Banana Carrot Cake with Ricotta Honey Frosting

Refined Sugar Free, Wholemeal, optional Vegan

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 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. 

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Making this carrot cake was different to 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!

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 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 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. I’m working on a tofu icing to put on my next birthday cake, so keep updated!

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Banana Carrot Cake with Ricotta Frosting: Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

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

 

Topping:

300g ricotta

300g yogurt

45ml (1/4 cup) runny honey

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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 inch) 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. 

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Banana, Vanilla and Cinnamon Frozen Yogurt

Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free and Low Fat

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Guess what the temperature is. Just guess. It’s 31C! That’s 90F! Not that hot you protest? It’s only ten in the morning! Bluuugh. All I want to do today is join my dog lying down on the cool tiles, occasionally dipping my entire head and feet mournfully into my water bowl. Well I might leave the water bowl to him, but he is making it look so tempting. 

Having a desserts blog and living in Australia can make you feel very out of sync at times, especially at the change of seasons. Every picture in my blog roll is full of pumpkin spice cakes and fruit hand pies and donuts. People! What is with all the donuts! Five minutes ago you couldn’t turn around without being assaulted with a photo of a popsicle stick and now it seems deep-fried sugar encrusted cake is taking over the world? Well when I put it like that, it makes sense. It makes a lot of donutty sense actually. I keep picturing Homer Simpson drooling and saying “Mmmmm dooonuuuts”. 

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 Today was meant to be my first mango recipe of the summer. (My first mango recipe ever!) It was going to be a refreshing sorbet perfect for this stinky weather but…I ate all the mangos. Mangos are just one of those fruits that don’t need to be messed with to taste better. They’re not like apples, which literally transform when you bake them. They’re an entire meal in themselves. I feel bad even adding yogurt to cut up mango at breakfast time if it’s perfectly ripe and juicy. So I ate them all! And I’m sorry. I promise mango will soon adorn these walls very soon.

Instead the banana war continues. I mentioned recently the overload of bananas filling the freezer, numbered at the moment around twenty. That’s right. It’s gone up. Banana makes a great instant sorbet as lots of people know, especially if you add cocoa powder or chocolate chips! But I’ve never tried it in a frozen yogurt recipe before. 

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 To bring out the banana flavour and give some depth to the frozen yogurt I added some cinnamon and vanilla extract, as well as a scoop of honey. I wasn’t expecting much, not even enough to post about. You can’t really bake frozen bananas so I couldn’t caramelise them or anything fancy to ramp up the flavour.

But I was so wrong. One bite of this and I realised I should never underestimate the power of the banana again. It’s so creamy! Please, don’t be tempted to ruin this with super fat reduced yogurt, save that for your smoothies and instant banana froyo!  Low fat yogurt freezes as hard as a rock and tastes bland as well. I’ve talked about it when I made berry and honey frozen yogurt, and also lemon curd frozen yogurt. You can use 2%, just take it out of the freezer before you want to eat it and let it soften. Or eat it within two hours of putting it in the freezer. 

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 The best yogurt to use though is full fat natural yogurt. I really hate the way homemade ice creams and sorbets freeze so much harder than store-bought. I made a chocolate ice cream last week that was so amazingly soft even straight from the freezer because of a rich and silky custard base. But sorbets can be quite tricky!

I did some research this week and discovered that most store-bought ice creams and sorbets contain anti-freeze to keep them soft. Oh my gosh. It’s “green” antifreeze which is apparently ok for animals and humans, but seeing as no research has confirmed that yet…I think I’ll stick to homemade from now on. I did discover something hopeful though! On the back of the best mango sorbet tub ever the ingredients listed were water, sugar, fruit, the usual subjects, and…glucose syrup! None of the other ingredients looked like they might be there as a softener, could glucose syrup be the answer we’ve been looking for?!?!? This summer we will find out.

You can add more or less honey depending on your preferences with this recipe. Use spotty bananas that are fully ripe, but not those blackening bananas that should be saved for breads and muffins. If the bananas are too ripe their flavour will be really overpowering. Similar with the yogurt, try to find one with a medium flavour rather than super strong and tangy. Bananas actually have a tangy note to them if you’ve ever noticed and the yogurt can accentuate it in a strange way. 

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Banana, Vanilla and Cinnamon Frozen Yogurt:

500g (1 pound, 17.5 ounces, 2 cups) natural yogurt

300g (2-3 medium, 1 cup blended) bananas, frozen or fresh

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tablespoon- 3 tablespoons honey or maple syrup

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 Method:

Blend the bananas with the honey, vanilla and cinnamon until completely pureed. Slowly add in the yogurt, blending until smooth. Allow the mixture to cool in the fridge for as long as possible. Overnight is ideal. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to instructions.

For no ice cream maker, never fear! Pour the mixture straight into the tub and put in the freezer. Every 30 minutes or so, take out and stir completely with a fork, breaking up any clumps. Do this until completely frozen. You can also do this by blending it a few times during the freezing process. For instant ice cream love, you can freeze it until just solid and eat it when it’s still creamy. 

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