A carrot cake traybake that isn’t loaded with refined sugar
This bake for the new year promises the familiar flavours of a cake we all know and love
Carrot cake traybake. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography
Come the new year, many of us are trying to get over the Christmas slump, to dust off the cobwebs from those few weeks spent filling our bellies with glorious food. January brings a promise of a fresh start, with many of us opting to cut back a little on the food front and electing to go for healthier and less energy-dense choices.
I am most definitely one of those people who encourages a healthy relationship with food; one that doesn’t condemn any particular types of food in the diet. But I am in my second year of a master’s degree in nutrition and have come to learn about the particular effects on the body that are associated with eating sugar. This bake promises to deliver the familiar flavours and textures of a cake we all know and love, without loading it with refined sugar.
All types of sugar are sugar, so there is none that is healthier than another. However, certain sugar substitutes such as honey, maple syrup and date syrups come with added health benefits and nutrients, which make them more of an attractive alternative in some recipes.
Carrot cake is my mother’s favourite and this recipe is a lovely bake, laden with raisins and walnuts, spiked with warm soothing spices and topped with a smooth cream cheese and yoghurt frosting.
I use full fat cream cheese here, as lower fat varieties are usually higher in sugars and other additives. However the yoghurt adds a lightness and cuts through the richness by adding a lovely acidic tang. The zest and juice of an orange pump up the flavour, which marries so well with carrot cake. The raisins add sweetness, and the walnuts add texture, but if you prefer a traditional carrot cake feel free to leave these out.
I have used maple syrup to sweeten here as it has all the markers of a better sugar alternative. Try to source 100 per cent maple syrup if you can.
CARROT CAKE TRAYBAKE Serves 12
For the carrot cake:
150g self raising flour
1¼ tbsp mixed spice
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g ground almonds
½ tsp vanilla extract
100ml sunflower oil
150ml maple syrup
300g carrots, grated
For the cream cheese frosting:
400g cream cheese
100g natural yoghurt
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 Preheat the oven to 180 degrees or 160 degrees if using a fan oven. Grease and line a 23 x 23cm square cake tin or baking tray with parchment paper, leaving a little paper hanging over the sides.
2 Sieve the self raising flour, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda together in a large bowl.
3 Add the ground almonds and raisins and mix well to combine. Roughly chop the walnuts and add to the bowl. Set aside.
4 In a large bowl or jug, crack in the eggs, add the sunflower oil, maple syrup, milk and vanilla extract and whisk well to combine.
5 Grate the carrots into the bowl with the wet ingredients and stir well.
6 Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir well with a large metal or wooden spoon until everything is completely combined.
7 Pour the cake mix into the prepared tray and bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
8 Remove the traybake from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, before removing from the tin and placing on a wire rack to cool completely.
9 Put the cream cheese into a large bowl and beat well until smooth. Add the yoghurt and maple syrup and mix well.
10 Grate in the zest of the orange and add the juice of half. Mix well and taste. If you like a little more citrus flavour, add the juice of the remaining half orange. Chill the frosting until ready to ice.
11 Roughly chop the walnuts and set aside until ready to assemble.
12 Place the carrot cake traybake on a serving plate and spread the cream cheese frosting on top. Sprinkle the reserved walnuts on top and slice into 12 squares to serve.