Following on from my last post – I’m bringing you the first recipe in my low-sugar treats series! I was originally going to post about the vegan chocolate ice cream today, but instead it’s ‘carrot’ cake. This is because, after I posted a picture of said cake on instagram yesterday, A BILLION PEOPLE commented asking for the recipe. It seemed like the ice cream could wait for a bit so I gave in and started editing the cake photos instead.
Carrot cake seems like a kind of obvious thing to turn into no-added-sugar recipe. Grated carrots were mixed into cake batter during the Second World War when sugar was rationed, as they have a natural sweetness to them. Quite often recipes will include raisins or even pineapple too, which add sweet pops of flavour throughout the cake. A generous spoonful of cinnamon and ginger takes it even further into the dessert realm.
Drawing from my experience of baking a few different types of carrot cake, I brought together different aspects to make the perfect cake. My mum likes to add coconut which is naturally sweet so in that went. My grandma’s recipe included canned pineapple – which I didn’t have – so I blended up some fresh mango instead. A usually overly sugary cream cheese frosting was replaced with a lemony cashew-coconut cream (as cashews are, in my opinion, quite sweet in flavour).
Now imagine my sadness, after cleverly coming up with all these tricks, when I looked in the fridge and couldn’t find any carrots. I was contemplating using grated courgette for a second, but I knew that wouldn’t be as sweet as carrots. I was thinking ‘what’s sweet that you can grate and add to cake?’. Then there was a magical moment of enlightenment: BUTTERNUT SQUASH. I coarsely grated a peeled section of squash, mixed it into the batter and hoped for the best. I wasn’t sure what would happen as butternut squash is kind of drier than carrot when grated, but it worked amazingly well!! So now you can try it yourself and make a not-carrot carrot cake 🙂 (I promise it tastes legit. It passed the dad taste-test)
– For the mango if you don’t have a blender: use 100g of mashed, very ripe banana OR unsweetened applesauce. If you use the banana you’ll be able to taste it in the cake, though.
– To make the cake vegan: use a flax egg (1 tbsp ground flaxseed + 3 tbsp water) instead of the egg
– If you don’t have mixed spice use: 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
– Coconut butter is the same as those solid creamed coconut bars you can buy in little cardboard boxes. It’s not, however, the same thing as coconut oil.
– If you don’t have a blender and are okay with eating dairy, use frosting option 2
- 100 g (1/2 cup cubed) ripe mango flesh (about 1/2 a mango) (see notes for if you don't have a blender)
- 1 egg, (see notes)
- 60 ml (1/4 cup) milk, any kind
- 2 tbsp olive oil or melted coconut oil
- 100 g (1 cup, packed) coarsely grated butternut squash or carrot
- 30 g (1/4 cup) unsweetened, shredded coconut
- 2 tsp mixed spice, (see notes)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 70 g (1/2 cup) buckwheat flour
- 50 g (1/2 cup) ground almonds
- 30 g (1/4 cup) currants, raisins or other dried fruit
Frosting option 1 - Cashew-Coconut Frosting (Vegan):
- 75 g (1/2 cup) cashews, soaked overnight in cold water OR in boiling water for 30 minutes
- 1/2 a medjool date
- 5 tbsp coconut butter, (not coconut oil) (see notes)
- pinch of salt
- zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- water, , for blending
Frosting option 2 - Lemon-Ricotta Frosting:
- 5 tbsp ricotta
- 3 tbsp cream cheese or Greek yogurt
- zest of 1/2 a lemon
- 1 tsp date paste, , 1 tsp of xylitol or 6 drops of stevia
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Lemon zest, , pecans, flaked coconut
For the cake:
- Grease an 8-inch cake tin and line with a circle of baking paper (seriously, make sure you line the tin!!!). Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F).
- In a blender, combine the mango, egg, milk and oil. Blitz until completely smooth then pour into a medium bowl. Stir the grated squash and coconut into this mixture.
- In a small bowl, stir together the mixed spice, baking powder, salt, buckwheat flour, ground almonds and currants. Pour these dry ingredients into the medium bowl and stir well to combine. Scrape the mixture into the cake tin, spreading it out evenly in the pan, and bake for 40 minutes. The top will look dry and dark golden. Run a dull knife around the edge of the cake and turn it out onto a wire rack. Remove the paper from the cake and leave to cool.
For frosting option 1:
- Drain the soaked cashews and place into a high-powered blender with the rest of the frosting ingredients except the water. Blitz, adding water as necessary (I used about 60ml/1/4 cup) until completely smooth and thick, scraping down the edges of the blender at intervals.
For frosting option 2:
- In a medium bowl, use a whisk to combine the ricotta and cream cheese/yogurt until it's as smooth as possible. Add the rest of the frosting ingredients and whisk until smooth.
- Transfer the cooled cake to a plate. Frost the surface with the frosting and decorate with lemon zest, crushed pecans and flaked coconut. Serve immediately or chill until serving.