A bite of this light, fragrant cake and you can imagine yourself being transported to the scenic landscapes of Switzerland.
After all, this cake is named after a lush region called Aargau, in the northern part of the country.
In 2013, ophthalmologist Daphne Han went on a month-long trip to Zurich to train in laser eye surgery at the Institute for Refractive and Ophthalmic Surgery.
In between surgical procedures, she would take short breaks with other colleagues, sometimes with coffee and cake, she recalled.
"It was a dainty Swiss carrot cake that really impressed me with its freshness and lightness," said Dr Han, medical director and consultant ophthalmologist at the Singapore Medical Group Vision Center at Gleneagles Medical Centre.
A nurse jotted the recipe down for Dr Han, who has since attempted it several times in Singapore.
Besides its rich taste, the Aargau cake is actually good for the eyes, she said. It has plenty of vitamin A from the carrots, vital for the normal functioning of the cornea and retina photoreceptors, which are light-sensitive pigments in the eye.
Egg yolks provide lutein and zeaxanthin while almonds contain vitamin E; these protect the eyes from age-related macular degeneration, said Dr Han. "Almonds also contain omega-3 fatty acids which are a great remedy for dry eyes."
What's more, no butter or cream is used at all, said Ms Jaclyn Reutens, clinical dietitian at Aptima Nutrition & Sports Consultants. The amount of protein per serving is also "surprisingly high", she said - almost equivalent to that of one egg.
For those who are looking for an even healthier treat, try reducing the sugar slightly from 3/4 cup to 1/2 cup, she suggested.
One baking tip is to whisk the egg whites well, advised Dr Han.
"The rising of the cake relies a lot on the egg white, which should be whisked until stiff peaks form."
And if you are searching for the perfect dessert for a New Year party, this cake is sure to stand out amid the overly rich desserts during the festive season. You can even glam it up by warming it slightly and topping it with a small dollop of vanilla ice cream, said Dr Han.
"It is a nice gesture to care for both the tummy and health of your family and friends."
Aargau carrot cake
6 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup raw, finely grated carrots
150g almond meal (finely ground almond nuts)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 to 2 tbs icing sugar, sifted
Marzipan carrots, optional
Preheat the oven to 180 deg C. Grease and dust flour on a 9.5-inch round springform pan or two loaf pans.
Place the grated carrot, almond meal, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt and baking powder in a mixing bowl.
Beat the egg yolks well, then add the sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice. Mix until smooth, then add in the carrot mixture.
Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold into the carrot mixture - do not overmix.
Transfer the mixture into the cake pan. Bake for about 35 minutes.
If you stick a wooden chopstick into the centre of the cake and it comes out clean, the cake is done.
Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool at room temperature. Sprinkle the icing sugar over the cake. Decorate with marzipan carrots, if preferred.
SERVES 8 to 10
NOTE: The decorative marzipan (almond paste) carrots can be made with store-bought marzipan. You can mix it with a few drops of orange and green food colouring to create the carrots.
(Per serving; based on 10 servings)
Total fat: 11.9g
Saturated fat: 1.6g
Dietary fibre: 1.7g
Vitamin A: 187ug
This article was first published on December 29, 2015.
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