My editor (and husband) is back from a work trip to Bali. Yay! I’m back.
Don’t judge, but we’ve gone crazy over the past few years fulfilling our kids’ wishes with “theme” cakes such as this insane lego cake, which involved me and Romas spending hours to mold fondant into lego pieces while binge watching House of Cards. How did we say yes to that?? Some of these cakes turned out better than others, but all of them were rewarded with unforgettable moments of our kids bursting with excitement. As my kids get older, I’m slowly transitioning out of that and hoping my youngest will never know that those cakes were ever made. You said you wouldn’t judge.
Today I’m just glad my baby is turning 1 and she doesn’t have preferences or crazy wishes (yet). I was bursting with excitement myself over making the cake I think is the best one for her. My first thought was my American host Mom, Sandy L., the best baker in the whole Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I am sure. Her carrot cake is to die for, and it used to be sort of accepted currency in the U.P. in 1996/1997. It is simply perfect, and I may be making her original recipe again soon, stay tuned (don’t worry U.S. Mamma, I’ll contact you first). But for Cecilia’s 1st birthday, I wanted to make a healthier version of it, cutting down the sugar and substituting apple sauce instead of oil. So I resorted to who has lately been an inspiration for my super healthy moments: Sarah B., a fellow expat blogger of My New Roots. She inspired me to sweeten this cake with banana, which worked beautifully. But I wanted a middle ground, part Sara, part Sandy – a balance (in life). Plus there are 5 people in this family, 3 of whom are crazy for sugar.
The end result is this super moist and light cake, yet sweet and flavorful. It is also the most forgiving and flexible type. It is simple, quick, and pretty hard to ruin it. The frosting takes about 2 minutes and you will discover that sugar is amazing, but sometimes you really don’t need it. You may just have found your go-to carrot cake.
THE BALANCED CARROT CAKE (adapted from my American host Mamma Sandy L.’s carrot cake and Sarah B.’s My New Roots’ Best Friends Carrot Cake)
1 cup of sugar (I used raw sugar)
1 banana, mashed
1 1/2 cup of apple sauce or vegetable oil (I used apple sauce)
2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour (or all purpose flour)
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon of sea salt
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 small can of pineapple (I used 1/2 of a 20oz can), drained and crushed in the food processor
1 cup of walnuts, chopped
2 cups of grated carrots
1/2 cup of unsweetened grated coconut
large coconut flakes + larger pieces of chopped walnuts to decorate
2 8oz blocks of cream cheese, room temperature (2.5 hours in the counter did it for me)
7-8 tablespoons of maple syrup (or more, to taste)
Preheat oven to 350F. Line 2 9-inch round pans with parchment paper.
Beat the eggs and sugar until fluffy (about 3 minutes). Stir in the banana and apple sauce.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
Slowly combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients and stir in the pineapples, carrots, coconut and walnuts.
Pour batter into the lined cake pans and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool on rack and frost.
Frosting & Assembly:
Whip together the cream cheese (at room temperature) with 7-8 tablespoons of maple syrup. Use half of frosting to fill between layers and cover with the other half on top of the cake. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts and coconut flakes to decorate.
To make it more baby-friendly, I chopped the carrots, walnuts and pineapples into small sizes using a food processor, but you could grate the carrots and chop the other two in larger pieces, according to your preference.
I used only 1 banana because I still wanted it to be very much a carrot cake, but you could substitute all sugar for 2 or 3 bananas and it would be more of a banana bread/carrot cake.