Anything “carrot cake” is O.K. by me, and if it looks like a donut, even better! Carrot cakes are typically loaded with oil, butter, sugar and eggs, all of which I avoid in my recipes; so coming up with a cake that is just as tasty (and moist but not too heavy), was a fun challenge. With four rounds of recipe testing behind me, I think my goal of creating a healthy donut that can bring utter joy has been reached. Yay!
I thought a carrot cake recipe would be fitting as Mother’s Day nears. All mothers like carrot cake, right? I started with the idea of making muffins, and wanted to try using a silicone muffin pan, something I’ve not used before and frequently get asked about. So I thought it was time to pick one up.
I stopped at a kitchen store in Sonoma called “Sign of the Bear,” which I liken to a tiny Disneyland for cooks. They have all the usual kitchen stuff plus a lot of unusually creative and unique products. But what they didn’t have on the day I was there was a silicone muffin pan. I was bummed until I noticed a non-stick donut pan on the next shelf; from muffins to donuts I went.
I didn’t use any oil in the batter or on the pan, and while they were baked in a non-stick pan, they required a little coaxing with a plastic fork to remove. The one drawback is that you’ll need to wash the donut pan between batches, as cake residue accumulates on the surface. As a person who tries to do as little dish-washing as possible, I was fine making six donuts (that’s how many you can make at one time) and then using the remaining batter for muffins.
In addition to the donut pan, I also picked up some individual silicone muffin cups since they did have those. They are used just like muffin papers, and the muffins pop out like a breeze! You can see a photo of the cups below (red and purple). They are easy to wash and are reusable. (The silicone used is food grade, so you don’t need to worry about them going into the oven and touching the food.)
My memory of baked donuts is that they were dense, dry and dull, only to be saved by the glaze and rainbow sprinkles. These baked donuts, in contrast, are sweet, spicy, and springy, and delicious with or without the frosting. And they keep well, making a perfect snack for days to follow. I hope you enjoy your carrot cake donut experience! (Please see the “Notes” below for amendments and substitutions.)
Carrot Cake Donuts
5 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup water
1 3/4 cup rolled oats
2 teaspoons baking powder (see Notes)
1 teaspoon baking soda (see Notes)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1/2 of a ripe banana, diced
1 cup almond milk
1 1/2 cups grated carrots
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in center position. In a small bowl, combine the 5 dates, 1/4 cup raisins and 1/2 cup water. Let soak while you prepare the other ingredients (at least 15 minutes).
2. Grind the rolled oats in a high-speed blender until it resembles flour; transfer to a large bowl. Add to this the baking powder, soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove, and mix with a fork.
3. Transfer the soaked dates, raisins and water to a high-speed blender and blend until smooth (about 30 seconds). Add the banana and non-dairy milk and blend further until everything is smooth. Add this wet mixture to the bowl of dry ingredients and gently fold together using a big spoon; now fold in the carrots, raisins and walnuts. The batter should be somewhere between a cake batter and cookie batter in consistency.
4. Using a soup spoon, spoon batter into a non-stick donut pan, filling to the top and smoothing batter flat. Bake for 20-25 minutes (I like to bake mine for 20 because it produces a moister cake). If you press on the cake lightly and it bounces back a bit (instead of staying indented), it’s likely ready. These continue to set up as they cool.
5. Remove from oven and cool for 5-7 minutes before removing the donuts from pan (if left in too long it will be hard to get the donuts out). Using a plastic fork, gently go around the donuts (outside and inner circle) to loosen them from the pan. Even though we’re using a non-stick pan, we are not using any oil so we need to help them out a bit. After loosening the edges, invert onto a cutting board (shake a bit if still not coming out the first time) and let cool at least 5-10 minutes more before serving plain or with the below frosting.
Carrot Cake Frosting
I tried making this with all tofu (no cashews) and the tofu taste was too strong. When I tried it will just cashews (which are great soft nuts to use in gravies, dressings and desserts), the flavor was also too much, too cashew-y. But with the addition of just 2 tablespoons of tofu with the cashews, the flavor of traditional carrot cake frosting has been approximated (I think; you let me know what you think). Feel free to vary the nuts and tofu to your liking. Both add to the thickness and richness of the frosting.
5 dates, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup raw cashews (not salted or roasted)
3/4 cup water
3 tablespoons lemon juice or crushed pineapple
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons tofu (silken or firm)
1/4 cup water (plus 2-3 more tablespoons as needed)
Soak the dates and cashews in 3/4 cup water for 15-30 minutes. After soaking, drain off the soak water into a bowl. In a high-speed blender, combine all ingredients (measuring out the 1/4 cup water+ from the soak water) and blend until very smooth, adding more water as needed to reach desired consistency. Frost donuts or muffins just before serving them. (Since there is no oil or sugar in this frosting it will not harden up like regular frostings.) Frosting will keep refrigerated for 3-5 days.
Prep time: 25 minutes (donuts), 15 minutes (frosting)
Cooking time: 20-25 minutes (donuts)
Makes: 10-12 donuts or muffins; 1 cup frosting
Muffins: You may also make these into muffins if you don’t want to bother with the donut pan. Spoon the batter into a non-stick muffin pan (metal or silicone), or into muffin papers or individual silicone muffin holders (as shown below) placed inside a metal muffin pan or on a cookie sheet. Smooth the batter on top so they don’t come out bumpy (unless you want bumpy). Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly browned on top and muffin springs back slightly when touched on top.
One-layer square cake: This recipe will make a one-layer cake as well. Cook it for 40-45 minutes, until there are a few cracks in the top of the cake. Forty minutes will yield a slightly moister cake.
Raisins: I prefer golden raisins in this recipe but you can use regular brown raisins too. The batter and resulting donuts or muffins will be slightly darker in color with the brown raisins.
Nuts: With the nuts, I prefer walnuts here (they are pretty traditional with carrot cakes), but feel free to use other types of nuts that you like. For both the raisins and nuts, you may leave either or both out (at the end) if you are not partial to them.
Flour: I am used to grinding my own flour from rolled oats in my Tribest blender or Vitamix, but you can substitute with whole-grain, pre-ground flour if you like.
Nutmeg: Instead of using pre-ground nutmeg, try grating your own from whole nutmegs, which can be found in grocery stores and in spice shops. For carrot cake, which is characteristically spicy, this it will make it even yummier.
Non-dairy milks: I have used soy as well as lighter non-dairy milks like almond and rice in this recipe, and I prefer the lighter ones; but if you only have soy on-hand, that will work too (just cook for a couple minutes longer).
Baking soda and powder: Please note that baking soda and powder are high in sodium. For powder: Google “sodium-free baking powder” to find a sodium-free brand. And always use aluminum-free baking powder. For soda: You can just leave it out if you are avoiding sodium entirely (I have not found “sodium free” baking soda). Powder and soda are also processed, which some people are also trying to avoid. If you leave both soda and powder out, the cake will be denser and moister, but will still taste good.
Grating carrots: Go ahead and grate your carrots at the standard size; they don’t need a fine grating.
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