it’s thanksgiving (almost)

by mmiyachi

I recently purchased a copy of Nigel Slater’s Tender, which is more or less a love epic about his garden and some recipes to go along. Needless to say, I’m obsessed. I’ve been contemplating crazy gardening schemes as a means to get around the fact that I live in Massachusetts. Can carrots grow on a windowsill? Can anything? What if I set up a greenhouse in one of my desk drawers? Yeah…probably not.

Even if you’re without access to fresh garden produce – like myself – you can still drink the Nigel Slater kool-aid! What I like best is how he balances vegetables with proteins, carbs, and sweets. Don’t be intimidated by the fact that Tender is a “vegetable” cookbook. Slater does a great job of showing how vegetables pair with meats and other dishes – he is not hyper health-conscious by any means! And that’s good because if I’m eating my daily portion of carrots, why yes, I do expect it to come in cake form.

Okay, granted, this cake only requires about a carrot and a half. Regardless, it is exceptional. Not too sweet, just the right amount of nuttiness, and a perfect cream cheese frosting. I could eat this forever. If only it actually counted as a vegetable.

Adapted from Tender. This recipe is perfect – we made only the subtlest changes by adding nutmeg and vanilla.

Carrot Cake (makes one 9 inch cake or around five 2 inch cakes)

3 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 cup light brown sugar
5 ounces (150g) shredded carrot
juice of half lemon
1 1/4 cups chopped walnuts
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
8 ounces cream cheese
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of lemon
handful of walnut halves

1. Preheat the oven to 350 and butter two 9-inch cake pans.
2. Separate the eggs and beat the egg whites to stiff peaks.
3. Beat the oil and sugar in a stand mixer until well beaten, then add the egg yolks one by one. Add the carrots, then lemon juice, then walnuts.
4. Mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, and slowly fold into the wet mixture.
5. Fold the egg whites into the mixtures using a metal spatula.
6. Divide into the two cake pans evenly and bake for 45 minutes, testing for texture with a toothpick.
7. While cake bakes, beat the mascarpone, cream cheese, and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Add vanilla and lemon zest.
8. Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool from 10 minutes, then turn out onto cooling rack.
9. When cake is cool, you can assemble it as is, or make mini-cakes, as we did. Take a cup about two inches in diameter and cut cake pieces using it as a stencil. Sandwich two halves together with frosting, then cover the tops a sides. Garnish with walnut halves.