Carrot cake with pistachio crumb topping

Carrot cake with pistachio crumble topping

In our house, when we put the boys to bed, David reads stories to Isaac, and I sit next to Malcolm reading my novel while he reads his. (Pretty clever, huh? Reading time for me!) Then we go downstairs and yell at them periodically to Be quiet! Get back in bed! Get to sleep! (They share a room, and it’s nice to hear them chatting for a long time after lights out – what on earth do they talk about? But really, they need their sleep!) I just started reading The Brothers Karamazov. I like it so far, but it reminds me of reading War and Peace, which was so confusing at first because everybody has about three different names that they’re called by, and they all sound sort of similar, and I have trouble keeping them all apart. Which reminded me, in turn, of my brilliant idea that somebody should make a hip hop version of War and Peace. I think it would be wonderful! Epic! Here’s why. Rappers have a lot of different names, and I sometimes have trouble keeping them straight. And…so many of the concerns explored in War and Peace are also of primary importance in hip hop songs. Religion, violence, love, lust, greed, over-indulgence in alcohol. Can’t you just see it? Or maybe hear it, it should probably be an opera, right?

Ahem. Sorry for the creeping tangential nature of this post. Anyway – I can sometimes hear snippets of the stories David reads to Isaac, and yesterday one of them mentioned carrot cake. Carrot cake!?! Said Isaac. What on earth is that? You know, said David, it’s like pumpkin bread – it’s sweet and sweet-spicy. You could see the little wheels turning in Isaac’s head as he processed this information. And, of course, you could hear the little wheels creaking rustily in my much older head as I planned to make a carrot cake. Why not, thought I, why not purée the carrots, instead of grating them? Just for a change. And then my mind wandered back to an Indian dessert I had recently read about (I like to read the dessert sections of my Indian cookbooks while I eat my breakfast, don’t you?) It was a sort of carrot pudding, with pistachios and cardamom. Sounded good! But I didn’t want to just stir the pistachios in. I thought I’d make them into a crumbly topping with lots of butter and sugar, to make this even less of a healthy cake. It turned out very good! The cake is velvety, and the pistachios are a perfect crunchy little accent. Isaac came running into the kitchen, with a beaming smile, saying “you made carrot cake!” and boys both give it their seal of approval (crumbs all over the living room).

Here’s the B 52s with Cake

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 t vanilla
1 egg
1 2/3 cups flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1 t cardamom
1 t ginger
1 cup carrot purée (about 4 or 5 medium carrots, peeled, chopped, and boiled till soft but still bright, and puréed)
dash of milk, if necessary

For the crumble topping…

2 T butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 T flour
1/2 cup pistachio kernals, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 375

Cream the butter with the sugar until well mixed and fluffy. Add the vanilla and egg and beat well. Add all of the dry ingredients.

Stir in the carrot purée. The batter should be thick but quite light – like whipped cream. If it’s too stodgy, add a few tablespoons of milk, mix well.

Spread evenly in a buttered, floured, foil-lined cake pan.


Combine the ingredients in a bowl, and work with your hand till everything is well-mixed together and feels like coarse crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the cake.

Bake for about half an hour, till it’s all puffed up and the top springs right back up when you lightly press your finger into it.

7 thoughts on “Carrot cake with pistachio crumb topping

  1. hip h’opera – War and Peace is still genius.

    Been trying to finish designs for a children’s book so haven’t been able to keep up with Claire recipes.
    (I’m sorting out some printing at the moment and want it produced using vegetable inks – each time this is discussed I imagine you trying to guess the veg on a page and making a meal out of it)
    anyway – I now have a dilemma – I have pears stocked up and I have carrots piling up – which of the latest cakes do I make this weekend – we have people staying .. maybe if I do lots of work tonight I can make both. That’s a caketastic plan.

    light from a cake – camper van beethoven

    • The children’s book sounds exciting! Scratch and sniff inks!!

      I thought of you when I made this – for some reason I associate you with carrot cake!

      • I did used to mention carrot cake a lot – Ruth makes it really well .. she sticks to doing that and I like to experiment – I shall adapt this.. looks great.

  2. Claire, Cake looks wonderful!
    Never read ‘Brothers; though I did read W&P as an adolescent, loved it.
    I finished a book yesterday that I think you would enjoy, “Pauline Kael : a life in the dark” by Brian Kellow. She was acknowledged by most to be the best film critic in America during the 60’s – 90’s. She wrote for the New Yorker. She influenced my filmic taste right from the start; a very interesting book that brought back dozens of memories of how it was when film was revered and talked about.

    • I’ve read a lot of her reviews! Books and books of them. And I used to read them in the New Yorker when I was a teenager. I’d be interested to read a book ABOUT her. Thanks for the recommend!

  3. Pingback: Arugula salad with apricots, pecans and french feta | Out of the Ordinary

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