“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.

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