Every once in a while, I get really hungry for carrot cake - usually in the fall. I hadn’t made one in at least a couple of years but a few weeks ago, I got a five pound bag of carrots at a really good price so started looking for ideas of things to make.
Now I didn’t have to find recipes as I love carrots and could easily go through a big bag like that in a few weeks as long as I keep them in the crisper of the fridge.
It just happened that I was hungry for carrot cake this time. It had been quite a while since I’d made one and I really didn’t recall what recipe I had used. I knew that once upon a time, I had regularly used a recipe from an old Five Roses cookbook. I’d also tried a few others over the years.
I decided to look on line and was shocked to realize the calorie count in the average slice of carrot cake is between 750 and 800 calories! That is 1/18 of the standard 9”X13” pan. Most of that comes from the 1 1/2 cups of oil in the cake and the 16 ounces or more of cream cheese and 2 1/2-3 cups of confectioners’ sugar in the icing! Yikes!! That is crazy! I knew there had to be better alternatives out there! And there are!
I found some that sounded pretty good on line but the one that I chose to play with is called Must Bake Carrot Cake on page 155 of "Crazy Plates" by Janet and Greta Podleski. Their version makes 24 servings at 235 calories/slice.
I’ve tried this one before and it was very good but this time I decided to “tweak” it and make it MY way! Now, I don’t know how to calculate calories in a recipe, but even with all the changes I made and cutting the cake into 18 rather than 24 pieces, there is NO WAY that my version would come close to the 750-800 calories of most other cakes.
Here’s what I did: I used a combination of all purpose and whole wheat flour. I’ve never been a fan of walnuts so substituted almonds. I also added raisins and .... drum roll please ..... chocolate chips! (That really shouldn’t surprise anyone who actually knows me!) Instead of their Cheater Icing, I used a variation of an old family favorite for icing cakes. My mom got the recipe for this icing from the old Winnipeg Tribune newspaper sometime during the 1950’s and we’ve all loved it ever since! I think the original name of it was “New Type Frosting”. To top of the cake I toasted some more almonds to sprinkle on top.
The only other thing I did was to make it in two 8 inch square pans rather than the 9”X13” pan. Generally, I tend to find that the center always takes too long to bake thoroughly using the bigger pan. By doing it in two pans, it also spreads the cake more evenly and you get a more even consistency in texture.
Well I took pieces of my carrot cake to several friends and all thought it was one of the most sinful carrot cakes they had ever tried! I had left a piece with a friend (at their office) who said they would take it home to have that evening. I got an email from my friend about 5:30 that afternoon called “Oh, my God”. The message was: “I convinced myself I'd have just a little bite of cake before heading home. It is so GOOD. I've just about finished the whole damn piece.”
So, mine isn’t completely guilt free, but I believe that you’ll love this lower cal version as much as my friends and I did!
dn's Carrot Cake
• 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
• 2 teaspoons cinnamon
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
• 1 cup drained, crushed pineapple*
• 3/4 cup fat-free egg substitute, or 3 whole eggs
• 3/4 cup buttermilk**
• 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
• 1/3 cup vegetable oil
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 3 cups grated carrots
• 1/2 cup chopped almonds
• 1/2 cup raisins
• 1 1/2 cups mini dark chocolate chips
• 2 1/2 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
• 1/2 cup milk
• 1/2 cup white sugar
• 1/2 cup block margarine, softened
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
• 2 teaspoons freshly grated orange peel
• 2/3 cup chopped, toasted almonds for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray two 8 inch square baking pans with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine flours, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, combine the almonds, raisins and chips with about 1 Tablespoon of the flour mixture and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar, pineapple, egg substitute, buttermilk, applesauce, oil and vanilla. Stir in grated carrots. Add flour mixture to carrot mixture and stir until well blended. Stir in almonds, raisins and chips.
Divide batter evenly into prepared pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Set pan on a wire rack and cool cake completely before icing.
Before turning off the oven, place the 2/3 cup chopped almonds in a single layer on an oven safe dish. Toast in oven for about 4-5 minutes or till nicely browned. Stir every couple of minutes to avoid burning. Set dish on wire rack to cool completely.
While cake is cooling, prepare icing. In a small pan combine the flour and milk till smooth. Stirring constantly, cook over medium low heat until a very thick paste is formed. Remove from heat and transfer paste to a small glass dish. Cover with saran or a plate and allow to cool completely – at least 20 minutes.
Combine the margarine, sugar and salt with an electric mixer until well mixed. Add in the vanilla, almond extract and orange peel then mix thoroughly. Add in the cooled paste and then beat on medium high speed until very light and fluffy. (This takes about 10-15 minutes on about level 5 or 6 of a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer.)
Divide icing over the two cooled cakes and spread evenly. Garnish with the toasted almonds.
Chill cake until serving. Makes 18 servings (9 per pan). Cover leftovers with saran and store in fridge.
* A 540ml/19ounce can of crushed pineapple will yield about 1 cup after you drain it well. Empty the can into a strainer, and press down on the pineapple to remove the juice. (Save the juice for drinking!)
** To make buttermilk, place 2 1/4 teaspoons lemon juice in a 1 cup measure then add enough milk to make 3/4 cup. Stir to mix then let stand 5 minutes before adding to recipe.