This naturally sweetened Healthy Carrot Cake contains no sugar but is packed with flavour! The sweetness comes from the carrots, crushed pineapple and raisins instead.
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Several years ago I was contacted by a flour brand about a ‘no added sugar’ cake competition they were 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 or sweeteners 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.
HEALTHY CARROT CAKE
This carrot cake contains no sugar or sweeteners just 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.
Naturally Sweetened Spelt Carrot Cake
For the cake
- 260 g (2 ¼ cups) white spelt flour (or AP flour/ plain flour)
- 100 g (1 cup) desiccated coconut
- 1 ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- 270 ml (1 cup + 2 tbsp) coconut oil, melted (or vegetable oil)
- 3 large eggs
- 3 tbsp honey (optional)
- 200 g (2 packed cups) grated carrot
- 226 g (8oz) crushed pineapple, drained
- 110 g (1 cup) walnuts, coarsely chopped
- 140 g (1 cup) raisins
- Zest of 1 orange
For the frosting
- 450 g (2 lbs) full fat cream cheese or mascarpone
- 170 g (¾ cup) unsalted butter , softened
- 60 ml (¼ cup) runny honey or as needed
- 60 ml (¼ cup) pure maple syrup or as needed
- 1-2 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (or paste)
- Toasted coconut chips to decorate (optional)
Make the cake
- Preheat the oven to 180C | 350F. Grease 2x23cm/9in or 3×20/8in cake pans and line with baking paper.
- 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.
Make the frosting
- 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.
Assemble the cake
- Sandwich the layers 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.