to find an unrefined version of icing sugar so if you know of a good one please pass it on.
160g whole wheat flour (sifted twice)
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 egg yolk
200g sunflower oil
270g brown caster sugar
50g walnuts (chopped)
50g desiccated coconut
135g carrots (peeled and grated)
2 egg whites
Pinch of salt
175g cream cheese
70g unsalted butter
35g icing sugar
30g walnuts (chopped and toasted)
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 170˚C and grease a 24 cm springform cake tin and line with parchment paper. The best way to do this is take the tin apart and use the side of the tin to draw a circle on the parchment to cut out so it fits the base, then put it back together with the base lined and then line the sides.
Step 2: Sift together the flour (twice for the flour), baking powder, baking soda and spices and put aside. In a small bowl whisk together 1 egg and an egg yolk. With an electric mixer, cream together the oil and sugar until smooth and slowly add in the egg mixture. Mix in the walnuts coconut and carrot. Then incorporate the dry mixture. Use a light hand and don’t over mix.
Step 3: In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they form peaks and gently fold into the carrot mixture in 3 steps. Do not over mix. Some white streaks are ok.
Step 4: Pour into the cake tin and bake for about 40 minutes (poke with a toothpick to check for doneness, if it’s clean it’s done). If you use a smaller tin, say 20 cm, then cook for about 1 hour. Let the cake cook for an hour before removing from the tin.
Step 5: For the icing, beat the cream cheese until creamy and light. I used light cream cheese, mostly because that is all I could find, but it is also spreadable from the get go. Then cream the sugar, butter and honey together. Fold the two together and ice the cake, then sprinkle the walnuts. For the walnuts, it’s easier to toast then chop than the other way around.
Note: When combining the oil and sugar in step 2 make sure the cookbook (if you buy it, which you should) is far away from the bowl and the oil has a tendency to spit.