Sugar-Free Carrot Cake

Sugar-Free Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

When I saw the daily newsletter drop into my inbox with the subject “Sugar-Free Carrot Cake”, my fingers leapt at the mouse and clicked. I read the commentary too quickly, or perhaps I should stop speed-reading because at my age nothing should be done at or with speed. As in accelerated motion, I hasten to add. The second sentence read (and I paraphrase) “If you like a delicate crumb, you’ll want to pass on this one. It’s dense, rich, rustic….” etcetera. The original commentary also notes a splash of maple syrup, which in my opinion isn’t 3 tablespoons; the icing is too drizzly for my liking. The only sweeteners are dates and bananas in the cake, and I must say that it seems brilliantly sufficient for the task. It’s sweet but not overly so. It is also described as a collision between a dense banana bread and a traditional carrot cake. To that I say – if there was any collision involved, there’d be fatalities because this sucker is dense and heavy. It’s a sumo wrestler.

The recipe sets the oven timing at 50-60 minutes if baked in a loaf pan. I baked it in an 8×8 cake pan, which the recipe suggested would take “less time”, not how much less – just less. I first poked the cake with a toothpick at 35 minutes, and it wasn’t done. Fair enough. I did it again at 40, 45, 50, 55, 60 and 65 minutes. Each time the toothpick came out of the cake with bits stuck on it. My patience was growing thin. I feared that my cake might be perforated like a lace doily. How long is long enough? When only 5 bits stick rather than 7 on the toothpick? When the cake pulls away from the side of the pan but there’s still bits stuck on the toothpick? When it sparks and bursts into flames? The toothpick test is a useless exercise for this cake. I reckon I’ll just keep an eye on it next time, and just before it starts smoking I’ll consider it ‘done’. If there is a next time.

Come to think about it, looking again at the ingredients list I should have realised that this was going to be a heavy-duty cake. First of all, there’s a lot of butter in this recipe. And is all that yogurt really necessary? Maybe 1/2 that amount is sufficient. I think it could’ve done with another carrot; three isn’t enough. If I’d used self-rising flour, would the crumb be lighter, or is the baking powder doing the same thing?

My other complaint is that it uses far too many bowls. And no, I’m being just plain ol’ silly now. I made this cake precisely as written, and I suspect that person didn’t have to clean-up afterwards — probably just cook and dictate the method to another person taking notes. As you’ll see from the photo of my dishwasher, that’s a ridiculous amount of dirty dishes for one flippin’ cake.

And I’m so unsure of this cake’s texture, weight, digestibility and flavour that it’s not a given that my husband will even see or taste it. My son tasted it, said it was good, but then he eats anything. Except mustard.

So here’s the ingredients list as written up by Heidi Swanson at 101 Cookbooks. It’s an American recipe using cups and ounces. Heidi also says whole wheat pastry flour can be substituted for all-purpose (plain in the UK) flour, which I did. I have no idea what pastry flour is.

Sugar-Free Carrot Cake

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
4 ounces unsalted butter, heated until just melted
1/2 cup dried dates, seeded and finely chopped into a paste
3 ripe bananas (1 1/4 cups), mashed well
1 1/2 cups grated carrots (about 3 medium)
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (2% or low-fat is ok)
2 eggs, lightly whisked
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3 tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup (or to taste)

And here’s how I did it, converting American measure to metric where possible:

Sugar-Free Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing


300g plain flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg + a pinch of a cinnamon (hubby hates cinnamon)
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
115g finely chopped walnuts (shops were out, so I used hazelnuts)
110g unsalted butter, heated until just starting to melted
200g dried Medjool dates, seeded and finely chopped into a paste
3 ripe bananas, mashed well
1 inch chunk fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 1/2 cups grated carrots (about 3 medium)
1/2 cup plain natural yogurt (2% or low-fat is ok)
2 eggs, lightly whisked
170g cream cheese, room temperature
3 tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Grease a 9x5x3/8-cup loaf pan or 8×8 cake pan, and then line it with parchment paper.

Sift together in a bowl the flour, baking powder, nutmeg/cinnamon, and salt. Mix in the chopped nuts and set the bowl aside. Now melt the butter in a heat-proof bowl, and then stir the dates into the melted butter, separating them if needed. In a bowl large enough to hold all of the ingredients, mix together the bananas and carrots, and then stir in the dates and butter, separating any dates stuck together. Lightly beat the eggs, and then whisk in the yogurt, and add to the carrot mixture bowl. Using a large spoon, gradually add the flour mixture to the carrot mixture, stirring until it’s all combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for approx 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean in the centre of the cake – if you’re using a 8×8 cake pan, less baking time is required. When done, remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Then invert the cake on to a plate so that it can continue to cool.

To make the icing: whip together the cream cheese and the maple syrup. Taste, and adjust sweetness if needed. Ice the cake when it’s completely cool.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. drfugawe says:

    OK, so it’s a fruitcake – an American fruitcake – where nobody likes fruitcake! Well, that’s not true, 1% of the population likes fruitcake. I’m joshing, Misk – you know that, right?

    Hey, who says cakes have to be light and airy? What about cheesecake? Or flourless cake? Or ice cream cake? (somebody stop me, please.) Actually, I’ve never had a light and airy carrot cake, and I don’t remember not liking them all. Did you know that you can sub grated zucchini (sans seeds) for carrot in any carrot cake? Also delicious.

    BTW, I’m currently saving all my ripe bananas so I can make this fantastic one again – Admittedly, that banana cake is probably the world’s richest banana cake, so why shouldn’t it be good. Were I to make it again, I’d cut the sugar even further than I did in my last adaption – although I’m sure that my reduction of sugar was one cause of the somewhat dense texture – but I’d also admit, it was still the best banana cake I’ve ever tasted.

    As soon as I come across a delicious sugar free banana cake, I’ll be sure to let you know.

  2. Misk Cooks says:

    Gram’s cake is a beauty! Good article that you posted, too. Hubby couldn’t stomach this cake. He said it’s just like all the other store-bought sugar-free cakes, and he’s not keen on those either. I really did think that this one might be different. Hey-ho.

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