I came up with this cake a few years ago for a friend from Pakistan who said he was missing carrot halwa (gajar ka halwa), and who also loves carrot cake. So, for his birthday I decided to try and combine the two… After a few test runs, and a lot of texting my friend Viv to ask about correct consistencies, I ended up with this; a take on a traditional carrot cake mixed with cardamom, saffron, pistachios, golden sultanas and a large helping of sticky, sweet halwa that’s good enough to eat on its own. This is one of favourite recipes, actually, and a perfect comfort food for dark, chilly winter nights. I’d be really interested to hear about other recipes or methods for carrot halwa too!
For the halwa:
- 8 cardamom pods
- 40g butter
- Handful golden sultanas
- Handful of cashews
- 250g of carrots (about 4-5), peeled and grated
- 200ml condensed milk (about half a tin)
- Pinch of saffron
For the frosting:
- 250g mascarpone
- 200g cream cheese
- 150g icing sugar (to taste)
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- zest of 1 orange
For the cake:
- 200g butter
- 200g golden caster sugar
- 250ml milk
- 2 free-range eggs, beaten
- 200g carrots, peeled and grated
- 350g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- A generous grating of fresh nutmeg or ¼ tsp ground
- Handful of golden sultanas
- Handful of pistachios, roughly chopped (save a few for the top)
- First make the halwa. Smash open the cardamom pods, scrape out the seeds and grind them into a powder in a pestle and mortar.
- Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan and add the cardamom. Stir for about a minute until fragrant.
- Tip in the sultanas and cashews, followed by the carrot. Stir together well, and gently fry over a medium heat, stirring often, for around 5 minutes or until the carrots are wilted and beginning to tangle together.
- Tip in the condensed milk and the saffron. Stir well. Reduce the heat and stir regularly until the mixture turns puddingy and almost all of the liquid has evaporated, about 5-10 minutes, depending on your stove. Remove from the heat, cover and set aside.
- Next make the frosting. Place the mascarpone and cream cheese in a bowl, and sift in the icing sugar. Stir or whisk together. Stir in the lemon juice and orange zest, saving a little zest for decoration. Cover and put in the fridge to firm up.
- For the cake, preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3. Line a 23cm cake tin.
- Place the butter and sugar together in a pan and stir together over a medium heat until both are melted.
- Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for a few minutes. Then, add a large spoonful of the halwa and the milk and stir to combine. Whisk in the beaten eggs.
- Place the grated carrots, flour, bicarb, and nutmeg in a large bowl and mix. Pour in the butter mixture and fold together until no streaks of flour are showing. Stir in the sultanas and pistachios.
- Tip into the cake tin and bake for around 40-45 minutes, or until golden and risen and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. If your oven is browning the top too quickly, cover in foil to allow the rest to catch up. Cool on a wire rack.
- Assemble by spreading the halwa in a layer across the top of the cake, then spooning over the frosting. Decorate with orange zest and chopped pistachios.
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