At the Passover seder, dessert might seem superfluous. After you’ve feasted on charoset, chicken soup, matzo rolls, and brisket, who has room for dessert? Me!!! And this Non-Traditional Passover Carrot Cake is a perfect way to end the seder meal.
It is jam-packed with all the goodies you would expect in a carrot cake (besides carrots, of course.) With two kinds of raisins, chopped nuts, coconut, and spices, it is mostly add-ins with just enough almond flour and a bit of matzo cake meal to hold them all together.
If you don’t celebrate Passover, simply substitute “regular” white, whole wheat, or white whole wheat flour for the small amount of matzo cake meal and you’ve got a carrot cake everyone will enjoy. (Even if you use matzo cake meal, I doubt that anyone will be able to tell the difference. After all, matzo is really just flour mixed with a tiny bit of water to hold it in that square shape for baking. And matzo meal and matzo cake meal are just crushed up matzo.)
I began with a recipe from Gourmet for “Torta di Carote,” a carrot torte from Veneto in northern Italy. Although that recipe was decent and maybe even good, it was too plain for my taste. After rummaging around in my pantry and refrigerator, I had enough extra ingredients to satisfy my cravings. Add in a few twists to the original recipe and I was “off to the races” as my mom would say.
If you wonder what the difference is between a torte or tort and a cake, the torte/tort typically has many eggs and little or no flour. Often it contains ground nuts. This Non-Traditional Passover Carrot Cake certainly still qualifies as a torte or tort. However, it’s really closer to what I think of as carrot cake.
Why call it non-traditional? To me, typical Passover desserts are macaroons, sponge cake, and maybe a flourless chocolate cake. Plus, of course, “matzo crack,” the only form of matzo known to bring people back for seconds. (After all, matzo may be edible cardboard, but coating it first in toffee, then chocolate is sure-fire way to a sweetnik’s heart.) Anyway, where I come from, carrot cake on the seder table is definitely non-traditional.
A note about icing. If you feel compelled to ice this cake, by all means be my guest. Confectioners sugar wet with a few drops of water or lemon juice, then drizzled over the top of the cake, is all you need. I’ve tried shaking the confectioners sugar (like I do on my poppy seed cake.) However, this Non-Traditional Passover Carrot Cake is so moist that the powdered (confectioners) sugar tends to disappear. To me, the cake is fine without icing.
Non-Traditional Passover Carrot Cake
A version of carrot cake for the Passover seder or anytime. Filled with goodies (raisins, chopped nuts, coconut, and spices) held together with almond flour and a bit of matzo cake meal, it's aromatic and not too sweet.
- 1 -3/4 cup almond flour
- 1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup matzo cake meal Matzo cake meal is more finely ground than regular matzo meal. If you don't have it, grind matzo meal to a fine consistency in a food processor.
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, preferably freshly ground The photo in this post shows a whole nutmeg seed, from which I grind enough for a recipe as I need it.
- 1 pinch Kosher or sea salt Not pictured in photo above (sorry)
- 4 ounces margarine or butter 1 stick or 8 tablespoons
- 2 egg yolks Recipe uses 6 egg whites, so using the yolks from those leaves 4 extra yolks (for flan?)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 lemon, zested and 1-2 tablespoons of juice reserved
- 1 pound carrots, coarsely grated About 6 carrots
- 1 cup raisins, soaked for a few minutes in a small amount of hot water or juice I like to mix yellow and dark raisins. Soaking the raisins makes them plump and juicy.
- 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
- 6 whites from 6 large eggs
- 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with 1 -1/2 to 2-inch sides, place a piece of parchment on the bottom (cut to fit) and grease the parchment.
Lightly toast the almond flour and the chopped nuts in the oven (in separate pans), stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes.
Put the almond flour in a medium-sized bowl and stir in 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar, the matzo cake meal, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the margarine or butter and the remaining 3/4 cup of granulated sugar for several minutes with an electric hand or stand mixer until they are light and fluffy. Then add the egg yolks, vanilla, almond extract, and the lemon zest, beating all those ingredients into the margarine or butter and sugar mixture until well combined.
Add to that mixture the dry (almond flour mixture) ingredients.
Mix in the shredded carrots, raisins, coconut, and chopped nuts. The batter is stiff and combining these ingredients is best done with a rubber or silicone spatula, rather than by continuing to use the mixer.
In another large bowl, beat the egg whites until they are just stiff. At the end, drizzle in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.
Gently mix in 2 large dollops of the egg whites into the batter. Then fold the rest of the egg whites in, just until the ingredients are combined. Do not be concerned if bits of the egg white remain visible; combining ingredients without deflating the egg whites means that the batter will not look totally uniform.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top. Bake the cake for 50-60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.
Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack and run a knife around the edge of the pan before inverting the pan on a platter.
For icing, add just a few drops of reserved lemon juice (or water) into the confectioners sugar, stir it until it is a spreadable but thick icing. If you need more liquid, add it sparingly. Drizzle the icing over the cake.
No almond flour? It's easy to make. Just put blanched almonds in a food processor. Buzz until it is finely ground and bingo - almond flour! The commercially prepared is more finely ground, but for this recipe, it really doesn't matter.
If you have sweetened, rather than unsweetened coconut, technically, to keep the sweetness at the same level, you would decrease the sugar by about 1 teaspoon. That is the reverse of how you make unsweetened coconut into sweetened. But given how little coconut is in the cake, if you don't change the amount of sugar, you probably won't notice the difference.
Toasting the almond flour and chopped nuts brings out their flavor, giving the cake an even more deliciously intense aroma than it would have with untoasted nuts.
When you beat the egg whites, make sure the beaters (and bowl) are thoroughly clean and dry. For tips on whipping egg whites, see my post on that process.