A Healthier Spiced Carrot Cake with Maple Orange Icing

Optional vegan, low fat and refined sugar free

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 I was craving carrot cake like a wild woman this week. Every day at uni I would walk past the cafe eyeing those dodgy wrapped carrot cake slices covered in buttercream and almost ALMOST  buy one. 

But I managed to hold out partly because they don’t use cream cheese in the frosting (who even are they?!) and partly because I had no money…

By the end of the week, it was carrot cake time. At first I was thinking to myself you can’t make that, you’ve already made a banana carrot cake to end all carrot cakes on this blog. It was mile high and adorned with chopped nuts and creamy ricotta frosting! But that was a carrot BANANA cake. Subtle difference my friends. And a very different recipe too!(Perfect for Easter!!)

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When I was first coming up with this recipe I mainly wanted a carrot and cinnamon centred vehicle to transport cream cheese frosting in my mouth. I looked at lots of recipes trying to gather together the best of all, and I couldn’t believe how unhealthy most carrot cake recipes are! For something made of carrots I was surprised.

Just to be clear, my definition of ‘healthy’ is definitely not low fat or low calorie! Wholemeal grains, real fruit and unprocessed sweeteners plus some natural fats from avocados and nuts are much more my scene. However I’m aware that some people want to have their cake and they want to eat the whole thing too, without spending an extra hour at the gym. So this is my fat-free (almost) and refined sugar free carrot cake!

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 Sweetened with maple syrup and the natural sugars of the carrots, this carrot has no butter or oil in it (none!). I was feeling daring so when the recipe called for ‘butter’ I just subbed in a whole load of buttermilk. The recipe is based on the Moosewood carrot cake recipe, which is already a very wholesome and tasty loaf to begin with. It came out so cinnamon scented and warm and delicious, I could not even deal. Carrot cake heaven. 

The best part of carrot cake is the icing (can I get an amen please) so I didn’t skimp on that. Instead of using low fat or substitute; the cream cheese is mixed with half ricotta, which is naturally low in fat and high in calcium and protein. Mixed with maple syrup and orange zest it was so delicious! I ate quite a bit of it with a spoon (shh). Topped with naturally delicious and healthy nuts, this cake is perfect for breakfast as well as the best dessert ever. 

Also vegan friends, I’ve given substitutions below for how to make the cake completely free of animal products. I’ve made the cake without eggs and buttermilk before and it worked well, but I haven’t tried it low fat so if you do try that method, tell me how it goes!!

One Year Ago: Sweet Plum Jam

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 Healthy Carrot Cake with Orange Maple Frosting: Adapted from here

1/2 cup maple syrup

3/4 cup buttermilk (or for vegan, sunflower oil or half oil half vegan yogurt)

2 eggs (for vegan, 2 tbsp chia seeds mixed well with 4 tbsp water)

1 finely zested orange

1/2 tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and 1/4 tsp allspice

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup wholemeal flour

1/2 cup plain flour

1 + 1/4 cup carrot, grated

Frosting:
250g each ricotta and cream cheese OR cashew/coconut cream for vegan
1 finely zested orange
1/3 cup maple syrup
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For the Cake: Preheat the oven to 180C (356F) and line a loaf tin with baking paper. Whisk the 2 eggs until pale and fluffy. Mix the remaining wet ingredients (buttermilk or oil, maple syrup) together well. Stir in the orange zest. Stir in the grated carrot. Sift the flours and baking powder, plus the spices. Stir the dry into the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Pour into tin and bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden on top and a skewer comes out clean.
For the icing, blend together all the ingredients well and ice the cake once completely cool. Top with chop nuts if you want!
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Healthy Carrot Muffins with Bush Honey Icing

Low Fat, Sugar Free
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 Today I did exercise for the first time in five months. You heard me, five. I wish I was exaggerating! But this is the truth, I haven’t even gone on a medium to fast paced walk in weeks! (unless you count running awkwardly for the bus and falling over in front of your class acquaintance that always dresses like they’re going to a trendy art gallery). 

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 What can I say, I felt motivated by these muffins. You wont believe me when I say this, and you definitely won’t believe me if you actually go and try them! But these muffins have no sugar, no butter or oil, no honey or agave business, and they are made with wholemeal flour. And they taste amazing. Of course they are much healthier without the generous dollop of cream cheese icing but I usually only ice half of them, and keep the rest for breakfast. The measurements are in cups because this isn’t the kind of recipe that you have to worry about being exact. 

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 It took me two years to get this recipe right. I started with a relatively healthy but still sugary carrot cake recipe and tweaked it, tweaked it, tweaked it, TOO FAR! You know the drill, and this is the finished result. There is no road further my healthy friends, believe me. Do not substitute skim milk for light. Do not reduce the dates, or the flour. These muffins are moist and dense and packed with flavour, but they will take no more compromising without tasting, well, like health muffins. Instead of delicious happy gently spiced carrot muffins. Like I said the icing is up to you, but it helps to get kids to eat them (kids love them- that is a good sign for a healthy muffin).IMG_4761Carrot Muffins with Honey Icing: First adapted from Jamie Oliver

3 1/2 bananas, (1 large cup) mashed or blended until smooth

2-3 medium carrots (to equal 1.5 cups) skinned and grated

60g (1/2 cup) dates blended until smooth with 110ml (1/2 cup) light milk (this will help them blend)

325g (2 cups) wholemeal flour, sifted with 2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamon and salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons pepitas or sunflower seeds

Icing: (double if you want to ice the whole 10 muffins

250 grams (1/2 pound, 8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

100 ml (1/2 cup) slightly warmed honey (I used lavender bush honey but any will work)

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 Preheat your oven to 170C (340F) and line 10 large muffin holes with muffin cases. Sift your flour, spices, salt and baking powder into a bowl and set aside. Mix your milk and dates, carrot, banana, eggs, walnuts and seeds in a bowl until well combined. Sift over the dry ingredients and stir together with a spoon until everything is just combined. Spoon into muffin holes and bake for about 22-25 minutes, until golden on top and dry when pierced with a skewer. Leave to cool completely. 

Icing: Blend or whisk your cream cheese with the honey until completely combined and fluffy. Spread over the cooled muffins and either eat within 24 hours or store in the fridge once iced. 

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Warm Carrot Cake

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 Last night the mild Sydney weather transformed into a cold, cruel beast. It was so, so, bone chillingly cold. You know that kind of cold where it doesn’t matter that you have a thick coat on, or how many layers you wear, the wind feels like a slop of icy water enveloping your entire body. 

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 Whenever the weather is like that there’s nothing better than climbing into bed under a thick doona and curling into a ball to keep warm. Soon enough you’ve forgotten you were cold at all. 

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This carrot cake is for cold weather and rainy mornings. It is rich, dense, and covered in lime and cream cheese icing. You can add walnuts, raisins, chocolate chips, whatever makes you feel happy. The gently heated spices and sweet, scented orange will warm you through. 

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Warm Carrot Cake: (barely adapted from Jamie’s Recipes)

Ingredients:

285g (1 +1/3 cups) of soft brown sugar

285g (2.5 sticks, 1 + 1/4 cups) soft salted butter

5 eggs, separated into yolks and whites

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp each nutmeg, ginger and ground cloves

zest and juice of 1 orange

285g (2 + 1/2) medium carrots, peeled and grated

170g (1 cup + 1 tbsp) self-raising flour, + 1 tsp baking powder

115g (1 cup) almond meal

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350F). Grease and line a 22cm (9 inch) square cake tin. Beat butter and sugar together until fluffy, and slowly incorporate the egg yolks one by one. After this stir in your orange zest and juice, your spices, sifted flours and carrots. Beat egg whites until firm, then slowly fold into your carrot batter. Pour into your tin and bake for 50 minutes, until golden brown and firm to touch. 

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Icing:

Beat together 340g (12 ounces, 1 + 1/2 cups) cream cheese, the zest of two limes and the juice of one lime, and 85g (3/4 cups) icing sugar until combined. Spread over your cooled cake and eat it.