Carrot cake revealed my baking dark side. Years ago in the era before I became obsessed with baking, my friend and I baked a carrot cake together. It went along fine until she tried to measure a tablespoon of baking powder instead of a teaspoon, and added the entire egg (shell and all!) into the mixing bowl.
It ended with me standing on a stool holding a wooden spoon, dictating the recipe to her like a military general.
I’m not proud of these memories. But I can accept that very occasionally, under stressful situations, I can become a little “tense” in the kitchen. I like to think I’ve improved with age, but I think it’s more just that now when cooking with friends, I don’t lift a finger to help.
Lest the evil carrot cake dictator should emerge and take over and the wooden spoon make a second appearance.
Making this carrot cake was different from that first carrot cake for lots of reasons. For starters, I made it calmly and methodically with no shouting whatsoever! And the cake itself has had a makeover too.
Instead of a traditional sugar-filled dessert made with lots of eggs and butter, this cake is made entirely of natural and wholesome ingredients.
Sweetened with agave nectar and mashed bananas, it is dense and fruity. Just how I like my carrot cakes! It’s studded with lots of nuts and raisins and bursting with cinnamon and nutmeg.
But the best part by far is the icing. I made a version of the yogurt icing I topped my gluten-free banana chai cupcakes with, substituting half the yogurt with ricotta. The result was a super creamy and light icing that tasted almost like creme fraiche.
Scented with honey and dusted with crunchy nuts, this ended up as the best layer cake I think I’ve made so far. And by far the healthiest!
The recipe is adapted from this yummy carrot loaf from 101 cookbooks. I’ve been using this recipe for so long I don’t even read the recipe anymore. Over the years I’ve adapted it to be vegan (unless you ice it, obviously) and to suit whatever is on hand.
Today I only had two carrots, so I increased the bananas by an extra half. I also stopped putting in the olive oil ever since I made Wholesome Carrot Muffins without it, and didn’t even notice the difference until I found the cup of oil the next day.
This cake is great for special occasions and birthdays because it looks so festive and it lasts really well in the fridge.
Perfect for the Christmas season if you know what I’m saying! Start the icing the day before, but if you want to make a vegan version, maybe try a cashew cream or coconut topping.
- 1 cup mashed banana (about 3.5)
- 1.5 cups grated carrot (about 2)
- 60 ml (1/4 cup) agave nectar or runny honey
- 110 ml (1/2 cup) almond milk
- 2 tablespoons chia mixed with 4 tablespoons water to make a gel
- 45g (1/3 cup) raisins
- 45g (1/3 cup) chopped nuts and seeds (walnuts, almonds, pecans)
- 365g (2 cups) wholemeal flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, ginger and allspice
- Put the yogurt and ricotta in a cloth inside a sieve, and tie up the cloth in a bundle. Keep in the fridge for about 2-3 hours, to drain.
- Preheat oven to 170C (340F) and line two 20cm (8 inches) sandwich pans. Mix all the wet ingredients together well and sift in the flour and baking powder and spices.
- Mix well to combine. Pour into tins and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden and cooked through.
- Mix the icing with the honey well while the cake is cooling.
- Chop up the nuts into small chunks, leaving some bigger. Place one piece of cake on a plate and spread half the icing in the middle.
- Spread to the edges and sprinkle on half the nuts. Place on the top layer, even side down and spread the rest of the icing on top.
- Decorate with the nuts. Serves 8-10.
I’m working on a tofu icing to put on my next birthday cake, so keep updated!
Photos & Recipes by Lillian Crowther Gibson. Sugar&Cinnamon.