A Platinum Blonde Scheherazade

It’s perfect – absolutely, one hundred and ten percent perfect!
I’ve found The One folks – she’s tall, exotically spiced, has many nutty layers, is filled with voluptuous swathes of lemony cream cheese frosting and perfumed with all the zesty cheerfulness of several oranges. Who is this, a creation from the gods? None other than Dan Lepard’s carrot, orange and pistachio cake.

Until this past week, I’d made many a carrot cake in my time and enjoyed each and every one of them. Namely recipes from Rachel Allen, Nigella, Xanthe Milton and even the dietetically sometimes too virtuous Ellie Krieger. They were all lovely simple carrot cakes in their own way. All moist, spiced and topped with something resembling cream cheese frosting – I chose my words deliberately there as all too often, making the perfect cream cheese frosting to top your quietly self-righteous, nay healthy even carrot cake is the recipes downfall.

All too often in the past have they fallen considerably short and delivered me something which can only be described as a tangy drizzle, certainly nothing one could pipe nor eat without a plate, a fork or spoon and a napkin! Fortunately for any of those readers whom haven’t had such disappointments Dan Lepard will deliver us into lusciously lemony and decadently still cheesy tasting thick, pipeable, spreadable, stand up in its own-able frosting salvation! More on that later. On with the vehicle for all that lusciousness – the cake. It all begins with, wait for it… Tahini!


Yes, you heard me right – that clay like pulp of the unassuming sesame seed which works some sort of earthy magic when whisked with Greek yogurt, garlic, salt and lemon juice before drizzling over za’atar encrusted roast veg or chargrilled lamb chops. In fact, odd though it sounds, it was the addition of this very ingredient which peaked my interest in this recipe in the first place. You need a good dose of something wholesome, if not vaguely hippy-ish from a health food store to make a carrot cake truly good in my opinion.

And with my first mouthful of this freshly baked cake, I knew I could definitely taste a touch of tahini but it was so perfectly well balanced with the other ingredients, it did not overtake and confuse my palate. It all just worked together in a rather ying and yang sorta way. More interesting ingredients to thrill your taste buds include pomegranate molasses, slithered pistachios and lots of orange zest and juice – as much as one can yield from three whole fruits. Genius I tell you!

And what delighted me in Dan’s pre-recipe schpeal was his description of this cake and all its Arabic inspired ingredients as a “big blousy American-style carrot layer cake with Arabic bits. Imagine Pamela Anderson as a platinum-blonde Scheherazade”. How can that not delight you and make me grin from ear to ear? Plus I just love saying the word Scheherade out loud! Simple pleasures …. :D

carrot cake_

Another joy of a carrot cake is the simplicity of its method. I’d say most recipes advocate the use of a flavourless oil rather than butter which would, in my opinion, not taste right in the cake made of carrot. The oil gives excellent keeping properties, a super soft texture and also negates the need for using ones stand mixer to cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

If you have a big, preferably earthenware, bowl and a large balloon whisk, a carrot cake is the recipe for you. It all feels a very organic experience. Now for love nor money, I cannot source pomegranate molasses so I used black treacle as Dan suggests as an alternative but other than that I kept true to his recipe. I was, however, fortunate enough to be in possession of these luridly deep jade green slithered pistachios so I did not need to chop up whole natural ones.

Another simple pleasure – they might taste the same in blind taste tests but the look of a slithered pistachio is so exotically appealing to me, I swear they make the cake taste better.


Egg whites lighten the batter which, uncharacteristically, uses plain rather than wholemeal flour (and I had to stop myself swapping it out, trusting instead in Dan’s instruction – it is worth buying Short & Sweet, the book this cake came from just to read his tips and tricks and no-nonsense, no pretention scientific explanations of why different flours do different things to a recipe.

Fascinating stuff. But I digress…

And I am very glad I didn’t fool around with the recipe as the cake emerged from the oven absolutely perfectly risen – flat-topped brick red-brown baked lovelies. The Holy Grail of a layer cake recipe! Just check out the ribbons formed from whisking together cold cream cheese, room temp soft butter, lemon zest, a squeeze of its juice and half the designated icing sugar with a hand mixer for perhaps 30 seconds.

Not only a perfect texture achieved by using cold cheese and adding the sugar in two batches to strengthen the emulsion which forms as you beat but a perfect balance of flavours once again. For me, I personally just adored how the cheese flavour was present, not swamped with sugary sweetness or acerbic tang from the lemon.


As I was waiting for the cakes to bake I discovered a video Dan put on YouTube of himself making this very cake. I include the link to that here for you (hit the unlined word “here”). What I love about it how lovely Dan appears to be in this quick but succinct video (which I highly recommend watching if you would like to make this cake yourself). He appeared a little, erm, less lovely in the mug shot I’d seen of him before – but seeing him in the flesh, as it were, he comes across as having a sense of fun, a love of cake and a relaxed attitude to being in the kitchen.


For those of you preferring the recipe – get it here, via the Guardian website for which Dan makes regular contributions. Or buy it on the ever ready Short and Sweet” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>Amazon! I can’t commend it to you highly enough (his breads are spectacular). I know I’ll never make another carrot cake recipe again – no more time wasting with pretenders to the throne!


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By | 2018-01-21T08:31:07+00:00 September 9th, 2012|Categories: Cake, Dessert, Home Baking|Tags: , , , , , , |22 Comments


  1. Pamela 09/09/2012 at 12:09 - Reply


  2. Pamela 09/09/2012 at 12:10 - Reply

    Jodie it looks beautiful – did you have three 20cm tins and did they all fit in your oven? Really want to make it as have the book!

    • Jo Blogs 09/09/2012 at 12:30 - Reply

      I used two 20cm sandwich tins and one deep 20cm tin. All cooked identically which I was surprised about. Yes they did fit in the oven all on the one shelf – I stress the word “just”! My only problem is every cake comes out with a cant when I bake more than one at a time as the shelf (or perhaps the oven itself) isn’t level. But do bake this Pam – it’s so wonderful and doesn’t suffer a jot for being in the fridge for several days :D

  3. frugalfeeding 09/09/2012 at 17:49 - Reply

    OH wow, Jo! That looks exceptional! I think I need to re-post my original carrot cake recipe :D. I’ve had two in the past week… my favourite cake ever. Delicious!

    • Jo Blogs 10/09/2012 at 19:54 - Reply

      Thanks Frugal – I just (reluctantly) shared the very last slice with Hungry Hubby. I will miss it! I feel I may need to make it into cupcakes for next week’s teaching ;)

      • frugalfeeding 10/09/2012 at 20:10 - Reply

        You shouldn’t keep him so hungry… That sounds nice – portioned :D

  4. Allison 09/09/2012 at 17:52 - Reply

    This looks beautiful, and what a combination of flavors! Carrot cake with pistachios I could imagine, but the orange would just push those flavors over the top… yum.

    • Jo Blogs 10/09/2012 at 19:55 - Reply

      It really seals the deal Allison – the orange perfume to the cake is magnificent. Absolutely love it!

  5. Pamela 09/09/2012 at 19:12 - Reply

    Thanks – I can do the two sandwich tins plus one deep 20 cm tin though might work out how to arrange them in the oven first. And if your layers came out wonky you can’t tell in the pics!

    • Jo Blogs 10/09/2012 at 19:57 - Reply

      Yes try them out in t’oven first hun, wouldn’t be good to not to be able to get the raw batter loaded tins in! As for not looking wonky – that’s thanks to careful cake arranging lol ;0)

  6. e / dig in hobart 11/09/2012 at 06:25 - Reply

    Wow, that is a big leap of faith to use tahini in a cake. and pomegranate and pistachios – no ordinary carrot cake there. looks luscious.

    • Jo Blogs 11/09/2012 at 06:28 - Reply

      Can I tell you though Elizabeth – they all work together in harmony, no one flavour overpowering the other. Tahini is a popular thing out in the Middle East though for cookies (think Arabic PNB cookies!). They are on my list too :D

  7. Meenakshi 11/09/2012 at 10:44 - Reply

    Wow!! That really is an interesting recipe…I would think that tahini would give a really strong taste but clearly not. And I did not know that you could get molasses from pomegranate. I love the Pam Anderson-Scherezade analogy!!

  8. Don’t know if you’ll want to amend your blog post but I think Amazon were having a very temporary glitch, and Short & Sweet is available from them. Or for signed copies, go to http://www.bakerybits.co.uk

    Glad you liked this recipe !

    • Jo Blogs 14/09/2012 at 10:19 - Reply

      Excellent! I’m glad amazon has fixed that issue – I was puzzled by it myself. I will amend the blog in due course :)

  9. At Anna's Kitchen table 15/09/2012 at 12:23 - Reply

    Gosh, Jo, that looks amazing! Love the idea of using tahini in a carrot cake and Pom mol too? Why, it’s practically a health food right? ;))

  10. Ann Koekepan 19/09/2012 at 10:55 - Reply

    that is on my to do list, SOOO soooonn!!! Jo, I read your blogs but rarely comment but I like your style and certainly the handy pdf you always give. Not that this link is not good, it is! I like blogs where the ingredients are all together in a file of pdf or…
    Thanks for the wonderfull moments we can share on your blog (and FB :-)

    • Jo Blogs 19/09/2012 at 21:18 - Reply

      Aw Ann thank you! :’). It’s so good to know people read me and enjoy it here. Of course if love more comments but only when the reader feels moved to do so. Here’s to years more blogging and baking together! And do try this cake – it really is something special :D

  11. Michelle 30/09/2012 at 05:05 - Reply

    My 11 year old would love to make this into muffin size lunchbox treats with a more than a healthy dose of cream cheese frosting on top. (She has lofty ideas along with her smoked salmon and cream cheese sangas for lunch!) We are going to have a crack at this recipe in a couple of weeks to take to a BBQ. Pom mol should be available in any Middle Eastern grocers but here you are for next time.
    I have never used this company as I don’t live in the U.K. but they seem to have lots of lovely things!

  12. Amanda 14/09/2013 at 14:49 - Reply

    Any chance you are a professional writer in your spare time? I adore your style. And the fact that you can bake like a champ seals the deal. Can I be your new biggest fan?

    • Jo Blogs 14/09/2013 at 14:51 - Reply

      Oh Amanda you are the loveliest person! I’m not a writer, I’m “a doctor, a baker, a wisdom tooth taker” :D. I love to bake, I love to write about it and share with my friends and loved ones. Just like you! Xxx

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