I have this favourite carrot cake recipe which is full of glacé fruit and spices and all sorts of goodies. And then I have the Green Kitchen cookbook, which has a carrot cake recipe which is sugar-free and full of spices and even more fruit and all sorts of other goodies. I couldn’t decide which to make for (yet another) birthday party, so I decided to cross them and make them both at once.
A sensible person would probably have decided to do this by averaging the two recipes out somehow. Not me. I added the spices together to make it *extra* spicy (nobody ever puts enough spice in carrot cake), and then gleefully decided that if one recipe had dates and glacé fruit and raisins and pineapple and the other one had dates and banana, we should definitely have all of those things. The recipe narrowly escaped having hazelnut meal in it, too, even though I don’t like hazelnuts, just because there was an open packet sitting there, looking inviting.
Then, having filled the cake with glacé fruit and ginger, I virtuously turned around and made the batter sugar-free. Because that makes sense. I spent quite a lot of the cooking process, in fact, giggling and throwing up my hands, exclaiming “I have no idea what I’m making!”. This amused Andrew no end, which is probably why we are still married, because it’s an intrinsic part of my cooking process and I suspect it could get quite annoying…
My favourite bit in the whole process was the part where I looked at my date-banana-maple-syrup-oil-pineapple-spice-flour-egg mixture and realised I had created a really nice banana cake batter, to which I was about to add a world of carrots and fruit, potentially wrecking the consistency entirely. So this, O my readers, is an extra special recipe – it came from two cakes and it produces two cakes! You can stop the recipe halfway and make a virtuous and sugar-free banana cake, or you can continue the merry madness and have Carrot Everything Cake! The choice is yours.
Your Shopping List (which can basically be summarised as ‘all the edible things’)12 fresh dates 3 ripe bananas (no need for them to be over-ripe, but if that’s what you’ve got, that’s fine too) 4 tinned pineapple rings 1/2 cup canola oil, or any other not terribly strongly-flavoured cooking oil 1/2 cup maple syrup 3 eggs 3 tsp vanilla 3 cups plain flour 2 tsp bicarb of soda 1/2 tsp baking powder 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon 1 tsp ground nutmeg 1 tsp ground cardamom 1 tsp mixed spice (I used the Gewürzhaus Apple Cake Spice mix, which is just heavenly) NB: stop here if all you want is banana cake 4 carrots 300 g mixed glacé fruit, such as apricots, peaches, pineapple, pear, orange, or really anything but ginger or cherries 75 g glacé ginger 125 g raisins For the icing 400 g cream cheese (half full-fat and half light makes your life easier, and also provides a modicum of virtue to the situation), or use a dairy-free mock-cream cheese such as tofutti 100 g honey zest of 1 small lemon; juice of half a lemon
Now what will you do with it?
Seriously, collecting everything is the hard part of this recipe. That, and greasing the tin. For the carrot cake version of this recipe, you will want a bundt tin, which you will need to grease with butter or non-dairy margarine and then dust with flour. This is quite fun, if a little time-consuming – you basically smear butter over the inside of the tin, dump in a couple of spoonfuls of flour, and then shake the tin around until everything has a fine white floury coating. Turn the tin upside-down and tip the rest of the flour into the sink. Done.
If you are doing a banana cake, I would think one large or two small loaf tins lined with baking paper would do the trick here.
Preheat the oven to 180°C, and get on with the recipe.
Get the dates stoned and the bananas naked. Or, as one might say, stone the dates, and remove the bananas from their skins.
(Nope, no idea where that came from. I’m pretty tired, though, which might be part of the problem.)
Anyway. Put the dates, bananas, pineapple slices, canola oil, maple syrup and vanilla in a food processor or blender and process until puréed. Your food processor may leap for joy (or jump about, at any rate) when you do this, so hold onto it. Softer, fresher dates process rather better here, though it’s a bit late to tell you that now, isn’t it?
Add the eggs, and spin everything a bit longer to incorporate them.
In another, very large, bowl, mix together the flour, bicarb of soda, baking powder and spices.
If you are making carrot cake, peel and coarsely grate the carrots and put them in another bowl. Chop up the glacé fruit, and finely chop the glacé ginger, and add them to the carrots along with the raisins.
Scrape your wet, bananaish (bananana – da DAAA, da-da-da!) (sorry, muppet moment) (this cake is not, actually, very much like a muppet) mix out of the processor into the bowl with the flour and spices, and mix everything together until you have a lovely, smooth cake batter. You can either scrape this into your loaf tins and bake everything for 45 minutes or so, until done, or you can continue with the kitchen sink carrot cake.
If you chose option B, stir your carrots and fruit into the batter, mixing well, then scrape the whole lot into the Bundt tin. It will fit without erupting in the oven – just.
Bake this version of the cake for around 70-80 minutes or until it passes the skewer test and is coming away from the sides a little. You may want to turn the oven down after an hour or so if it’s getting too dark on top. Let it cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before turning onto a rack to cool. It should come out quite easily at this point, if you did your butter and flour trick well.
Cool, and either serve as is, sprinkled with a little icing sugar, or spread with the cream cheese icing. Honestly, this cake is so full of moist, fruity wonderfulness that it hardly needs adornment. But the icing really is lovely, too.
Cream Cheese Icing
This is deliciously easy, especially if you use mostly low-fat cream cheese, which is very soft to begin with, and even more so if, in a moment of foresight and wisdom, you left your cream cheese out on the bench overnight. Zest your lemon into a bowl, and add the cream cheese. Beat it like crazy until it is fairly lump-free. Now add the lemon juice and honey (this is about three tablespoons of thick honey, incidentally), and beat like fury again.
Spread it all over the cake.
Yes, exactly like that.
And then you can decorate the cake with more glacé fruit, or leave it plain.
Eat, rejoicing in the moist, spicy fruitiness of the cake, the sweet honeyed citrus creaminess of the icing, and, if you are as fortunate as I am, in the glory of Melbourne in autumn. We really do have the most beautiful weather in the world, and I’m not just saying that because Melbourne always gives me glorious weather for my picnics…
What, two whole separate cakes out of one recipe and you want variations? Some people are never satisfied.
First, let me just say that I am itching to try this cake with beetroot instead of carrot. Though I’d probably grate it more finely. But really, if there is one thing better than kitchen-sink-fruity-wonder-cake, it would be PINK kitchen-sink-fruity-wonder-cake. Don’t you agree?
Second, this recipe is, of course, dairy-free unless you ice it injudiciously. It is also vegetarian and nut-free, and can be made with gluten-free flour mix. It has a few too many eggs to go the egg-free route easily, so I might leave that variation until I get weird with the beetroot. Also, I probably don’t even need to say this, but it’s practically constructed of fructose, so I wouldn’t even try to make this one fructose friendly. It would, however, work just fine with a gluten-free flour mix, so I say go for it!
Regarding the icing, this really would work with a tofu cream-cheese substitute if you are avoiding dairy, and I imagine you could replace the honey with agave if you had to, though this would be rather a pity, in my view. A simple drizzle of thin icing made from lemon juice and icing sugar would also work.
In terms of flavours, you can, of course, mess endlessly with the spices and replace as much of the glacé fruit and raisins as you like with other dried or glacé fruits or nuts. I’ve never understood why someone would spoil a perfectly good carrot cake by putting nuts in it, but I realise I am in the minority here.
Do you know what would be beautiful on this cake? If you were to spread just the top with cream cheese icing, and then to strew it with my Sydney Road Granola, making a pink and green crunchy-sweet wreath of goodness over the top. The only reason I’m not doing this right now is that half the people coming to this picnic won’t eat nuts if they know they are there (no, not allergies – I have better manners than that! – just people who will happily eat something made with almond meal but will turn up their noses at the sight of an actual almond), and this is a tad too much cake for four people to eat on their own…
Enjoy. This cake is seriously good. And it’s very nearly good for you, too!
This post has been submitted to Allergy-Friendly Lunchbox Love! Go have a visit, and see what other allergy-friendly goodies are out there this week.
This time last year…