A Low(ish) Fat Carrot Cake

Once upon a time, a long while ago when it was still considered recherche to put vegetables into cakes, carrot cake was thought to be the cure-all, healthy version of cake. It has a vegetable in it, so that must cancel out all of that fat and sugar, right?
As a vegetable-queasy vegetarian, my Mum thought that Carrot Cake was the answer to her prayers. It was one way that I actually enjoyed eating carrots and she thought that perhaps it might help my increasingly bad eyesight too. Suffice to say, I wasn't complaining, I even went to so far as to bake a Carrot Cake for my Home Economics class end of term exam, such was my love for this cake. I can't remember how I scored on that exam but I do know that I chose Art Design over Home Economics despite having zero artistic skill. Perhaps it had something to do with the cookery teachers, one a 4 foot tall death troll and the other a 6 foot tall Ilsa-esque, Teutonic death-bot. I might be exaggerating slightly. I think she may have been 5'11".
I doubt that my over-inflated reminiscences of Home Economy class being a concentration-like hell had anything at all to do with the fact that I consistently set things alight, not being at all used to gas hobs. Fortunately, the sinks were next to the gas flames as is the sensible order of things in a school lab/kitchen.

But enough of my Tom Brown’s Schooldays type reminisces. Back to Carrot Cake.
Asides from making people feel less guilty about consuming cake, now that the shock value of eating of a cake with carrots in it has long since passed, what are we left with? Simply a moist, spicy cake that lasts exceptionally well in the cake tin and is a snap to make (aside from the utter tedium of grating the carrots, that is). If there could be one way to improve this rich, tender crumbed cake, what would it be? Of course, a Carrot Cake that really is lower in fat. Enter the Healthy-ish Carrot Cake. I say healthy-ish because you control certain elements of it. You can add some tinned pineapple for a tropical hit or you can use fresh pineapple, if you feel that the benefits of tinned fruits are nothing to write home about. You can use a non-fat icing by simply combining Icing/Confectioners sugar with some lemon juice until a thick, glossy, spreadable icing is achieved. Sure you’re still eating sugar but at least you’re in control. Plus, there isn’t much sugar at all in the cake and what sugar there is unrefined Muscovado which gives a richer flavour. The butter element is replaced with vegetable oil and for additional sweetness we have golden sultanas. And of course, the carrots themselves are naturally sweet and generously exude this sweetness during the baking process.
For added interest, you could also add some desiccated coconut or chopped walnuts or pumpkin seeds but I think that too many accessories detract from the natural beauty of the carrot cake.
I couldn’t entirely forgo the butter element though, and slathered mine with a rich cream cheese icing. After all, it’s the icing that makes a carrot cake as far as I’m concerned. Low fat cream cheese works well though – shame there’s no such thing as low fat butter! As an alternative, I have mixed cream cheese with icing sugar and a spritz of lime juice and this works just as well, although it doesn’t set as firmly. Either way, I can eat the icing straight from the bowl and to hell with the cake!
So, here’s the recipe for this Low(ish) Fat Carrot Cake:

(recipe adapted from Sue Lawrence's Book of Baking)Ingredients:
150g Plain Flour
150ml Vegetable Oil
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
3 Large Eggs
150g Light Muscovado Sugar
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
Grating Nutmeg
Pinch of Mixed Spice
250g Carrots (unpeeled weight), topped, tailed and grated
100g Golden (or regular) Sultanas
Preheat Oven to 180c. Line or grease and flour a 7" Cake Tin (square or round).
Whisk together the sugar and oil and well mixed. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well.
Sieve together the flour, spices, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder, then fold into the batter.Mix in the grated carrot and sultanas until thoroughly amalgamated. Pour into your prepared baking tin and bake for 40 minutes or a skewer comes out clean.
Leave to cool for five minutes in the tin, then turn out onto a cooling rack. Leave to cool completely before icing.
Icing 1 - The Healthy Option
100g Icing Sugar (preferably golden), sieved
Tablespoon or so of Fresh Lemon Juice
Sieve the icing sugar into a large bowl and add the lemon juice, beating until smooth. Spread over the cooled cake. Decorate with walnut halves if feeling artistic.

Icing 2 - The Unhealthy Option
50g Cream Cheese (use low fat if you want)
50g Butter, softened (otherwise you'll end up with the slightly unattractive 'curd' like appearance that mine got through being impatient)
100g Icing Sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Beat in the vanilla extract, then sieve the icing sugar into the mixture and beat until smooth and lump free. Spread over the cake.


Cheryl said...

I love a good carrot cake and a low fat one is something that really appeals to me lately. This looks really good.

Janet said...

mmm, I adore carrot cake with cream cheese icing. I made one for my daugher's first birthday cake. It was funny because that was WAY back before I became a lazy parent, and I never gave my daughter ANY sugar for the first year of her life. So when she tasted the cake, she started to giggle, then eat it faster, and faster, then she started to hyperventilate....we have it on video...

Culinary Cowgirl said...

Lovely...I think I would have to opt for the unhealthy option on the icing...there's just something about cream cheese icing on carrot cake.

Sylvia said...

I love carrot cake ,and low fat ....,better !!!!I like the icing ,but the unhealthy option ... ;)

Deborah said...

Hmmm, I have to say that a carrot cake is not a carrot cake without cream cheese frosting, so I would be going for that!!!

Kristen said...

Mmmm...I love carrot cake with a nice thick layer of cream cheese frosting! Nice to have options though if I were feeling the need to be good.

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

I can never decide which is my favourite cake - carrot or coffee?
I think carrot just about wins and definitely with the unhealthy icing.

Kelly-Jane said...

You are right the icing makes it! Lovely cake :)

Cynthia said...

I've never had carrot cake. Never felt the urge or the inclination but yours makes me wanna try it :)

Nora B. said...

Freya, I am trying this TONIGHT. Need I say more? Oh, and thank you!!!

Saffron said...

Carrot cake is one of my favourite during the summer!
My granny used to make "tortine" with carrot! Delicious!

wheresmymind said...

awww..what sorta punk rocker cooks low fat??? :P

lynn said...

Yummy! Of course I'd opt for the cream cheese.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

My boys have often requested carrot cake for birthdays! I love them and the lower fat is really excellent.

Acme Instant Food said...

I'm one of those people who vasciliates between, "Oh it's cake for God's sake, it's meant to be made with sugar and fat!" to, "Cool, a low fat version!" It sucks being a Gemini. I like the sound of this thought and you may have twisted my arm just hard enough to try it! Thanks for the post.

gilly said...

Yes, I have to concur with the others, the icing really does make a carrot cake! This sounds lovely!

Passionate Eater said...

I love all of your healthy tips on carrot cake! And I agree, there is something about carrot cake that makes it less sinful feeling. I will definitely put your low-fat twist on icing to good use! Thanks Freya and Paul!

valentinA said...

Aww, you remind me of the last time I had carrot cake. which was.... 2years ago... Oh gosh, yours does look so yummy...

Nora B. said...

Freya, I made the cake with some adaptations (I can never seem to follow recipes!) and will post it soon. Thanks again for the recipe.

Sophie said...

Mmmm, much as I normally like the healthy option I alway go for the cream cheese frosting option with carrot cake! Looks lovely.