There were a few carrots lurking in the bottom of the fridge that had seen better days. They hadn’t turned to compost but I definitely rescued them in time when I made this carrot cake yesterday. Back in January, I shared a ridiculously rich salted caramel and spiced carrot cake and I am pleased to report that it has become a bit of a hit among some of my friends via the power of Facebook.

Again, I wanted spices but I started thinking about halwa, especially carrot halwa, a sticky Indian pudding that I first encountered properly when I lived in Dubai. It is an insanely sweet dessert but it was my starting point – I began by grating the carrots and marinating them in honey and ginger while I got on with the rest of the preparations for my latest carrot cake incarnation. This is not the fastest cake to throw together but trust me, the results are worth it.

For the spices, I used ginger again but added cardamom and pistachio nuts, all ground up in my mortar and pestle. These added a hint of Indian flavour plus the pistachios reminded me of umm ali, another absurdly sweet treat that I also discovered in Dubai. It is an Egyptian dessert that has gained traction over the centuries right across North Africa and the Middle East.

The ginger and caramel in the cream cheese frosting hinted at my earlier carrot cake – then I decorated it with some leftover pistachio nuts as a hint of the nutty green flecks that make this latest version so pretty and colourful when you cut it.

I’ve already posted a picture of this carrot cake on my Facebook page and it has proven to be a very popular picture indeed – I’d best get this recipe online so my friends can make it for themselves and I don’t have to set up a one-woman carrot cake delivery service across the UK!

Spiced carrot cake


For the cake

250g grated carrot

3 tablespoons honey

3 teaspoons ground ginger

10-15 green cardamom pods (depending on how much you like cardamom…)

50g shelled pistachio nuts

200ml groundnut oil (or vegetable oil)

4 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla essence or extract

200g soft brown sugar

200g plain flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

For the frosting

125g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

100g soft brown sugar

150g icing sugar

150g full fat cream cheese

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon salt

Shelled pistachios to decorate


  1. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius and prepare a 900g loaf tin or a large round cake tin by greasing and lining with baking paper.
  2. Grate the carrots and let them marinate in a bowl with the honey and ginger mixed through.
  3. In a mortar and pestle, grind the cardamom pods and shelled pistachio nuts into a fine, crumbly mix. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, use a coffee or spice grinder or simply put them all in a ziplock bag and beat with a meat tenderising hammer, an actual hammer or a rolling pin.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla with an electric whisk.
  5. Add the flour and baking powder gradually, followed by the ground cardamom and pistachios until well combined.
  6. Mix the marinated carrot using a table knife.
  7. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean and the cake is springing away from the edge of the tin.
  8. When the cake is cooked, set aside to cool. Do not try to frost it until it has cooled completely or it will slide off the cake in a horrible, slimy mess.
  9. For the frosting, combine all ingredients using electric beaters and slather on the cake. I like to use a dessert spoon to plaster the frosting on and create wavy effects. Decorate with a few more pistachio nuts.

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