“Come over this afternoon,” said my friend Tanja, “for cake and coffee.” Cake and coffee? Was this some sort of awesome German version of afternoon tea? Essentially, yes. This is a tradition I could definitely get behind.

When I first came home from the hospital with Cameron, Tanja stopped by my apartment with a bag of clothing from her firstborn, and half a cake. Since then, she’s been waging a one-woman war against my waistline, bringing cakes by at least once a week, or slipping them into my stroller when my back is turned. If I protest, her eyes get big and she wails, “You didn’t like it! I knew it was too dry!” So, I bravely soldier on, accepting Nutella swirl cake, chocolate cake, plum topped cheese cake, and this, a rich, moist carrot cake.

What makes Tanja’s cakes even more amazing is that they’re never what I expect. When she says, “I made a cheesecake,” it’s not the sweet cream cheese on a graham cracker NY style cake. It’s a tall, dense mixture of quark and ricotta, set into a rich pound-cake like crust and studded with fresh plums on top. Delicious!

Similarly, this carrot cake isn’t the spice and walnut laden crumbly cake topped with sweet, colored frosting. Instead, it contains pureed carrots, which lend a subtle sweetness (and orange coloring) to the batter.

Tanja’s Carrot cake

For the batter:
5 eggs, whites separated from yolks
220 g sugar (just over 1 cup)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
380 g carrot puree (jarred baby food if available)
170 g ground almonds
100 g flour (about 3/4 cup)

For the icing:
250 g Mascarpone
100 ml orange juice
1 packet of vanilla sugar (“magic dust”) (this is a German baking ingredient. I imagine you could approximate with a couple tablespoons of regular sugar and some vanilla)

The recipe is for a round, 24-26 cm diameter springform cake pan.

Grease the pan, preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (convection oven).  Beat egg whites until firm. Beat yolks, sugar and cinnamon until light yellow and fluffy. Add carrot puree, almonds and flour and mix well. Fold in egg whites. Pour batter into pan and bake for 50 minutes or until tooth pick inserted comes out clean. Let cool completely. Mix Mascarpone, OJ and vanilla sugar and spread on top. Keep in fridge until serving.