I am not a cake person. Maybe it’s the flavorless, oil dense loaf deluged with a pasty, vegetable shorting and powder sugar concoction, sure to give even the most fit of us some form of diabetes, synonymous with grocery store “cake” that I truly despise. Or maybe it’s that a freshly baked, strawberry rhubarb pie is better than life, not to mention cake, and is my sweet of choice for any celebratory occasion, including our wedding. So as Willow’s birthday quickly approached, I felt unsure of what to serve for that iconic 1st birthday moment. You know, the moment we all have from our first birthday, captured in an old photo, face and hair completely submerged in frosting. So, I decided I would part ways with my pie loyalty and bake a cake. The trouble is, Willow has never had anything close to refined sugar. Nor has she consumed much more than half an English muffin’s worth of white flour in her whole life. It seemed problematic to give a nap deprived, one-year-old, surrounded by strangers, the sugar buzz of her life and expect her not have a total meltdown by the time her buzz crashed. Call me a Scrooge, but I did not want that to happen. I scoured the internet for refined sugar free cake recipes and came up empty handed. I guess people don’t like a sugarless cake. I get it. A cake is meant to be an indulgence, a once in a long while splurge. Only a complete lunatic would omit sugar. As a result, I came up with this banana, carrot cake, that is not only refined sugar free but is also grain and gluten free; and really, it was pretty good.
I love throwing parties but always seem to find myself caramelizing onions or whipping egg whites until 1 am the night before. Willow’s party was no exception, and I left her cake for the last minute (hence the horrible lighting in these photos). You see, I had made a practice cake the day before to see if my recipe would be somewhat edible. Originally, I had planned on making an avocado, cream cheese frosting –mainly for the gorgeous color but also as a way to sneak this healthy fruit into my daughter’s diet– but (apparently) avocados turn color after they oxidize –chef foul—. My test cake was brown by morning. The cake was also a little dense and dry, so I had to make some other adjustments. Along with this task of a cake, I also made three hors d’oeuvres and a cheese plate that night. I don’t remember being that tired since Willow was born.
The cake is made from a balance of a lot of ingredients. The flours I used were coconut flour, almond flour and arrowroot starch. Plantains, bananas, coconut milk, shredded apple and carrot gave the cake moisture. In a food processor I pureed all the wet ingredients while I mixed together the dry in a large bowl.
I then mixed the wet and dry together and folded in a soft meringue to add sponginess.
I baked the cake for 50 minutes, giving the perfect consistency. The cake seemed a little underdone at first but with carry over cooking it was just right and would have been over done if baked any longer. Each cake easily cut in half to make four layers.
The frosting was slightly sweet from the maple syrup, but not overpowering like a traditional frosting. I used cream cheese because I thought it would remain a creamy frosting even without the powder sugar, unlike a buttercream. Like any carrot cake, cream cheese frosting is always a good choice.
Overall, the party was great. I had all these ideas in my mind of how to make the food, the ambiance, the decor, truly superb. When those ideas didn’t get completely actualized, it was ok, because it was Willow’s day, and she had a blast.
And the cake turned out ok.
And we were surrounded by people we love.
And the food was yummy.
If you are looking for a cake to bake for a special diet or don’t want your kids to go crazy from sugar on their birthday, this recipe really takes the cake.
Banana Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
(for two 8″ round cakes,serves 12)
1 1/2 c coconut flour
1 c almond flour
1/2 c arrowroot flour
4 t baking soda
4 t ground cinnamon
4 t maple syrup
1/2 t sea salt
1 c shredded carrots
1 apple shredded (I used gala)
2 ripe bananas
2 ripe plantain
3 egg white
1 c coconut milk
1 c unsweetened apple sauce
2 t vanilla
coconut oil for greasing
2-8oz packages of cream cheese
1 c butter
3/4 c maple syrup
2 1/2 T sour cream
1 t vanilla
8 oz heavy whipping cream
1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease two 8″ round cake pans with coconut oil. In a food processor, puree all the wet ingredients except the egg whites (I had to do 2 batches). In a large mixing bowl combine all dry ingredients including shredded apple and carrots.
2. Fold pureed wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Whip egg whites into soft peaks. Gently fold them into the rest of the cake batter.
3. Bake for 50 minutes and let cool for 5 minutes. The cake will seem a little underdone, but it will firm up as the cake cools. Take the cake out of the pan and allow to finish cooling on wire rack.
4. In a mixing bowl combine all frosting ingredients except the whipping cream. Whip with an electric mixer. Set aside 1 1/2 cups of frosting. Whip heavy whipping cream to soft peaks. Fold whipped cream into reserved 1 1/2 cups of frosting for outside of cake.
Once the cake is completely cool, cut each cake in half using a serrated knife. Stack each cake on top of each other, using a good portion of frosting in between each layer (I used all the frosting meant for the middle). Trim the outside of the cake with your serrated knife to make all of the sides even and the top flat. Frost the outside with whipped cream and frosting mixture. Decorate and serve. Keep refrigerated.
Keeping Willow by Stacy Feyer-Salo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.