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Venetian carrot cake

Updated: Wed, 15 November, 2023

Gluten and dairy free, Venetian carrot cake is a delight for everyone who has to follow a restrictive diet, but I promise the lack of flour and butter doesn’t make it any less tempting for everyone else.

venetian carrot cake

Nigella’s or the Venetians’ carrot cake?

If you thought you knew everything there was to know about carrot cake, think again: this one will change your mind. It is completely unlike the classic English tearoom carrot cake or its American counterpart, the lavishly cream cheese frosted American beauty.

I stumbled upon this recipe recently and I was amazed to find something so new in the world of carrot baking. It featured in Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home and she alleges it was a carrot cake version ‘made by Venetian Jews in the original ghetto’.

I’m a little suspicious about it: google the cake and the only hits are Nigella’s and copycats’. Also it seems a little incongruous: carrots are totally non-Venetian foodstuffs. Plus, the Carrot Museum makes no mention of Venice on the page dedicated to the cake and you’d think they know a thing or two.

nigellas venetian carrot cake

Jews of Renaissance Venice

On the other hand the Jewish diaspora in the Renaissance times was vibrant in Venice. Venice was one of the few places in Europe where Jews were not persecuted and evicted from, albeit restricted to live in the ghetto created in one of the Venice neighbourhoods in the early 16th century.

And even though they were frequently affluent, as moneylenders and merchants, hardships must have affected them: hence adding cheap produce like carrots into cakes through necessity rather than choice.

Another fact might support Nigella’s cake origin claim: being dairy free, this cake is kosher and can be served to end a meal that contained meat.

But even if Nigella just made up both the recipe and the story, I don’t blame her at all – the cake is simply gorgeous.

dairy and gluten free carrot cake

How to make Venetian cake mix?

The cake is studded with rum-soaked sultanas and adorned with toasted pine nuts – both exquisite additions. Sultanas need to be brought up to a simmer in the booze, then left to cool and steep. The pine nuts are toasted in a dry skillet until fragrant.

pine nuts

The carrots, coarsely grated, should be pressed between double layers of kitchen towels to reduce their liquid content. The recipe uses ground almonds as its flour base, which are less absorbent than wheat flour. Hence squeezing out carrots: to avoid too much moisture in the cake.

grayed carrots

The fat is olive oil rather than butter, for a softer crumb and to keep it dairy-free. The oil is beaten with sugar, with eggs added one after the other. This is easily done with a hand mixer or in a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, but as this cake does not rise huge in volume, the beating can also be done by hand with just a whisk, as long as the ingredients are well combined.

The remaining ingredients, the ground almonds with grated nutmeg and lemon zest, the carrots and the sultanas with any liquid, are folded with a spatula until the batter is smooth – as much as carrot batter will ever be smooth.

venetian carrot cake batter

The tin is relatively large for the cake: it will come out rather thin, which is intended. The toasted pine nuts are sprinkled on top and the baking takes no longer than 30-40 minutes, until a cake tester emerges only a little sticky.

Cooled in the tin, it can be then unmoulded and served with whipped cream or mascarpone on the side.

kosher carrot cake

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venetain carrot cake gluten dairy free nigella

Venetian carrot cake

Servings: 8Time: 1 hour


  • 200-250g (2 large) carrots
  • 3 tbsp pine nuts
  • 75g (13 cup) sultanas
  • 60ml (14 cup) rum or sweet wine
  • 150g (34 cup) caster sugar
  • 125ml (12 cup) olive oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250g (2 cups) ground almonds
  • 12 tsp grated nutmeg
  • zest grated from 12 lemon


1. Prepare a 23cm/ 10 inch round cake tin by lining it with parchment and brushing the sides with olive oil. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4.

2. Peel and grate the carrots on a medium grater. Squeeze excess liquid with double layered paper towels.

3. Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet until browned and fragrant.

4. Bring the sultanas to the boil with the spirits or wine in a small saucepan, simmer for 3 minutes and take off the heat to cool and soak.

5. Beat the oil and sugar in a large bowl. Add the eggs one by one and beat each well in. Beat in vanilla extract.

6. Fold in the grated carrots, sultanas with any remaining liquid, ground almonds, nutmeg and the lemon zest. Transfer the batter to the prepared tin. Scatter the pine nuts over the surface of the cake.

7. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

8. Cool for 10 minutes in the tin, unmould and cool completely on a wire rack.

Originally published: Fri, 15 June, 2018

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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