When Lee Errett wrote in search of a specific carrot cake recipe, she described it as “nectareal” — due to its “moist delectability.” Sounded like a made-up word to me, but Webster does recognize it as “resembling nectar,” pretty much what you’d expect.
Errett said the recipe appeared in the newspaper — she wasn’t sure which one — in the 1980s and was called Saraswati’s Carrot Cake. “Made the cake then; we dubbed it ‘nectareal.’ All these years later my brother-in-law would like to celebrate his birthday with that cake. Unfortunately, I’ve misplaced that recipe.”
Her request was published here and two readers responded immediately.
Hazel Yee cut the recipe out of The Honolulu Advertiser in 1983. She was obsessed with carrot cakes at the time and saved several recipes but never made this one. Too many spices to buy, she said.
Pat Kaneshiro, though, did make the cake, pronouncing it “very delicious.”
Now, as happy as I am to have the recipe, the real revelation was a link that Kaneshiro sent along, which took me to the Google newspaper archive — news.google.com/ newspapers — which has images of hundreds of newspapers, some dating to the 1700s. If you have an interest in such things, you could lose yourself for hours clicking around there.
Type something into the search field — “Saraswati’s Carrot Cake,” for example — and you’ll be taken to an image of the article on its original newspaper page. I believe magic is involved.
Back to the recipe: The only Hawaii paper I could find in the Google database was the Molokai Dispatch, for 2005 to 2008. But Errett’s carrot cake recipe turned up in The Bulletin (Bend, Ore.) and the Ottawa Citizen (Canada), both published in November 1982. It was part of a column called “Culinary SOS,” by Rose Dosti, published in the Los Angeles Times and carried by many other newspapers.
Credit for the cake goes to Saraswati Kaur Khalsa, a baker at Golden Temple Conscious Cookery in Los Angeles, and it was called — wait for it — Saraswati’s Nectareal Carrot Cake. Dosti called it “superb.”
The cake uses no eggs or processed sugar, and the only butter is in the frosting. Honey and vegetable oil stand in for those ingredients. My test cake was moist and very tasty — I believe the “nectareal” quality comes from the considerable honey used — but also soft to the point of fall-apart crumbliness. This I attribute to the lack of eggs, which help provide substance to baked goods.
Ingredient notes: Whole-wheat pastry flour is sold among other flours in supermarkets. If you don’t want a whole bag, go to Down to Earth, where you can buy just what you need. Spices — this recipe calls for six different ones — are also sold there in small amounts.
Saraswati’s Nectareal Carrot Cake
3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon EACH ground cinnamon and ginger
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon EACH ground cloves, allspice and mace
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, plus a little more for garnish
1 cup raisins
1-1/2 cups vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups honey
4-1/2 cups grated carrots
Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 pound (2 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Liberally grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans, then line bottom of pans with baking parchment.
Sift together flour, baking soda and spices. Stir in nuts and raisins. Add oil and honey, then carrots. Mix using hands until all ingredients are well blended.
Pour into prepared pans and bake 45 to 55 minutes, until cake begins to pull away from sides and tiny cracks form on surface (cake will be very dark, so you won’t be able to judge doneness by color, and because it is so moist, a pick inserted in the center won’t come out clean). Let cool 10 minutes in pan, then turn out on cooling racks. Peel off parchment.
To make frosting: Beat ingredients together until smooth. Spread a generous portion over bottom layer of cake, cover with top layer, then frost top of cake. If you have enough you can frost the sides, but the cake looks better with the sides bare. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts.
Nutritional information unavailable.
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