Fluffy, not-too-sweet, and bursting with the irresistible toasted almond flavor, this delicate Italian carrot cake is scented with citrus and finished with a light dusting of powdered sugar–or Greek yogurt and honey if you’re feeling indulgent. This beautiful spring dessert is perfect for Mother’s Day and Easter brunch.
Preheat your oven and prepare the cake pan: Preheat your oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 9-inch cake pan, then line the bottom with a parchment round.
Toast the almond flour: Spread the almond flour on a baking sheet in an even layer, breaking up any clumps. Place the baking sheet in your oven and toast for 5 minutes. Stir the browner edges into the middle, spread, and toast until the almond flour is golden brown, about 2-4 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
Sift the flour: In a small bowl, sift together the all purpose flour and baking powder. Sift in the cooled toasted almond flour and stir to combine.
Combine the sugar, zest, and eggs: In a large bowl, combine the sugar and orange zest (store the orange in your fridge for another day). Using your fingers, rub the zest into the sugar until the sugar is slightly clumpy and smells very fragrant. Add the egg yolks to the bowl.
Beat the yolks and sugar mixture together: Using a hand mixer, beat the egg yolks and sugar mixture together until it becomes fluffy and lightens to a pale yellow, about 4 minutes.
Add the flour, carrots, and almond extract: Add the flour mixture, shredded carrots and almond extract to the egg yolk and sugar mixture. Use a stiff spatula to stir everything together until just combined. The batter will be quite thick so you may have to use your hands to gently knead it together.
Whip the egg whites: Wash the egg beaters thoroughly or switch to the whisk attachment. In a large, clean bowl, combine the egg whites and salt. Beat or whisk the mixture on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes.
Fold the egg whites into the batter: Carefully fold ⅓ of the egg white mixture into the carrot batter. Repeat with another third, then, when mostly incorporated, fold in the remaining egg white mixture. It will be very stiff at first but keep at it until no white streaks remain.
Pour the batter into the cake pan: Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top. Place on a sheet tray (this will make removing it from the oven much easier) and set on the middle rack of your oven. Bake, rotating half way through, until the surface is evenly browned and the sides of the cake are beginning to pull away from the tin a little, 55-60 minutes.
Cool the cake: Allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack. Once cool, run a butter knife along the side of the cake and gently turn the cake out onto a plate, top side-down. Peel the parchment round from the bottom of the cake.
Serve: Dust the cake lightly with powdered sugar right before serving and drizzle with wamed honey. For an extra punch add a dollop of slightly sweetened greek yogurt. The carrot cake will last, tightly wrapped, for up to 5 days at room temperature.
When toasting the almond flour, be sure to watch carefully in the last few minutes so that the flour doesn’t scorch around the edges.
Stiff peaks mean that when you turn the egg beaters right-side up, the egg whites clinging to the beaters stand up straight without drooping.
This carrot cake tastes even better the next day! If you’re not serving right away, wrap the cooled cake tightly in plastic and store at room temperature.