This cake was, for many years running, my birthday cake. It seems plain, rustic even, but is bursting with flavor. This Italian cake is traditionally served with orange or clementine sections and whipped cream, but is very, very good on its own.

The recipe calls for ladyfingers, which can be found in the Italian section of grocery stores. You can substitute flour, but it will make the cake a bit denser than it already is. I recommend searching out the ladyfingers (you can always make tiramisu with the remainders).

1 T butter
1 3/4 c whole almonds with skins
1 c sugar
1 1/2 c finely ground ladyfinger crumbs, or 3/4 c all-purpose flour
9 oz carrots (about 3 large), cut into small chunks
1 T amaretto liqueur, or 1/2 t almond extract + 2 T water; optional
2 1/2 t baking powder
4 large eggs, separated; egg yolks lightly beaten
1/4 t salt
orange or clementine sections, for serving, optional
whipping cream, for serving, optional

1. Put an oven rack in the top third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease the bottom of a 10-inch spring form pan with the 1 T of butter.

2. Combine almonds and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the nuts are finely ground. Transfer to a large bowl. Add finely ground ladyfingers or flour.

3. Add carrots to bowl of food processor and finely chop. Add carrots to bowl. Add amaretto, if using, and baking powder. Mix ingredients together. Add lightly beaten egg yolks and blend well.

4. Beat egg whites with the salt until stiff peaks form. Mix about a quarter of the beaten egg whites into the cake mixture, then fold in the remaining egg whites.

5. Transfer the batter to the greased pan. Bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. You may need to bake for another 10 minutes–it depends on your oven. Cool on a rack. Serve lightly warm or at room temperature, garnished with citrus and topped with whipped cream, if you like…