Last week I turned 26. Twenty-freakin-six!
I’m not a big birthday person, don’t like being the center of attention and definitely don’t want people to make a big fuss over me, but I do always make sure I do something for me.
This year that meant cutting out of work early and going for a hike with my pup. That evening I also enjoyed a glass (or two) of rose on the porch with my parents and then we went out to a local restaurant that serves great farm-to-table food.
Oh, and I also baked myself a birthday cake
I’m visiting my parents right now in Vermont and when they figured out that I actually made my own cake, they were kind of mortified.
You’re not supposed to bake yourself a birthday cake, but since it’s me, my mom just rolled her eyes knowing that baking is something I love to do, and this was just another excuse for me to try a new recipe.
It was tough trying to decide what to make. I could have gone the dark chocolate route, or the vanilla cake route, or even something with fresh fruit (likely blueberries), but something about carrot cake was pulling me in.
And of course, I wanted to recreate it and give it my own healthy spin.
When I was a little girl, I always used to have carrot cake on my birthday. I’m not sure if it was because my parents thought it was healthier (there are veggies inside of course), or if it was just what my dad enjoyed baking (he’s the baker in our family), but either way, my birthday cake was usually a carrot cake topped with homemade cream cheese frosting.
At the time, I wasn’t the biggest fan. I think it was the name that got me; I didn’t want to be that girl that always had the healthy food. I just wished my parents would make me a vanilla cake out of a box like all the other kids. It was so much more normal.
But now I realize that traditional carrot cake recipes really aren’t that healthy. And that just because something contains a vegetable in it’s name does not make it good for you.
In fact, I’d venture to say that carrot cake is almost worse than many other cakes. Loaded with vegetable oil, sugar and white flour, and then topped with a mixture of cream cheese, butter and sugar…yikes. Just thinking about it makes me ill.
The flavors that go into carrot cake are what I love the most. I’m a sucker for anything with cinnamon in it, and I can’t resist tossing in a sprinkle of nutmeg and ginger to spice things up a little more. Plus, a baked good with chopped nuts? I love the crunch!
To make this healthy carrot cake, I started with nutritious flours. The cake is a blend of almond flour, which is low in carbs and packed with healthy fats and protein, and toasted quinoa flour, which is also high in protein and vitamins. Unlike other gluten-free cakes, there are no starches or rice flours.
For the fat, I used coconut oil. I love the flavor, the texture and the fact that it’s high in medium chain triglycerides which have been shown to help increase calorie burn, assist in weight loss and support cardiovascular health.
And finally, for my sugars, I went with something less refined – a simple blend of honey and maple syrup. I love the flavors of both, and really enjoyed the level of sweetness they brought to the cake.
What is most special about this cake is the texture. It’s perfectly moist, has a soft texture, a slight crunch from the walnuts and a warm, comforting flavor that you come to expect from a decadent cake such as this.
- 2 cups blanched almond flour (almond meal will not yield the same results)
- 1 cup toasted quinoa flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- Pinch of sea salt
- 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup grated carrots
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, etc.)
- 1/4 cup coconut butter
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons almond milk
- 1 - 2 tablespoons water (depending on desired texture)
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a bundt pan with coconut oil and set aside.
- Whisk together dry ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.
- In a larger mixing bowl, beat coconut oil, honey and maple syrup until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and whisk until smooth.
- Add dry mixture into wet in three additions, mixing well after each.
- Fold in carrots and nuts.
- Pour batter into prepared pan, tapping on the counter to release any air bubbles.
- Bake on center rack for 35 - 45 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Let cool in pan for 15 - 20 minutes. Carefully flip over and release. Let cool completely before slicing.
- When ready to serve, whip up the icing by mixing together all the ingredients until smooth. Add liquid 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach your desired consistency.