At some point in my mid-20's, I came into possession of a slender volume published in 1959 by Peter Pauper Press, aptly titled “Simple French Cookery.” Its 60 pages (total) contain 58 recipes on 48 of those pages, 8 pages of blue, red and black woodcut illustrations, a poem and several short proverbs. The recipes include no headnotes; the book contains neither an index nor a table of contents, nor any information about its author. Its price? The tidy little sum of exactly one dollar. The dessert section includes a “Torte aux Carottes” made with eggs, nuts, carrots, sugar and vanilla. That’s it. In years past I’ve made this with different nuts, different spices, and parsnips, apples and sweet potatoes instead of carrots. I recommend walnuts for this cake, as their mild bitterness checks the intense sweetness of the roasted carrots and sugar. I hope you like this. ;o) —AntoniaJames
- Makes one 9-inch cake
1 ½ cups (180 grams) walnuts
12 ounces / 342 grams (5 or 6 medium) carrots
Vegetable oil for roasting the carrots and greasing the pan
5 eggs, at room temperature, separated
1 teaspoon / 5 ml vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon / 1.25 ml almond extract
Grated zest of one orange (or of two lemons)
2/3 cup / 136 grams brown sugar
For sugar and spice topping: 1 tablespoon / 12 grams white sugar
Pinch (about ¼ teaspoon) ground or grated nutmeg
Pinch (about ¼ teaspoon) cinnamon
Or, as an alternative to the sugar and spice topping: 3 tablespoons apricot or similar stone fruit jam
- Heat oven to 400 degrees. Put a sheet pan for roasting the carrots in at the time you turn the oven on.
- Peel and cut lengthwise the carrots. Toss with oil to coat well; sprinkle on a bit of salt.
- When the oven reaches 400 degrees, put the carrots on the preheated pan. Roast for 20 - 25 minutes, or until quite tender when pierced with a sharp knife, turning them on the pan after 10 minutes.
- At the same time, set aside ½ cup / 60 grams of the walnuts and roast the remaining cup of them on a separate baking sheet. They’ll need only 3 – 4 minutes. Watch them carefully, lest they burn. Remove immediately from the baking sheet to let cool a bit.
- Coarsely chop the reserved ½ cup / 60 grams of walnuts. If topping the cake with cinnamon and nutmeg sugar, mix the white sugar and spices together now.
- When the carrots are tender, remove to a cutting board and cut into 2” chunks. Let cool.
- Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9” spring form pan by lining the bottom with parchment and brush the parchment and the sides generously with oil.
- Process the carrots in the work bowl until you have a rough puree, about 1 minute. Add the egg yolks, flavorings, zest, sugar and a pinch of salt. Process until very smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping down the work bowl after 1 minute. Add back the chopped walnuts and quickly pulse 3 or 4 times to incorporate.
- In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with a tiny pinch of kosher salt until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the carrot and walnut batter into the beaten whites until thoroughly blended, taking care not to knock the air out of the egg whites.
- Chop the toasted walnuts by pulsing in a food processor just until they are the size of large peas. Remove from the work bowl. Don’t bother to rinse it
- Turn into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the walnuts and then the spiced sugar on top. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer comes clean.
- Let cool on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes before removing from the pan. If including dairy is an option when you serve this, a dollop or two of whipped cream would be a nice touch. I recommend the Nancy Silverton trick of mixing in some sour cream after you've whipped the cream.
- N.B. I’ve made this recipe my own by roasting the carrots, toasting the walnuts, reducing the sugar, improving the method and order of operations, adding a touch of almond extract, and topping the cake with walnuts, sugar and spice. Yours sincerely, AntoniaJames ;o)
- If you prefer to skip the spiced sugar topping and to glaze the cake with apricot jam -- which gives it a more elegant finish -- whisk together 3 tablespoons of it with about a tablespoon of water; strain it. (Put the apricot solids back in the jar with the rest of the jam.) Brush the jam on the warm cake shortly after removing it from the oven.