When I was a kid, the concept of carrot cake disturbed me. What kind of villain would put CARROTS (gak) in CAKE? Little did I know I’d grow up to be one of those villains. I gave it a try, and it turns out adult me finds carrot cake irresistible – moist and tender, fragrant with spice, and possibly the perfect conduit for cream cheese frosting. However, adult me also pays attention to nutrition, and finds most carrot cake recipes too high in fat, sugar and calories to seriously consider making. I don’t want to live in a world where I can’t spout cliches about having my carrot cake and eating it, too, so I’ve come up with my own recipe. It’s low fat, free of refined sugar, nicely spicy and sparkling with sweet pineapple chunks. They’re some of the tastiest little carrot cakes I’ve had the pleasure of eating, and I hope you enjoy them, too.
Some historians say bakers have been adding sweet orange carrots to cakes since medieval times. Others assert that carrots as we know them today didn’t even exist until the 16th century, so there. To me, the larger question is: what made anyone want to try putting carrots in cake in the first place? Well, before Columbus got out there, making friends and influencing indigenous people, sugar was nonexistent in western Europe, and only became a common household commodity in the 1800′s. People then were as desperate to eat sweet, sweet cake as I am now, and carrots, which contain a fair amount of sugar for a veggie, sorta did the trick. Once sugar hit the everyday kitchen scene, carrot cake didn’t go away – we just added sugar to it. Skeptical carrot cake virgins might question why it didn’t disappear after sugar became widely available, but seasoned carrot cake lovers will tell you it’s because carrot tastes amazing in cake. Just ask Don Draper between drinks. His, of course.
Star Cake Of The Swinging ’60s
The first carrot cake recipe published in the US dates back to the ’20s. It was a popular cake, and through hard work and moxy, continued knocking around the dessert scene until after WWII. Then, like a malt shop ingenue, carrot cake was discovered in the ’50s, and became a big, tasty star on diner and lunch counter menus across the country. It was first enjoyed as a novelty, but soon people began to appreciate it as the first-class cake that it is. By the ’60s, carrot cake was fully on trend, and even sober housewives were losing control and stirring in things like walnuts, raisins, coconut and pineapple. And by golly, we’re going to stir some pineapple into ours, too. The natural sucrose in pineapple makes the cake more moist and tender, and its sweet, tropical flavor harmonizes perfectly with the carrots and spice. There was a method to their Mad Men-ness, and I know when to sit down and be schooled.
Confessions Of A Stevia Newbie
I was frisky this time and used stevia to sweeten instead of sucralose, which was a good experience. My tastebuds didn’t pick up any chemical aftertaste, which they sometimes do when I bake with sucralose, and there was sweetness to spare. The cakes were so soft, tender and moist that if I hadn’t baked them, I would have guessed they were made with sugar. Boo-yah! I used a brand called Stevia In The Raw, which is misleading; it’s not raw stevia at all, but a stevia/maltodexterin blend. The maltodexterin bulks up the stevia, so you can use it cup-for-cup to replace sugar in recipes. As I understand it, pure powdered or liquid stevia is usually added to recipes in very small doses, and you need to compensate for the missing bulk in your batter with other ingredients. I’ll try baking with pure stevia in the near future, but I’m pleased with the results I got using Stevia In The Raw. It also has the charm of convenience, as it’s available everywhere for pretty cheap.
Sugar Free Carrot Minicakes:
makes 18 hefty minicakes
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt or salt substitute
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon ginger (really)
1 large, ripe banana, mashed
3/4 cup lite soymilk/skim milk with 1 teaspoon white vinegar stirred in
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 cups Stevia In The Raw
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups shredded carrots (about 2 large or 3 small carrots)
1 cup unsweetened, crushed pineapple and juice (about 1/2 a regular can)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 18 muffin/cupcake tins by coating them lightly with nonstick spray or filling them with paper liners (use two liners per cake if you’re fancy).
Whisk together the flours, soda, salt, and spices in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer on low to stir together the egg, banana, milk mixture, oil, applesauce, stevia blend and vanilla. Add the flour mixture in three parts, stirring well with the mixer after each addition. Stir the shredded carrot and pineapple together, then fold them thoroughly into the batter.
Fill the tins with batter, leaving about 1/2″ of space at the top. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or when a toothpick inserted into the cakes comes out mostly clean. Let the cakes stand for about five minutes, then remove them to a rack to cool completely. Once they’re cool, give them a coat of the maple cream cheese frosting, or eat them nude. Delish either way.
Sugar Free Maple Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 8 oz. package fat free cream cheese, at room temperature
1 small package sugar free vanilla pudding mix
1/3 cup cold lite soymilk (or skim milk, if you must)
2 tablespoons sugar free maple syrup
1 tablespoon low-cal margarine spread
Combine the pudding mix and the milk in a small bowl and set it aside. Combine all the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl, and work them with an electric mixer until they’re well blended. Stir in the pudding mix combo, and beat everything with the mixer on medium speed for about a minute. Cover the bowl and leave it in the fridge until you’re ready to frost your minicakes.
|Stuff That Works (we know cause we use it!)|
silicone bundt pan
|9 in. springform||
silicone baking set