6.18.2016

Haters

“I hate tomatoes.” “I loathe mushrooms.” “Ewwwww.... Brussels sprouts?” “Sweet potato casserole is a crime against nature.” “Carrot cake is just plain wrong.” Or, so the haters say.

I have heard these things all my life and, as soon as I hear them, my natural reaction is to say, “But you haven't had my [fill in the blank].

When I first met Markipedia, there was a short list of things he preferred to avoid. Naturally, I saw this as a challenge.

I took the reverse approach to everything he disliked. He hated the sweetening of sweet potatoes, so I made them savory. Now, he can't get enough. The smell and texture of those little cabbages from Brussels made his nose wrinkle. I cut them into a chiffonade and sautéed them with butter and hazelnuts, and it became an instant favorite.

Carrot cake, however, presented a bigger problem. His objections, while strong, were numerous. Too sweet. Oily. Over-spiced. Weird texture. Worst of all, that gloppy frosting. What was I going to do? While carrot cake wasn't really one of my favorites either, I still wanted to rise to the challenge and make a carrot cake that Mark would request again.

Then I received a lovely cookbook from my friend, Susan; it is Deborah Madison's Vegetable Literacy. Who would have thought it would have good dessert recipes, as well as beautiful and flavorful vegetable dishes? Each recipe is a gem, one right after the other. And It is a wonderful platform for all the vegetables I get from my friendly vendors at the farmers market: Larry's Veggies, Grammy's Garden, and Sleeping Frog Farms, to name a few.

The first day I cracked the spine, I found her carrot cake recipe. It looked so beautiful, with the perfect texture, and not at all carrot-y. I was pretty sure I had found "the recipe."

More than a year later, I finally made this carrot cake, and am proud to report that Mark said, "You should make this again." Success! In only twenty years!

If you love the carrot cake Mark dislikes, don't think of this as a carrot cake. Think of it as a really wonderful almond cake made with carrots. Either way, I can pretty much tell you that you will love it for what it is: delicious!

Now, onward to the final frontier: developing an acorn squash recipe that doesn’t trigger a Calvin-&-Hobbes-style display of revulsion.

~ David

Carrot Almond Cake with Ricotta Cream
From Deborah Madison's Vegetable Literacy, with my adaptations in blue in parentheses

4 tablespoons (unsalted) butter, plus more for the pan
1 1/2 cups finely ground almonds, preferably blanched
finely grated zest of 2 (organic) lemons
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons organic granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups unbleached cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon (large pinch) salt
4 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon (I used 1/2 teaspoon) almond extract
scant 2 cups grated carrots, preferably yellow (use small holes on the grater)

1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons (strong) honey
grated zest of 1 lemon

confectioner's sugar, for dusting

Heat the oven to 375°F. Melt the 4 tablespoons butter and set it aside to cool.

Pulse the almonds with the lemon zest and 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar in a food processor. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and then dust the sides with some of the almond mixture. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Using an electric mixer, beat together the eggs and the remaining 3/4 cup sugar on high speed until pale, foamy, and thick, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the remaining ground almond mixture, the almond extract, and finally the flour mixture, incorporating it just until well mixed. Pour the cooled butter over the batter and then quickly fold it in, followed by the carrots.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and put the cake in the center of the oven. Lower the heat to 350°F and bake the cake until it is springy to the touch in the center, lightly browned, and beginning to pull away from the sides, 40 to 45 minutes (I would check at 35 minutes). Let cool completely in its pan, then release the spring and slide the cake onto a platter.

To make the ricotta cream, work together the ricotta, sour cream, honey, and zest by hand or with a mixer until smooth. Taste and add more of any of the ingredients, if needed. The cream will thin out as it sits, forming a nice sauce for the cake.

Just before serving, dust the cake with the confectioner's sugar. Serve the sauce alongside.

Serves 12.

35 comments:

  1. Oooh, this reminds me of that hazelnut cake you made with the pear-ricotta filling. I do like carrot cake as a general rule and this one looks really unique and delicious!

    I have converted Mike on a few foods myself — tomatoes and avocados, to name a couple. Isn't it satisfying? Maybe you can find a recipe that will make me not hate cilantro.

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    1. Haha - I actually have found a recipe that a cilantro hater loved - my kumquat chutney! Maybe you would like it, too? AL also think you would like the sauce for my Mexican Fish and Chips (coming soon) as you really can't say for sure what is in the sauce, and there IS cilantro!

      Hope you enjoy the cake, Caroline!

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  2. Hi David, oh I have this cookbook, will have to thumb through again do not remember this carrot cake. admire the way you rise to the challenge to get your spouse to eat certain things. I should follow your example.

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    1. I love getting people to open their palates to things they don't like, Cheri - I think it is often because of one bad experience.

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  3. That's the way to a Carrot Cake hater's heart (and mine)! I love the classic, but am willing to give this one a go to. GREG

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    1. I love the classic, too, Greg - so having both works for me!

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  4. I love Deborah Madison and have most of her books. My very favorite book of hers is "The Greens Cookbook" she wrote with Edward Brown . If you are ever in San Fransisco, have lunch at the Greens restaurant, the setting is spectacular and so is the vegetarian food.
    That carrot cake looks mighty good but I have a carrot cake hater in the house. Maybe I make it and eat it all.

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    1. Gerlinde - I love the Greens Cookbook and use it often. Haven't eaten there in years, though - next time it is on my list!

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    1. It is - I know you and Peter will love it!

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  6. David, though I love my own carrot cake, I'd try this as a whole new thing. Looks lovely!

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    1. Now, I have to try YOUR carrot cake, Jean!

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  7. I do like the carrot cake of old, especially that gloppy frosting! Though I can see I truly would enjoy this one as well. I have been eyeing that book for a while now . . . I just may have to put it in the basket.

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    1. The book is wonderful, Cathleen - lots of great new ideas and ways to use veggies!

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  8. Wow, what a classy carrot cake! Can you believe I've never made one myself? It's not that I don't like them, perhaps just that they are kind of cliche? This one, on the other hand...

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    1. Inger - you are right. There is no cliche involved for this cake! You should try it!

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  9. I actually like carrot cake well enough, but this really does take it up a notch. (I admire your patience, by the way, I can't stand picky eaters!)

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    1. Frank - haters are a tough bunch, and the saddest part is that they are missing out on so much good food!

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  10. I saw this on Facebook and forgot to come back to the recipe! Too much to do!

    I LOVE carrot cake, but I am one of those haters for more foods than you'd care to know. I've always wanted to check if I am a "super-taster", you know, people who have a heck of a lot more taste buds than the average person, so things taste much more strong, for lack of a better term?

    Anyway, back to your cake, I'd LOVE it, I'm sure of it! Looks beautiful, too!

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    1. I am always amazed when foodies are picky eaters, Christina! Yes, we should definitely do a research project on tastebuds!

      Glad the cake looks good, though!

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  11. Nice introduction story to this great recipe. I will try it once!

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    1. Thanks, Cindy - I think you will like it!

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  12. Yummy! This looks delicious and I'm sure tastes amazing, too. I love how you used non-orange carrots. Do you think that helped push Mark into the "liking" side?

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    1. That is a very good question, Nicole! He might have liked it even more if I used red or purple carrots!

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  13. Many years ago we had an Irish guy staying with us for a while. We invited him out to dinner with us to a local Thai restaurant, which declined because he "hated Thai food". We soon learned he'd never tried it.

    I completely understand Mark's disliking of sweetened sweet potatoes. Personally I don't see the point as they're totally fine the way they are!

    I've never seen ground almonds used in a carrot cake. I like it! At first I thought it was a Brazilian carrot cake where they purée the carrot, instead of grating it. I must try this recipe!

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    1. John - it always amazes me how people just aren't open to different foods. For me, the more the better!

      Secretly, I agree with Mark - I just would never tell him that.

      Now, I am going to seek a Brazilian carrot cake recipe - I am very curious!

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  14. Well I see you did rise to the challenge and wooed him into liking carrot cake…congratulations! Now I can't wait to see what you do with the acorn squash. :)

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    1. Well, Karen, there are miracles and there are miracles. I have a feeling acorn squash may be in the second category!

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  15. Deborah Madison is fantastic! I was lucky enough to meet her once -- I helped organize a cooking class she taught at Sur La Table in Santa Monica. I love all of her books. This recipe sounds so good -- I bet the ricotta and sour cream give it an amazing texture. YUM!

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    1. How cool that you got to meet her, Valentina! I definitely like the the ricotta and sour cream more than the usual cream cheese frosting. You should try it!

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  16. Carrot cake is Evan's favorite cake, but not mine. I like it, but definitely not on my "top 5" fave cakes list. :) But, this almond cake with carrots sounds heavenly to me though! Glad Mark gave it a chance and liked it!

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  17. David, this looks very much like the European style carrot cake that is one of my favorite cakes of all times - lots of almonds that have a chance to shine through but I do like to add a few warm spices to mine...be that as it may, I am impressed with your efforts as your are quite the determined baker (if I may say so...).
    Well done, dear friend!
    Andrea

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  18. Andrea and Marcelle - for some reason my "reply" button isn't working. Thanks for your comments! I am with you, Marcelle - I like it, but would never order it as a dessert in a restaurant. Andrea - I have never looked for a European carrot cake recipe - I will have to give it a try!

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  19. wow! This cake looks really interesting AND tasty. I tend to agree with Mark's assessment on this subject so I will give this one a whirl!

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    1. Definitely try it, Susan - it is so good, and more an almond cake fortified with carrots.

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