A little while ago I was contacted by Sharpham Park about a 'no added sugar' cake competition they are running. I must say I was immediately intrigued. I have baked flourless cakes in the past. Dairy and egg free cakes, sure. But never a sugar-free cake. Challenge accepted!
Baking a cake without any sugar certainly presents some challenges. Apart from providing sweetness, sugar is one of the building blocks of most cake recipes. You can't, for example, produce a sponge cake without any sugar. But a carrot cake, hmmm, maybe.
This carrot cake contains no sugar and in fact very little other sweeteners - a mere 3 tablespoons of honey. The sweetness comes from the carrots, crushed pineapple and raisins instead. It is quite a dense cake, but one that improves a few days after it is baked, a bit like a fruitcake. The spelt flour adds a certain nuttiness that works well with the spices and walnuts.
If I thought a no sugar cake was a challenge it is NOTHING compared to a sugarless frosting. This is where things got tricky. I was determined to use a cream cheese frosting but this usually contains a lot of icing sugar. Replacing the sugar with honey and maple syrup seemed like a good idea but the line between a nice firm frosting and soup is a very fine one.
Here are some tips. Make sure the butter is perfectly soft (but not melting). Make sure the cream cheese is very cold and full fat. Blend those really, really, well and add the sweet stuff with care. If you want to increase the sweetness without compromising the frosting a honey syrup brushed on the cake layers would help.
And is it worth it? YES! The cake was a big hit, both at home and at work. Everyone came back for seconds, myself included.
For the frosting
2 large packages full fat cream cheese (total 500g or 16oz)
or a mix of full fat cream cheese and Mascarpone cheese
170g | 6oz unsalted butter, softened
80ml | 1/3 cup honey
80ml | 1/3 cup maple syrup
1-2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract (or paste)
- Beat the cream cheese and butter together for several minutes until completely smooth.
- Add the honey and vanilla extract and beat together. Slowly add the maple syrup keeping an eye on the texture of the frosting. You want the frosting to be able to hold soft peaks.
- You can keep adding more honey, very gradually, if you want to increase the sweetness but be careful the frosting doesn't become too runny. Chill for a couple of hours before filling and frosting the cake.
For the cake
Makes 2x23cm/9in layers or 3x20/8in layers
260g | 2 1/4 cups Sharpham Park White Spelt flour
100g | 1 cup dessicated (flaked) coconut
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
270ml | 1 cup + 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted (or vegetable oil)
3 large eggs
3 tsbp honey
200g | 2 packed cups grated carrot
226g | 1 8oz crushed pineapple, well drained
110g | 1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
140g | 1 cup raisins
Zest of 1 orange
Toasted coconut chips to decorate (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 180C | 350F. Grease and flour your cake tins (or spray with cake release).
- Combine the flour, baking powder/ soda, salt, spices and coconut in very large bowl and mix together to combine.
- Mix the oil and eggs in a measuring jug and pour into the flour. Mix together with a wooden spoon.
- Add the honey, carrot and pineapple and mix once more until all the ingredients are well combined and no dry pockets lurk anywhere.
- Add the raisins and walnuts and fold into the batter.
- Divide into your prepared cake tins and level. Bake for 35-40 minutes if you are making 3 layers and 45-55 if you are making two. The cakes are ready when firm on top and a skewer inserted into the centre of each comes out clean.
- Turn out of the tins carefully and cool on a wire rack.
- Layer the cake with a generous amount of frosting and give it a quick crumb coating. Chill for an hour and then add a final layer of frosting.