I don’t cook much from food magazines, and when I do, it’s usually from an older issue that I found behind the bookcase and flipped through, rather than one that just arrived in the mail. My thought process tends to be along the lines of “oh, that looks good. I’ll have to remember that and try it later.” For once, however, a dish I intended to make managed to align itself with a recipe from the most recent (April 09) issue of Cook’s Country: carrot cake. With a bag of fresh carrots in the refrigerator, I didn’t waste much time trying out their recipe for a lower fat carrot cake.
My usual carrot cake recipes don’t actually have much more fat than this one, as I prefer a cake-like carrot cake and not a dense/wet one, but this is “reduced” from those oil-heavy recipes, so I’ll let the lower fat label stand. The main difference between what I usually make and this recipe is that this one uses oil, not butter, as the fat. That said, I did make a few changes to the recipe as I prepared it.
Most of my changes had to do with the spicing. I decided to omit some of the more “traditional” carrot cake spices and use cinnamon and cardamom for a spicy flavor that was a little bit different. I also used applesauce where the recipe called for carrot baby food. Apparently, the testers felt that applesauce didn’t contribute enough carrot flavor to a cake, even though the cake has an entire pound of shredded carrots in it. I’ve never had a carrot cake that really tastes like a carrot (or a sweet zucchini bread that really tastes like a zucchini, either), and since unsweetened applesauce performed perfectly in the cake, I don’t really feel like I missed out.
The cake was delicious. I loved the twist that cardamom provided to the overall flavor. The sweetness of the brown sugar really came through and fit the carrot cake well. It was moist, but not wet, and had a soft, tender crumb to it. I didn’t bake this in a carrot cake pan; I used your standard 9×13-inch pan. Since it’s a sheet cake, it will serve quite a crowd. If you’re not entertaining, however, the cake will keep well for several days in in airtight container (plastic wrap over the pan is fine) as you eat your way through it.
Lower Fat Carrot Sheet Cake
(Adapted from Cook’s Country)
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 cup brown sugar (pref. dark)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4-oz (approx. 1/3 cup) unsweetened applesauce
1-lb carrots, peeled and shredded (4-5 cups)
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×13-in baking pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.
In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar, eggs, vegetable oil and applesauce until very smooth. Stir in flour mixture and mix only until just combined, with no streaks of flour remaining. Stir in shredded carrots.
Pour batter into prepared pan and spread into an even layer.
Bake for 25-28 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.
Cool cake on wire rack (cake can be cooled in the pan or turned out; I cooled in the pan).
Frost top of cake (not sides) once it is completely cooled.
Lower Fat Cream Cheese Frosting
8-oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/4 cups marshmallow creme
1 tsp vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until smooth and fluffy. Spread on cooled cake.
(Note: Without the frosting, this cake has about 6 grams of fat per serving. With the frosting, it has about 10 grams of fat. If you use reduced fat Neufchatel cream cheese in the frosting, each serving has about 8.75 g fat. And yes, the frosting is worth it.)