There is something really comforting about baking, especially on a cold bleak winter’s day. There could be lots of menacing grey clouds hovering outside our windows, and the wind could be howling, but you somehow don’t care about it too much when you’re busy mixing eggs and spices and sugar into a smooth silky batter that will turn into a delectable treat later. And it just doesn’t matter how cold it is outside, when the house is cozy and enveloped in the lovely aroma of baking cinnamon, nuts and sultanas. I think you would have guessed by now what Mummy and I have been doing lots of lately
I love sunshine, because that’s when I go outside and chat to all the other little birdies in the neighbourhood. But I also don’t mind cold days, because that’s when Mummy and Daddy spend more time at home with me. And that’s when all sorts of exciting things take place in the Bistro kitchen, all of which require Chef Gerald’s close supervision.
Carrot cake is an old favourite that we hadn’t had in a really long time. Besides, there was a mountain of carrots to go through in our fridge, and we like them while they’re still fresh, juicy and crunchy. Or at least we used to – ages ago, when we were a real baby parrot, that is. “Why is it that all children give up eating carrot as soon as they grow past the baby stage?”, Mummy asks. It was only a few months ago that it didn’t take a lot of convincing for Chef Gerald to eat carrot every day – now it has to be disguised in all sorts of dishes, fruit & veggie juice, or even cake…..
There are many versions of carrot cake, and we must start by saying that we prefer ours without icing. “What???”, I hear you ask, “you’ve got to be joking, right? Carrot cake with no icing????” And no, we’re not joking – and our logic goes like this: if you’re going to make a cake, it’d better be nice. Really nice. As in – lots of flavour, not too sweet, but bursting with sultanas, dates and walnuts, perfectly chewy yet moist. And preferably lots of different textures, which will also prove a huge attraction with the house parrot, who will see it as his mission in life to find all the individual pieces of nuts of fruit in the cake . This is why we don’t really need icing to distract from the true flavour of the cake.
Anyway, this is what we used for our recipe:
500g carrots, peeled and finely grated
2 cups (300g) whole wheat flour
150g sultanas, soaked for about 1 hour in orange juice
150g medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
1 cup shelled walnuts, roughly chopped
100g sugar (we used organic raw sugar)
1 cup good quality olive oil
½ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground cloves
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla essence
Pinch of salt
Grated zest of one orange and one lemon
2 tsp baking powder
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Lightly grease a 9 x 13 cake tin and line the base with baking paper.
Sift together the flour and baking powder and set aside.
In a bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, grated zest, salt and spices until pale and creamy. Gradually pour the olive oil in a gentle stream, mixing continuously and ensuring it has been thoroughly incorporated.
Add the grated carrots, chopped walnuts and dates, and drained sultanas. Mix well.
Gently fold in the flour, then pour into the prepared tin and bake for approximately 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.