Monday, May 6, 2013

Torta di Carote del Veneto (Venetian Carrot Cake)

If you google Venetian Carrot Cake, Nigella Lawson's recipe is the first to come up.
The rest of the recipes are all in Italian.

But this recipe is from a very special cookbook called Cucina Ebraica by Joyce Goldstein.

It translates to Hebrew Cooking in Italian.
I believe it's out of print, but you can preview some of the recipes here.

It's really a history book about the Jews who lived in Italy from the Macabees in ancient times to present day and their cuisine.

They lived mostly in Rome, Ferrara, Venice (think Merchant of Venice), Verona, Sicily, Calabria & Apulia.
The oldest synagogue in Western Europe is in the Roman port of Ostia from the 4th century.

It's interesting stuff for sure. Who knew that there were Italian Jews?
I did.

No, Italian Jews did not eat Prosciutto di Parma, Gnocchi or Parmigiano Reggiano, but instead their cuisine consisted of artichokes (carciofi giudia), eggplant (melanzane), fish, nuts, olives, lamb and tomatoes. Think Mediterranean.

You like artichokes? Then this book is for you.

I have so many recipes bookmarked, but never seem to get around to making them, so I am starting with this Torta di Carote del Veneto. A Venetian Carrot Cake.

It was also the perfect opportunity to try out my new Nordicware Platinum Mini Bundt Pan!

Instead of 1 cake, I got 6 perfect little ones that came out of the pan with just flipping the pan over!
Instant success.

This is not your average Betty Crocker carrot cake w/ cream cheese icing, but instead a dense, gorgeous spicy cake, filled with the goodness of fresh carrots.

Not too sweet, and perfect for breakfast.
(I had to deviate and add raisins, I couldn't help it.
What's a carrot cake without raisins?).

Ms. Goldstein just wants you to dust with confectioner's sugar, but I wanted to get fancy and make a glaze.
Just stick with the powdered sugar. My glaze was a bit of a failure.

My taste tester really loved this cake (Henry), and said it was very different and delicious.
Rich, and complex.

It reminded me of a carrot ring or carrot kugel that my grandmother used to make for us, and I loved it.

A note from the author: use only organic, fresh carrots, that smell spicy as your are grating them.
Not 2 month old carrots that have been laying around in your fridge (that comment is mine, obviously).

Ok, let's bake the cake.

Torta de Carote del Veneto (adapted from Cucina Ebraica)

4 cups of grated carrots (about 1 lb. fresh organic carrots)
1 cup of sugar
1 stick of butter
2 eggs (since my eggs were very small, I added an extra one for good luck)
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla
zest of a large lemon
1/2 cup of almond meal, or ground almonds
2 cups flour
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350F and grease and line a 10 inch spring-form pan with parchment paper.

Grate the carrots with the grating disk in a food processor, unless you have the stamina to use a box grater.

In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add the eggs, extracts and lemon zest.
Mix thoroughly. The batter will be very thick.

Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. mix well.

Fold in carrots and almond meal at the very end.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes.
(if you are using mini bundt pans, then only bake for 20-25 minutes).

Remove the sides of the spring-form pan and cool cake on a rack.

Dust with powdered sugar after the cake has cooled (ignore my glaze and attempt to decorate the cakes w/ sliced almonds, sometimes I get carried away).

Serve with mascarpone cream or whipped cream.

This was the BEST carrot cake ever. My kind of cake.

PS Product Review: The Nordicware mini bundt pan was fantastic! It baked evenly, and the cakes popped right out of the pan, just like my full size bundt pan. (I love all Nordicware baking pans, the only brand I use, and I'm not getting paid to endorse them).



Carole Berger said...

I have this cookbook and love it.

The crostini w/ chicken liver (fegato) and the spuma di tonno (tuna mousse) is to die for!

These cakes look gorgeous, may make them for mothers day.

Proud Italian Cook said...

OK, the first shot I thought you went to some fancy bakery or something! I love how the recipe sounds especially with the addition of almond meal.
I need this book, as you know I'm artichoke obsessed!

Marcella said...

I am a Veronese Jew, so am especially fond of cakes made with ground nuts, and your torta looks beautiful.

It brings back memories of my mother's parents in Italy and all their beautiful food.

Thank you for this post.


Anonymous said...

A perfect recipe to launch your new Nordic pan! Have you ever seen the movie classic THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINIS? A haunting evocation of the last moments in the elegant life of a wealthy Italian Jewish family on the cusp of WWII.

AdriBarr said...

What a wonderful cake! The carrots must lend it a very moist texture. Although we think of Italy as "A Catholic country," it was not always so. Rome and the Papal States did not always control the entire land mass we now think of as united Italy. Indeed there are Italian Jews, and they have a long history in the country, having experienced, at different times, reat freedom and extraordinary intellectual productivity and terrible contempt, deprivation and prejudice. Their travails, however, did not prevent them from developing a most distinctive and highly elevated cuisine.

cyclingrandma said...

Funny about the extra egg-- as a poultry farmer's daughter, I was taught to always add an extra egg for good measure. I don't usually do it unless the eggs are small or it looks like the batter needs it. This looks great- will have to try it.

Anonymous said...

Notabene: Victor Hazan, Marcella's husband and exacting reason-that-she-began-cooking, is an Italian-born, luckily New York-raised Sephardic Jew.

Stacey Snacks said...

Thank you Adri for the comment, and Anonymous, I did know about Victor Hazan. :)

Laura Dembowski said...

Love carrot cake! These are so pretty in the mini bundts too!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

The little cakes look beautiful Stacey. I have several friends who are Italian Jews, most of whom came from Rome - and they eat all those foods - prosciutto included. There's a long history of Jews in Italy, and many very famous Italian Jewish authors - including Primo Levi, who wrote about his experience at Auschwitz in a very moving book. So many other Jews in Italy were saved from the camps and were hidden by the Italian peasantry. There's so much rich history and literature on the topic.

Debby Foodiewife said...

I just boought the very same mini bundt cake pan, and love it. I also bought Nordic ware's Heritage Bundt Pan, which makes any cake look pretty.
Yes on the raisins, please. No on the cream cheese frosting.
These look like the kind of cake I'd love to eat.

Claudia said...

Yes, many Italian Jews. But not as many as before. This is a wonderful recipe to carry on a tradition.

Catherine said...

Definitely going to try this. I spent a few days in Rome and made a bee-line to the Jewish quarter, which was fascinating. The deep fried artichokes are delicious. I am really looking forward to going back to Rome again.

Bites from life with the barking lot said...

I loved this post and all the comments. And just ordered the book!

DebbieW said...

If visiting Jewish historical sites in Italy, don't miss Pitigliano. There's a great little museum.
Can't wait to try your carrot cake!

Joanne said...

I can't ever get enough carrot cake in my life and it would be fun to make these for mother's day!

Eileen said...

I want one!!

Hotel Jesolo said...

This recipe is absolutely delicious and healthy. Thank you!