Saturday, April 19, 2014


We’re celebrating a birthday this week! At our house, birthdays almost always mean carrot cake. When the kids were growing up, I could depend on the carrot cake recipe, even with a cranky Spanish oven, and I knew the cake would feed a bunch of kids gathered for a party.

Original recipe, tattered and stained.
But, after all these years (older son turned 40 last year, second son is a significant 39), that tried and true recipe has gotten a make-over. The main change is to use extra virgin olive oil in place of the generic “salad oil” called for in the original. I’ve also reduced the sugar by a fourth and changed the spicing. I use only one teaspoon of cinnamon and add chopped fresh ginger, crushed cardamom seeds and lots of grated orange zest. These flavorings complement the olive oil beautifully. I still add raisins, but like to use dry apricots as well. Sometimes I substitute almonds for walnuts. It's definitely a more grown-up cake, but kids seem to love it too. (OK, grandson picks out the raisins.)

I found a recipe in a Spanish cookbook published by a local lady (Mas Ollas Que Días, by Josefa Ruiz Arnao) for Tarta “Hippy.” It is a basic carrot cake, with almonds, chopped figs and raisins, making a very Spanish rendition. The designation of "hippy cake" made me smile. 

I made this birthday cake in the same old bundt pan I’ve always used. Its six-cup capacity is too small for the amount of batter the recipe makes, so I wind up making a little cake on the side. (In the recipe I suggest using an eight-cup pan.) The ring mold is good, because it lets oven heat penetrate to the center of the cake. But, I think next time I’ll try baking the cake in three layer pans.

I’ve also used the carrot cake recipe to make Olive Oil Carrot Muffins, reducing the sugar to ½ cup. They are so good served with (unsweetened) cream cheese or any soft cheese.

Olive oil is a principal ingredient in this carrot cake.

Olive Oil Carrot Cake
Tarta de Zanahorias

Extra virgin olive oil.
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup extra virgin olive oil + additional to grease pan
4 eggs
¼ teaspoon crushed cardamom
1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
Zest of 1 orange
2 cups grated carrots (about 5)
1 cup chopped walnuts or almonds
1/3 cup seedless raisins
1/3 cup dry apricots, chopped

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease an 8-cup bundt pan or ring mold.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, cinnamon and salt.

Combine sugar and oil in a large mixing bowl. Beat well. Beat in eggs one at a time until mixture is thick and creamy. Add cardamom, ginger and orange zest.

Beat in the dry ingredients. Fold in the carrots, nuts, raisins and apricots. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake for 1 hour without opening the oven door. Test the cake with a skewer—it is done when the skewer comes out clean. Bake 15 minutes more, as necessary.

Cool cake in pan for 15 minutes before removing it. Frost while cake is still warm. (Recipe below.)

Olive oil carrot cake is moist and flavorful.

1 small package cream cheese
½ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest

Cream all ingredients. Spread on warm cake.


  1. That looks amazing - just discovered your blog and need to explore it more.

    1. Ian: Welcome to my kitchen in Spain! I hope you enjoy exploring.