To an American, carrot cake means a rich spiced cake frosted with super-sweet cream cheese icing. But to a Tuscan, this moist cake has no spices at all. In fact, cinnamon is rarely used in desserts and only occasionally used in some savory cooking. This recipe comes straight from my family recipe box. Served with the mascarpone cream, it is a lovely dinner party dessert, but it also works well with your morning espresso or afternoon coffee. Try to let the cake stand overnight before serving so the flavors settle.
A Carrot Cake That's Just About Carrots
When you leave out all the spices and all the chunks of nuts and bits of raisins, carrot cake just becomes about the carrots. Their sweet vegetal tastes perfumes every bite and gives this cake its stunning orange huge. Some almond flour in the mix keeps this cake moist and provides some base nutty notes, but it's nothing like biting into a walnut.
Because the carrots provide plenty of sweetness, you'll find this cake isn't overly sweet. A buttery mascarpone cream ensure it still tastes like dessert, but it's the kind of dessert you won't think twice about serving alongside coffee for breakfast.
Italian Carrot Cake (Torta di Carote)
For the cake:
Unsalted butter, for coating the pan
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups blanched almond flour
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
5 large egg yolks
3 cups shredded carrots (from about 4 medium carrots, 11 ounces after shredding)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the mascarpone cream:
1 cup mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons powdered sugar, plus more for sifting
1 medium orange, for zesting (optional)
Make the carrot cake: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Lightly coat a 9-inch springform pan with butter; set aside.
Place the flour and baking powder in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add the almond flour and whisk again; set aside.
Place the sugar and egg yolks in a large bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer on high speed, scraping down the sides as needed, until the mixture is thickened and pale yellow, about 2 minutes. (Whisking by hand also works. In a stand mixer, the yolks might not have enough volume for the whisk attachment to reach them in the bottom of the bowl.) Gradually stir in the almond flour mixture with a wooden spoon, followed by the shredded carrots and vanilla. The batter will be quite thick at this point; set aside.
Using clean beaters, whip the egg whites with the salt in a medium bowl with the hand mixer set on high speed until they form stiff, but not dry, peaks. Using a rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the whites into the carrot mixture to lighten it. Fold in the remaining whites. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread into an even layer.
Bake until the cake is golden-brown and has shrunk slightly from the sides of the pan, about 1 hour. Cool the cake on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Remove the sides of the pan and let cool completely. If possible, wrap the cake in plastic wrap and let stand for at least 12 hours before serving.
Make the mascarpone cream: One hour before serving, stir the mascarpone and powdered sugar together in a small bowl until combined. Let stand at room temperature for about 1 hour to remove its chill.
Just before serving, sift powdered sugar over the cake. Slice and serve with a dollop of the mascarpone cream, topped with finely grated orange zest if desired.
- Make ahead: The cake can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Reprinted with permission from Super Tuscan: Heritage Recipes and Simple Pleasures from Our Kitchen to Your Table by Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar, copyright (c) 2017 Touchstone.