I set my sights on carrot cake this week. I suspect you've never made a carrot cake in this way before, and I'm here to encourage you to give it a go. Well, maybe. If you like your carrot cake delicate with a defined crumb, you'll actually want to pass on this one. This is an entirely different beast. It is dense, rich, rustic, walnut-studded, and carrot-flecked. Like many carrot cakes, it's best slathered generously with cream cheese frosting. The real catch is this - the cake is sweetened with dates and ripe bananas. It doesn't need any added sugar beyond that. For the frosting I whip cream cheese with a splash of maple syrup or agave nectar, but nothing beyond that either. Imagine a traditional carrot cake colliding with your favorite banana bread, and you'll have an idea of where this recipe will take you.
Aside from exploring dates and bananas as the primary sweeteners in this cake, I tried to keep the rest simple. I kept the spices to a minimum and aside from the walnuts resisted the urge to add any of the other ingredients that commonly show up in carrot cakes - coconut, crushed pineapple, ginger, nutmeg, etc, etc. If you like the cake I'd certainly suggest playing around with different add-ins of your own in future versions.
Carrot Cake Recipe
If you have a hard time finding whole wheat pastry flour, feel free to substitute unbleached all-purpose flour. Reader Nicole mentions that she made a wheat-free version with good results - substituting one cup oat flour and one cup gluten-free baking mix. Thanks Nicole!
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 lowfat is ok)
2 eggs, lightly whisked
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3 tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup (or to taste)
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9x5x3 / 8-cup loaf pan (or 8x8 cake pan) and line it with parchment paper.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the walnuts and set aside.
Stir the dates into the melted butter, breaking up the dates a bit.
In a separate bowl combine the bananas and carrots. Stir in the date-butter mixture, breaking up any date clumps as you go. Whisk in the yogurt and the eggs. Add the flour mixture and stir until everything just comes together. Spoon into the prepared pan. Bake for about 50 - 60 minutes or until a toothpick tests clean in the center of the cake - it'll be less if you are using a standard cake pan. Remove from oven and let cool.
While the cake is baking whip together the cream cheese and agave nectar. Taste. If you like your frosting sweeter adjust to your liking. When the cake has completely cooled frost the top of the cake with an offset spatula.
Makes one carrot cake.