Recipe: Domenica Marchetti's Carrot Polenta Cake with Marsala

Recipe: Domenica Marchetti's Carrot Polenta Cake with Marsala

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Faith Durand
Jun 18, 2015
(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

A week of carrot recipes requires — demands! — a carrot cake. Emma and I had a very good time flipping through our favorite cookbooks looking for a fresh carrot cake to share with you, and when we paged past Domenica's recipe, we knew we had found it. A little rustic, a touch boozy, and all Italian, this is a carrot cake to make you look at the classic dessert in a whole new way.

Domenica is a simply fabulous interpreter and author of Italian recipes. (This walnut pesto pasta makes my mouth water just thinking about it.) And I love her passionate embrace of Italy's vegetables in her book The Glorious Vegetables of Italy. As this month for us, too, is all about Glorious Vegetables, I knew this book belonged in our lineup.

This cake is simple and rustic, like many Italian desserts, but it's more than just the list of its ingredients. Dominique explains: "I made this simple cake on a brisk, cold day in January. As the cake baked, it filled the kitchen with the warm scent of Marsala and citrus, so that even before I tasted it, I had a feeling it would be more than the sum of its parts."

The cake is built around carrots and olive oil — not butter — so it's easy to throw together (certainly no mixer required). "It is a typical Italian home dessert," says Domenica, "not at all fancy, and a good companion to an afternoon espresso — or hot tea, if that is your preference."

(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

Tester's Notes

There were so many things I loved about this cake: the bright hits of citrus zest, the crunch from the polenta, the sweet shredded carrots, and even the fact that you don't need an electric mixer!

This cakes stays nice and moist, especially when stored in an airtight container, and if you don't have dry Marsala wine on hand, sweet Marsala will also work just fine. I would recommend lining the baking pan with a parchment sling to make it easier to remove the cake from the pan.

- Christine, June 2015

Domenica Marchetti's Carrot Polenta Cake with Marsala

Serves 6 to 8 (makes one 8-inch cake)

1/2 cup extra-virgin or light olive oil, plus more for the pan
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup dry Marsala wine
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely ground polenta
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups shredded carrots (about 3 large)
Powdered sugar for dusting

Heat the oven to 375°F/190°C/gas 5. Lightly coat an 8-in/20-cm square or round baking pan with olive oil and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, granulated sugar, eggs, Marsala, and the lemon and orange zests until well blended (the sugar will not completely dissolve).

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the flour, polenta, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Pour the flour mixture into the egg mixture, whisking all the while to avoid lumps. Using a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, stir in the shredded carrots. Scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and set it on the rack to cool to room temperature.

Transfer the cake to a decorative platter. Dust the cake lightly with confectioners’ sugar right before serving.

→ Check out Domenica's book! The Glorious Vegetables of Italy by Domenica Marchetti

Reprinted with permission from The Glorious Vegetables of Italy by Domenica Marchetti, copyright © 2013. Published by Chronicle Books.

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