Sunday, January 15, 2012

Million Dollar Carrot Cake

I have a confession to make. I like to eat carrot cake for breakfast. OK, I know what you're probably thinking: "What? This is supposed to be a healthy recipe blog, and you're writing a post about eating cake for breakfast?!" Well, let me assure you that this carrot cake actually makes for a very healthy and satisfying breakfast. In fact, the first time I made this recipe for Bill, he commented that he felt like a million bucks after eating it, which is how the recipe came to be known as "Million Dollar Carrot Cake."

I've always been a big fan of carrot cake -- sweet, moist, carroty cake covered with rich cream cheese icing... what's not to love? Actually, there is one thing that I don't love about carrot cake: most carrot cake recipes call for copious amounts of white flour, white sugar, and butter. While this makes for a tasty dessert, it usually leaves me feeling a bit sluggish and "blah" afterwards. So, I set out to create a healthier (but still delicious) carrot cake recipe.

First, I replaced the white flour with buckwheat flour. Buckwheat flour is a gluten-free flour that's high in protein and fiber, and it has a pleasant, slightly earthy flavor. You can substitute another variety of whole grain flour if you prefer, but I've found that the flavor of the buckwheat flour complements the other flavors in this recipe very nicely.

Next, I used dates to replace all of the refined sugar in the cake. If you become a regular reader of this blog, you'll soon discover that dates are one of my favorite ingredients for baking. They're naturally sweet and delicious, and they're high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and several other nutrients that I can't even pronounce. (Flavonoid polyphenolic antioxidants, anyone?) I also threw in some raisins and grated apple for added sweetness.

Finally, I replaced the traditional cream cheese frosting with a topping made of low-fat ricotta cheese and agave nectar. The ricotta cheese has a rich, creamy texture, but it's much lighter and fluffier than cream cheese. As an added bonus, ricotta is a good source of protein.

The result was a moist, tasty carrot cake that's decadent enough to serve for dessert, yet healthy enough to serve for breakfast. Are you getting hungry yet? Without further ado, here's the recipe. Enjoy!

Million Dollar Carrot Cakes
Gluten-free and free of refined sugars
Makes two generous breakfast/brunch-sized servings or four dessert/snack-sized servings

Cake ingredients:
½ cup buckwheat flour
¾ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ cup date paste* (see below for instructions)
½ cup milk (I usually use almond milk, but regular milk would be fine, too)
½ cup grated carrots
½ cup grated honeycrisp apple
¼ cup raisins

Topping ingredients:
½ cup low-fat ricotta cheese
1 Tbps. cinnamon-flavored agave nectar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 4 ramekins (8-10 ounces each) with cooking spray. Combine dry ingredients. Stir in date paste and milk. Add carrots, apple, and raisins, and stir to combine. Pour batter into ramekins. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until cakes start to pull away from the edges and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

To make the topping, stir together the ricotta cheese and agave nectar. Spread on top of cakes just before serving. Garnish with shredded carrots, a dusting of cinnamon, and a drizzle of agave nectar.

When serving these cakes for breakfast or brunch, I like to make "double decker" cakes by layering a cake, a dollop of the ricotta topping, another cake, and another dollop of the ricotta topping on each plate.

* To make date paste: Soak 8 ounces of pitted dates (approximately 1½ cups) in 1 cup hot water. Puree in a food processor until smooth. This will make approximately 1½ cups of date paste. Save the remaining date paste for another use. Date paste will keep for a week or more if stored in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator.

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This post is part of Slightly Indulgent Tuesday


  1. This cake looks delicious! Do you have any dairy-free/soy-free topping suggestions?

    1. Thanks!

      If you're looking for a dairy-free topping, you might want to check out Chocolate Covered Katie. She recently posted a recipe for a frosting made from coconut milk ( I haven't personally tried it, but it looks delicious, and most of her recipes are quite good. The recipe is for chocolate frosting, but I'm sure you could leave out the cocoa to make a vanilla version.

      If you try it, let me know how it comes out!

  2. Love it! I also found Yoplait's vanilla yogurt reminds me a lot of the cream cheese icing on carrot cake. Side by side that would not work, but I could see putting some of that on the cake!

    comment not for dairy free question

    1. Mmm, that sounds tasty, too! Thanks for the idea, Bridget!