No-added Sugar Carrot Cake Recipe
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Sugar Free Carrot Cake Recipe?
Many people search the internet for sugar-free carrot cake, which is actually impossible to make since carrots naturally contain a small quantity of sugar! However, it is possible to make a cake that contains no added refined sugar.
Our bodies do need some sugar for energy and convert starch into glucose, but we can get this from natural unrefined sources, and don't need refined sugars. Many sugar-free carrot recipes use artificial sweeteners instead, but all of these have potentially serious side effects and even some "natural" sweeteners such as Stevia or xylitol have been heavily processed.
I prefer foods as close to their natural state as possible, so this cake is sweetened with pureed dates. Date puree is easy to make and is high in fiber and nutrients so makes a great alternative to sugar. Although dates are sweet, several studies such as this one in the Nutrition Journal, suggest they are safe for diabetics.
Why Make a Sugar-Free Cake?
There is some evidence that excessive sugar consumption could contribute to high levels of unhealthy blood fats and lower levels of HDL (the good cholesterol.) High sugar consumption can increase the risk of contracting type 2 diabetes and can suppress the immune system.
Consuming refined sugar causes blood sugar levels to rise rapidly, and the body then produces more insulin to compensate. This then creates an drop in blood sugar. This seesaw effect creates energy slumps and can cause headaches. Often people eat refined sugar along with other refined carbohydrates such as white flour or white pasta. These have the same effect as refined sugar so adding to the seesaw effect.
On the other hand, eating complex carbohydrates creates more sustained energy. The cake in this recipe is made with wholemeal flour, which along with other ingredients, provides a steady release of energy.
Sugar-Free Cream Cheese Frosting
Icing a Sugar-free Cake
The most challenging part of making a sugar-free cake is finding a way to make an icing or frosting. Luckily, carrot cake traditionally comes topped with soft cheese and on its own this makes an acceptable topping. You can use a low-fat variety if keeping fat levels low is important.
Natural Topping Sweeteners
To make the topping more frosting-like you can a small amount of a natural sweetener. It’s best to experiment a bit to see which you prefer. I like to use either baobab or lacuma powders. These are a low-glycemic powders made from the fruit of the African baobab tree or the South America lacuma tree. Both have many health benefits. The drawback with baobab in particular is that it is not always readily available and is fairly expensive. However, both powders last a long time because you only need a small quantity.
One advantage to using a powder is that this keeps the topping firm. With the other suggested sweeteners the cream cheese topping can sometimes become a little runny, so it’s best to make the it in advance and let it firm up in the fridge.
Other natural sweeteners you could use are: vanilla extract, applesauce or honey. (Recent studies suggest small quantities of honey do not raise blood sugar levels in Type 2 diabetes.)
Another option is to make some extra date puree and use that in the frosting. This will probably not be as smooth as the other options, but will taste just as good!
No-Added Sugar Carrot Cake Ingredients
- 190 grams/6oz dates/1 cup
- 250gram/9 oz/1 ½ cups flour (wholemeal or spelt, unsifted volume)
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 240ml/8 fluid oz/1 cup sunflower oil (corn oil is suitable substitute)
- 3 large eggs
- 340grams/12 oz/2 cups carrots (the cup measure is for carrots that have been grated or shredded in a food processor and is the volume when packed)
- 120 grams/4 oz/1 cup chopped walnuts (it’s also nice with some ground almonds, as much or little as you fancy)
- Whole walnuts to decorate
- 1 x 225 gram/8 oz pack of cream cheese, any variety. (Mascarpone cheese is also good, though pricey so best kept for special occasions.)
Any ONE of the following:
- 1 tablespoon boabab or lacuma powder
- 1 tablespoon finely pureed dates (just add an extra 4 dates when preparing those for the cake and reserve one tablespoon for the topping.)
- 1 dessert spoon of honey
- 1 tablespoon of applesauce
Oven temperature: 180°C/160°Fan oven/350°F/Gas mark 4.
1) Cover dates in water, and boil while you get on with the rest of cake.
(Alternately you can cover them with boiling water and leave to soak for several hours until soft.)
2) Grease an 8 inch/20 cm cake tin, and line with baking parchment, making it higher than the sides of the tin. (This helps prevent the cake burning on top.)
3) In a large bowl sift together flour, salt, baking powder, soda and cinnamon. Add nuts if you are using them.
4) Beat the eggs (this is easiest with an electric beater, but a whisk will do.)
5) Grate the carrots.
6) The dates should be ready now, so remove them from the heat and puree till smooth.
7) Add all wet ingredients - the carrots, eggs, oil and dates - to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
8) Pour into the baking tin and bake for 45 - 55 minutes. To check it is ready, insert a skewer into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean the cake is ready; if the skewer has cake mixture sticking to it, it needs to cook for longer.
Tip: all ovens vary in how fast they cook, so it’s best to check the cake after the shorter time and leave in for longer if necessary. Do this quickly so the oven doesn’t cool.
9) Leave the cake to cool for around 5 minutes and then turn onto a wire tray. Leave it to cool completely before adding the topping.
To Make the Topping
- Beat the cream cheese till smooth.
- If using sweetener, add it to the cheese and beat till thoroughly mixed in.
- Spread on the cake. (It will not to completely smooth.)
- Decorate with walnuts if you are using them.
Approximate values per 100 gram slice (makes 12 slices.)
|Serving size: 100|
|Calories from Fat||225|
|% Daily Value *|
|Fat 25 g||38%|
|Saturated fat 6 g||30%|
|Carbohydrates 28 g||9%|
|Sugar 11 g|
|Fiber 4 g||16%|
|Protein 6 g||12%|
|Cholesterol 63 mg||21%|
|Sodium 185 mg||8%|
|* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.|
Other recipes using dates instead of sugar
Some more recipes that use dates to sweeten instead of sugar:
if you want a low fat cake, you can simply omit the oil. We discovered this by accident when my daughter made the cake and forgot to add oil. The texture is more sponge-like, and it won't keep quite so long, but it tastes just fine.