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Carrot and Pistachio Cake

by Tarunima Sinha from My Little Cake Tin

Inspired by the flavours of halwa, this carrot and pistachio cake is swirled through with cream cheese and topped with pistachio frosting.


I wanted my carrot cake to mimic the decadence of halwa, a sweet Indian pudding – fragrant with spices, slow-cooked in milk and topped with nuts, with a fudge-like texture. I used to sell this cake at a market stall, and an impeccably dressed elderly couple – Maureen and John – would regularly ask for it. One day, they asked me to make their daughter’s wedding cake – and so began my wedding-cake-making journey. Every time I make this cake I think of them. Thank you, Maureen and John.

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75g (5 Tbsp) butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
100g (¾ cup) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting
100g (¾ cup) wholemeal (wholewheat) flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
300g (10½oz) carrots, peeled
100ml (7 Tbsp) sunflower oil
150g (¾ cup) light muscovado (light brown) sugar
zest and juice of 1 large orange
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
100g (about 1 cup) finely chopped pistachios
125g (generous ½ cup) cream cheese
50g (5 Tbsp) pistachio paste (optional)
For the topping:
150g (scant ¾ cup) cream cheese, at room temperature
100ml (7 Tbsp) double (heavy) cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
25g (2¾ Tbsp) icing (confectioners’) sugar
50g (5 Tbsp) pistachio paste
To decorate:
50g (about ½ cup) pistachio nibs or chopped pistachios
edible flowers (optional)

Essential kit

You will need a 20cm (8in) round cake tin.


Butter and flour a 20cm (8in) round cake tin. Line the base with a disc of baking paper. Preheat the oven to 170°C fan/190°C/375°F/Gas mark 5.

Sift the flours, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and nutmeg into a bowl. Grate the carrots using the fine side of a box grater.

Put the melted butter, sunflower oil, sugar, orange zest and juice, vanilla and 3 of the eggs into a large bowl. Using a balloon whisk, beat the mixture until well combined. Add the sifted flour mix, the carrots and pistachios, and give a few stirs until everything is just combined. Do not overmix.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin. Tap the tin gently on the worktop to release any air pockets.

Put the remaining egg in a separate bowl and add the cream cheese and pistachio paste, if using. Mix well. Dollop the cream cheese mixture on top of the cake batter then, using a long skewer, give it a few swirls.

Bake for 35–40 minutes, or until the surface is springy to touch and a skewer comes out clean.

Cool the cake for 10 minutes in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack. Meanwhile, make the topping. Add all the ingredients, except the pistachio paste, to a large bowl.

Whisk until just combined. Add the paste and mix until smooth and even.

Once the cake has completely cooled, place on a suitable serving plate or cake board.

Spread with the topping and sprinkle with pistachio nibs. Decorate with some edible flowers, if you like.

This cake is best eaten on the day it is made.

Credit: My Little Cake Tin by Tarunima Sinha (Quadrille, £22) Photography by Kim Lightbody.

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