Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Vegan Carrot Cake with Cashew Cream Icing – Healthy AND Delicious!

This past weekend at our summer solstice party, I needed to make a dessert for 20 people so I decided to make a half sheet of carrot cake. A half sheet is 12 by 15 inches. It’s funny that everyone assumes carrot cake is healthy because it has a vegetable in it. But a typical carrot cake recipe (like the one in the Better Homes and Gardens “New Cook Book”) has 2 cups of sugar, an entire cup of oil and 4 eggs in a regular size cake. Their cream cheese frosting has another 2 cups of powdered sugar plus butter and cream cheese which is high in saturated fat. So when you see carrot cake on the menu in a restaurant, there’s a good chance it is not the healthiest choice for a dessert.

My goal this weekend was to develop a healthy carrot cake recipe that was whole grain, low in saturated fat, had no refined sugar or dairy and was delicious. I think I did it! This is a cake you can feel good about eating and serving to your family.

Here are some of the things I did to make a healthier carrot cake. You can try these ideas on your favorite cake recipes.

How to make your cake recipes healthier:
• Use unbleached white whole wheat flour instead of regular bleached refined white flour to get more fiber.
Use as many organic ingredients as possible.
Instead of butter, use olive oil and cut the amount in half, using applesauce for the other half.
Instead of refined sugar, use agave syrup, dates, crushed pineapple and stevia. These will reduce calories and lower the glycemic load (the measurement of food’s effect on blood sugar levels).
Replace eggs with Ener G egg replacer. This lowers calories, saturated fat and the cholesterol content of your recipe. You can replace all the eggs or just some of them.
Replace butter and sugar icings with raw nut creams sweetened with dates and stevia. A little coconut butter will stiffen the icing.
When walnuts are called for, use “raw” walnuts to help preserve their high omega 3 content.


Vegan Carrot Cake with Cashew Cream Icing [makes a one inch half sheet cake- or a thicker 9”x13” cake]

For the cake:
3 cups organic white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/3 teaspoon nutmeg
3 cups grated organic carrots
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened, organic applesauce
1 cup agave syrup
3 tablespoons Ener G egg replacer
3/4 cups warm filtered water
One 8 oz can unsweetened crushed pineapple drained (save 2 tablespoons of the juice)
3/4 cups raw organic walnuts, chopped

For the raw cashew cream icing [covers a half sheet cake and sides or cut recipe in half to ice only the top of a 9”x13”pan]

1 pound raw organic cashews, soaked overnight
1 cup filtered water
5 Medjool dates (soaked 1 hour)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon Himalayan or sea salt
1/4 cup raw coconut butter
10 drops liquid Stevia sweetener (optional or to taste)

Clear out a space in your refrigerator for half a sheet cake. To make the cake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a sheet cake pan with wax paper going up two sides with a continuous sheet. The other two sides can just be greased with olive oil or Earth Balance vegetable shortening. You can spray a little olive oil Pam on the wax paper to make sure the wax paper comes off of the cake easily. You will need thick cardboard the size of the sheet cake pan (covered with paper or aluminum foil) to turn the cake on after it cools. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add carrots and with a hand mixer, blend well to coat the grated carrots and remove any lumps. Mix Ener G egg replacer with 3/4 cups of warm water blending thoroughly. Add this to the mixing bowl along with oil, applesauce, agave syrup, crushed pineapple and 2 tablespoons of the saved pineapple juice. Mix well, and then stir in the chopped walnuts. Spoon into the sheet cake pan and spread out so it’s even in thickness. This cake is NOT very thick so don’t be alarmed. Bake for 25 minutes and check for doneness with a tooth pick which should come out clean when done. Let the cake cool in the pan for at least an hour. When it’s completely cooled, carefully flip it over on a large piece of heavy cardboard covered with aluminum foil or decorative paper. The cake is now ready to ice.
For the icing, rinse the soaked cashews. Put the cashews and all icing ingredients in a Vita Mix blender except for the Stevia. Blend until smooth. You will have to continually stop the blender and push down the mixture. Take your time and don’t overheat your blender. When the icing is completely smooth, taste for sweetness. If needed, you may add around 10 drops of stevia to further sweeten your icing. Remove icing from the blender and put in the refrigerator for 15 to 30 minutes until it hardens a bit. Ice the top and sides of the sheet cake and refrigerate until ready to serve. Cut the sheet cake into thirty 2”x3” pieces by cutting the 12” side into six 2” slices and the 15” side into five 3” slices.

Per serving: 245 calories, 14 g fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 0 g cholesterol, 4.9 g protein, 27.1 g carbohydrates and 2.7 g of fiber.

To make a thicker and smaller version of the cake, prepare the entire cake recipe and pour into a lightly greased 9”x13” pan. Do not use wax paper as you will be serving the cake in the pan. You may need to cook it a bit longer than the sheet cake but test it after 30 minutes. When it’s done, cool completely. Make only half the icing recipe, leave the cake in the pan and just ice the top. Cut into twenty 2 ½” x 2 ¼” servings (5 by 4).

Per serving: 285 calories, 14.8 g fat, 3.1 g saturated fat, 0 g cholesterol, 5.3 g protein, 34.8 g carbohydrates and 3.4 g of fiber.

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