Like most people, the older I get (especially after having a kid), the more I appreciate my mom. She is a list making perfectionist who is disciplined in all areas of her life. These traits were probably very helpful since she stayed at home to raise 6 kids, and homeschooled every one of us at some point in our school years. We always had a massive garden going, fruit trees and a handful of goats. While my mom doesn’t really like to cook, season after season, produce was canned or frozen, excess goat’s milk made into cheese or ice cream and flour was milled to make fresh bread. Granted, as soon as my sisters and I were old enough, we were drafted into many of these duties. But I admire my mom’s diligence, weekly writing grocery lists and planning healthy meals for her large family.
My mom’s birthday is October 7th, and she has always asked for a carrot cake as her birthday cake. Not one of those store-bought kind, full of white flour and sugar and topped with shortening-laden frosting. The horrors!! Although my dad occasionally brought home that variety, he (or eventually us kids) usually made her favorite type: full of whole wheat flour, honey, shredded veggies and walnuts. My siblings and I had eyerolls aplenty that her birthday had to be celebrated with a healthy cake. But over the years, I came to love the full-flavored depths the whole wheat flour and natural sweeteners lent to the cake. Now, when I taste a store-bought carrot cake, it seems so lackluster. And while I choked down my fair share of brewer’s yeast, wheat germ and steamed veggies during my childhood, I am beyond grateful that my mom taught us how to eat healthy. No diets or crazy fads, just real seasonal food, prepared simply.
Since this cake is in honor of my mom, the main recipe is the whole grain, natural sweetener version. I started off testing this cake with coconut oil and honey, but the bran muffin consistency wasn’t very birthday cake worthy in my opinion. So butter and sucanat with honey to the rescue to make a 3 layer delight worthy of a birthday celebration! If you are so inclined, you can replace the butter in the cake with equal parts coconut oil, but the layers will not rise as much and the cake will be denser.
If you have ever made carrot cake, you know that the carrots add a lot of moisture and steam. Lining the cake pans with parchment paper is crucial in this recipe. Otherwise, at least part of the bottom of the cake is going to stick to the pan, no matter how well you have greased, buttered and/or floured the pans.
Creaming the butter and sucanat with honey together is another important step to add some volume to this whole wheat cake.
If you have the shredder/slicer attachment it makes quick work of the carrots. I gave a weight measurement for the carrots because it was easier to get the exact amount I wanted rather than telling people not to pack them down when using a measuring cup.
The cake batter may appear rather thick, but the carrots will add a lot of moisture. I included walnuts in the recipe because my mom loves them, but feel free to omit if you are not a fan.
Make sure you evenly divide the cake batter so your layers will be uniform.
Before frosting the cake layers, you want the cake to be thoroughly cooled. I actually baked and then froze the cake layers overnight before frosting them for the photos. Frozen cake layers are very easy to frost because the crumbs don’t readily flake off like a room temperature cake. Line the edges of your first cake layer with wax paper to protect your cake stand or serving platter from getting messy.
I hope you enjoy this recipe. It is perfect for autumn with its harvest flavors of carrots, walnuts, cinnamon and nutmeg. The frosting has a little maple syrup and cinnamon as well to tie it all together.
The featured mixer color is Light Crème. For a refresher on how to use the attachments mentioned in this post:
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups sucanat with honey (aka honey crystals)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup buttermilk
7 ounces finely grated carrot, approximately 2 loosely packed 2 cups
1 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, divided (optional)
24 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sucanat with honey
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise and seeds scraped out
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease 3 (8-inch) cake pans. Using one of the cake pans, trace and cut out 3 rounds of parchment paper and line the bottom of the cake pans. Set side until ready to use.
Set up the Ankarsrum base with the plastic whisking bowl and single wire whisks. Cream the butter and sucanat with honey together on medium speed (3 o’clock) for 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides. Add the vanilla extract and eggs, one at a time, and beat to combine after each addition.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Turn the speed down to low (1 o’clock) and add 1/3 of the dry ingredients; mix just till combined. Add 1/3 of the buttermilk and mix until combined. Alternately add the remaining dry ingredients and buttermilk, 1/3 at a time and mix after each addition. Scrape down the sides, add the carrots and 1 cup walnuts and mix until the ingredients are fully incorporated.
Divide the cake batter evenly among the 3 cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until top is set and a wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Let cake rounds cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges and carefully turn out onto a cooling rack. Remove parchment paper and carefully flip upright so the bottom of the cake round is resting on the cooling rack.
While the cake cools, make the frosting.
Place the 1 cup sucanat for the frosting in the blender attachment and blend on high speed for 30 seconds.
Combine the cream cheese and butter in the whisking bowl with the balloon whisks. Beat on medium high speed (4 o’clock) for 1 minute, creaming the ingredients together and removing any cream cheese lumps.
Add in the sucanat, vanilla bean seeds, cinnamon and maple syrup. Whisk until all ingredients are thoroughly combine, scraping down the sides as necessary.
To Assemble Cake:
Place one cake layer on cake stand or serving platter. Spread approximately 1/2 cup of frosting on top and top with second layer. Spread another 1/2 cup frosting over the top of second layer and then top with third layer. Use remaining frosting to frost the top and sides of cake. Decorate the top with the remaining 1/4 cup chopped walnuts.
Yield: 1 (3 layer) cake, 10-12 servings
- Cake layers can be made one day in advance. Thoroughly cool layers, wrap in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Keep vanilla bean after scraping the seeds out and place it in a container of sugar or sucanat with honey and let sit for about a month before using. Homemade vanilla sugar!
- If you mill your own flour at home, use a soft white wheat for the whole wheat pastry flour.
White Flour Version:
-Replace the whole wheat pastry flour with equal parts all-purpose flour.
-Replace the sucanat with honey with equal parts sugar.
-Replace the sucanat with honey in the frosting with equal parts powdered sugar. Do not pulverize in blender.
-Follow the recipe above.
-Replace the whole wheat pastry flour with 3 cups teff flour, 1/2 cup tapioca flour, 1/2 cup potato starch and 1 teaspoon xanthan gum.
-Follow the recipe above.