Olive Oil Carrot Cake

Sometimes a few forkfuls of something deemed celebratory are a good thing on an ordinary day. A salve to a week that seemed particularly long, a festive treat enjoyed “just because”, or a choice to conclude a difficult day with a jubilant kind of sustenance, food that carries thoughts of celebration along with it can be a means of expressing thanks for all that is good and worth celebrating in life when had for no particular reason. This olive oil carrot cake is just that; after a tiring week I found myself clutching a mixing bowl filled with frosting, slathering scoops of the cream cheese confection onto these little orange speckled cakes. I wanted to celebrate with no basis at all, no birthday or anniversary or party to make it for, batter whipped and baked and frosted simply because it was a rainy Friday and a special dessert seemed rightful. I hope this cake, a spin on traditional carrot cake with a few good glugs of fragrant olive oil replacing the butter, brings a spirit of groundless celebration into your kitchen too.


Olive Oil Carrot Cake

makes one 13” x 9” sheet cake

For the cake:

  • 1 cup olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar

  • 3 eggs

  • 2 cups all purpose flour

  • 2 cups shredded carrots, carrot tops reserved

  • 2 teaspoons baking soda

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

  • 1 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13” x 9” baking dish with a bit of olive oil.

With a stand mixer, beat the olive oil and sugar together on high until the mixture is light in color, about 3 minutes or so. Add the eggs and beat for an additional minute. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt then add to the mixing bowl along with the vanilla, mixing until just incorporated. Fold in the shredded carrots gently with a spatula. Pour into the greased baking dish, and bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out fairly clean when poked into the center of the cake.

Allow to cool completely, even overnight in the refrigerator, before topping with frosting. If you like, use a biscuit or cookie cutter to create little individual circular cakes from the sheet cake, as shown in the pictures above.

For the frosting:

  • 4 oz cream cheese

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat together the cream cheese and butter with a mixer until combined and fluffy. Gradually incorporate the powdered sugar while mixing, then the vanilla.

Frost the cake after it’s cooled completely, either cutting into circles or leaving as a sheet cake, and topping with the reserved carrot tops as a garnish (optional).

CakesAdelle EsborgComment
Tahini Dressing

On evenings when I want a quick, healthful meal, I often find myself throwing together a salad or roasting a sheet pan full of seasonal veggies. This dressing is deliciously creamy and light with a bit of nuttiness and the slightest sweetness that compliments roasted vegetables, is wonderful tossed with greens, and is delicious drizzled over everything from potatoes to soft boiled eggs to flatbread. I find myself making this at least once a week, sometimes doubling the recipe to keep a bit in the fridge for even more drizzling the next day over whatever may be whipped up in the kitchen. For those who desire a dairy free sauce for dipping or dressing salad that still has a creamy quality, this is a wonderful option. Only requiring a moment of whisking and a minimal ingredient list, this tahini dressing is a favorite.

Tahini Dressing

makes approximately 1/3 cup

  • 3 tablespoons tahini*

  • 2 tablespoons filtered water

  • 3 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup

    * Depending on the brand of tahini you purchase, the saltiness will differ. Taste after whisking the ingredients together, and add salt only if needed - some tahini brands are already quite salty.

    Whisk the tahini, vinegar, and syrup together until combined. Whisk in the water, one tablespoon at a time, adding more if a thinner consistency is desired.

Brussels Sprout Panzanella

Panzanella is a scrumptious Tuscan salad of leftover bread tossed with tomatoes and possibly onions along with cucumbers, topped with basil and finally dressed with olive oil and vinegar. I chose to make a wintry version featuring roasted brussels sprouts with wispy ribbons of spinach throughout. It’s a wonderful way to use day-old bread and create a tasty little dish. This would be lovely for lunch or as a side for fish fillets cooked with lemon slices and olives or roasted chicken with plenty of herbs.


Brussels Sprout Panzanella

for the salad:

  • 1/2 boule sourdough or French bread, cut into roughly 1 inch pieces

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 lb brussels sprouts, halved

for the dressing:

  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard

  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

  • Pinch of pepper

Preheat the oven to 420 degrees. Spread out the Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet and drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Roast for twenty minutes.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet and add the garlic, then add the bread. Stir to coat and allow the bread to toast in the oil for about five minutes or until crunchy.

Combine the cooked Brussels sprouts and toasted bread in a large bowl. Whisk together the dressing: first the mustard and vinegar, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil while quickly whisking. Add the salt, lemon zest, and pepper then dress the salad - you may have a bit of dressing left over, depending on your preference. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature.

SaladsAdelle EsborgComment
Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Butternut squash is quite the embraced autumnal ingredient, but it lends itself well to the following season and its wintry meals. Roasted squash incorporated into pasta dough makes for a delicious kind of gnocchi. No sauce is ladled over plates of this pasta to allow that squash flavor to come into focus, and so only some butter and a mixture of walnuts, kale, and parmesan along with a good crack of fresh pepper accompanies it all. My preferred method of toasting the gnocchi in the butter after boiling gives it a caramelized outer crust that adds a lovely textural layer.


Butternut Squash Gnocchi

  • 1 large butternut squash

  • 2 eggs

  • Approximately 6 cups all purpose flour

  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

  • Unsalted butter

  • Olive oil

  • Salt* and pepper, to taste

  • Garnishes: chopped walnuts, thinly sliced kale, and grated parmesan

*No salt is added in this recipe to the pasta dough to account for salted cooking water. Be sure that the water you cook the pasta in has plenty of salt in it, as this will flavor the pasta from the inside out while cooking. If you taste the gnocchi after cooking and the water wasn’t salted enough, simply add a bit of flakey salt on top.

To make the pasta:

Preheat the oven to 420 degrees. Slice the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Rub with a bit of olive oil and place cut side down on a baking sheet. Roast for 35 minutes or until very soft. Scoop out the butternut squash from the skin and measure out four cups, discarding or saving for another use any remaining squash. Allow to cool completely.

Using a mixer, blend together the squash and eggs until there are no lumps in the squash and the eggs are completely incorporated. Add the nutmeg and ground cloves. Switch from the mixer to a spoon and begin adding the flour one cup at a time. You will need approximately six cups of flour to make the dough not overly sticky - do not add more than needed or knead the dough or else the gnocchi will be tough and rubbery. Cut the dough into eight equal pieces, rolling each piece into a log about one inch in diameter. Cut into bite sized pieces.

Using a gnocchi board or the tines of a fork, roll each piece for a shell-like design. Otherwise, continue with the cut pieces - they will be just as delicious!

Note: This recipe makes a large amount of gnocchi, enough to fill a gallon sized ziplock bag. I like to make this pasta in advance, spreading the pasta on a few trays in the freezer, chilling until no longer soft, and moving all of it into a freezer safe bag or container. This way, you can make as much or as little gnocchi as you like at any given time. The pasta will only take a minute or two longer to cook if frozen.

To cook the pasta:

Bring a large pot to a boil and heat a large cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place two tablespoons unsalted butter into the skillet, adding a tablespoon more for each batch. Cook the gnocchi in batches; when they float to the top, they’re finished cooking. Transfer each batch to the hot skillet with the melted butter, shaking the pan a time or two to make sure the pasta isn’t sticking to the bottom. Toast until the gnocchi is slightly crispy on the bottom and beginning to brown and transfer to a serving plate. Do this for the rest of the pasta.

Garnish or toss with chopped walnuts, thinly sliced kale, and parmesan. Add freshly cracked pepper and serve warm.

PastaAdelle EsborgComment