Recipe makeover: Birthday 4-Layer Carrot CakeJuly 9, 2012
On my son’s first birthday I had a goal to bake a cake with zero processed sugar or white flour. And I did! Success all the way around.
But my husband…he’s used to sweeter treats on his birthday. And he loves carrot cake.
Ok. I can work with that!
I started with a really solid recipe from this excellent cookbook and gave it a makeover to be…ok, not exactly health food, but a damn good improvement on typical cake ingredients. More real food, less processed garbage. And it got rave reviews! I’ve posted the recipe at the bottom of this post, but here’s how I changed the original (and some ideas for how you might tweak a cake recipe to be closer to real, whole food without giving up flavor or texture…in fact I think it made it better):
All purpose flour
I used unbleached white flour, subbing 1/5th for whole wheat pastry flour.
I used Sucanat instead. Brown sugar is white sugar with a bit of molasses added back in. Sucanat is what you have before the molasses is removed in the first place! It’s a less-processed, slightly more gentle sweetener.
Once again, I subbed Sucanat. After all, a molasses flavor is perfect for carrot cake.
Mine come from local, pastured chickens!
Vegetable oil (usually a blend of soy, canola or corn) is a cheap product of the industrialized food system. It goes through extensive mechanical and chemical processing – nothing you could replicate in the average kitchen (read: not real food). And of course, genetically modified soy, canola and corn is never a great idea. I prefer more naturally-occurring oils and so I substituted unrefined coconut oil. Melted, it works perfectly – and a coconut flavor lends itself well to carrot cake!
Cream cheese and sour cream
Well…for frosting I decided this was the best bet. But you don’t need so much. I used 25% less than the recipe called for.
Finely ground celtic sea salt, baby!
Plus…I added 2 Tbl. of ground flaxseed. Just to add a little fiber goodness. Again, this works because carrot cake is already very textural – the flaxseed was totally unnoticeable.
Birthday 4-Layer Carrot Cake
2 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups Sucanat
1 1/2 cups melted coconut oil
1 lb. carrots, scrubbed and grated (no need to peel)
3/4 cup raisins
2 cups pecans, chopped
16 oz. cream cheese, softened
10 Tbl. unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened
2 Tbl. sour cream
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
Grease 13×9″ baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Heat oven to 350F.
In a medium bowl, combine flours, spices, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir well.
Heat coconut oil until it just melts, it shouldn’t be warm to touch. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and Sucanat together. Then add oil and continue whisking, aiming to dissolve the Sucanat. (Careful, if the oil is too hot it will cook the eggs!) Whisk in the flour mixture. Stir in the carrots and raisins.
Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake 40 minutes (rotate halfway through cooking) or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs.
Cool completely by setting pan on a wire rack (this will take a few hours). Cover the pan with a cookie sheet, then carefully flip the cake onto it.
You can leave the cake as-is and frost the top/cover with nuts, or follow these directions to make 4 layers:
Slice cake in half, so each piece is 6.5×9″. Then slice each piece into 2 layers by carefully standing it on its side and using slow forward-backward motion with a knife. Do not push down; let the weight of the knife gradually ease through the cake to create 2 equal sized layers. Stack like a sandwich, with a thin coating of frosting between layers, then frost the entire outside of the cake. Use your hands to press pecans into the frosting on the sides, covering any imperfections!
Beat cream cheese, butter, sour cream, vanilla and salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer for a few minutes or until smooth. Reduce mixer speed to low, slowly add confectioners’ sugar and beat until blended in. Finally, increase the speed and beat an additional 5 minutes to make the frosting more fluffy and light.
No, this is not low calorie. Yes, it is much closer to real food than the original recipe. No, don’t eat it every day. Yes, have a piece and celebrate a special occasion while everyone tells you how good your cake is!