A delicious, guilt-free "Carrot Cake" Bread

A few months ago a coworker brought a carrot cake to work from a local, organic foods store that has quite a good bakery. This cake was beyond rich, with a full inch of cream cheese frosting on top and a half-inch down the sides and in between the cake layers. I liked cake, but the fact that the baker seemed to have no qualms in putting 2 pounds of cream cheese on six inch round cake gave me an uneasy feeling about what else lurked inside the cake, it was the same feeling you might get eating Mystery Meatloaf at your school cafeteria. My conscious wouldn’t allow me to continue eating the cake and I was left unsatisfied. This experience taunted me for the next week. It had awakened a craving in me for carrot cake that could not be quenched until I had another, more trustworthy cake. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that what I like about carrot cake has little to do with what makes it decidedly unhealthy. I love the flavor that the warm spices bring and the mixed texture of the walnuts, the moist cake, and the sweet, and sugary bursts from the raisons. I do like the contrast of the cool tang of the cream cheese against the cake so that had to stay in some form, just maybe not in such egregious amounts. Knowing all of these flavors could be accomplished in a much healthier form, I set out to construct my own, feel-good, carrot cake. In the end however, instead of making an elaborate, time-consuming layer cake, I decided to make a simple quick bread that could be dressed up as breakfast cake if spread with a (sane) layer of cream cheese frosting or simply sliced as bread and spread with maple-walnut cream cheese. Yum!

Since I decided not to make a dessert cake, I reduced the amount of sugar by two-thirds and added ½ cup unsweetened applesauce to give it a little natural sweetness and to make up for the moisture that would be lost by taking the sugar out. I also reduced the amount of oil/butter as the carrots themselves contribute much of the moistness that I love about carrot cake. I felt I had the right, since I was making a bread, to sub-out the majority of all-purpose flour for whole-wheat flour. The end result completely satisfied my craving, and when a few slices were brought to work for a taste test, my coworkers heartily agreed that I had fulfilled my mission of creating a healthy carrot cake bread that tasted just as good as the cake, if not better.

"Carrot Cake" Bread

¾ cup whole-wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon allspice

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

¼ cup canola oil

¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp. firmly packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

½ cup natural applesauce

1 Tbsp. real maple syrup (optional)

1 Tbsp. plain yogurt (optional)

½ teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups finely shredded carrots (about 2 medium carrots)

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts

1/4 cup raisons, plumped by soaking them in hot water for five minutes (optional)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray bread pan with nonstick spray.

Toast walnuts in a sauté pan over medium heat or on a cookie sheet in the 350 degrees oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Careful not to burn!

Sift together the first 8 ingredients. In a large bowl, whisk the oil, brown sugar and eggs until well combined. Whisk in the applesauce, yogurt, maple syrup (if using), vanilla and carrots. Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Stir in 1/4 cup of the chopped walnuts.

Pour batter in to pan and, if you are not frosting the top of the bread, sprinkle the remaining two tablespoons of walnuts on top of the batter. Bake in the oven for 55-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool on rack and enjoy! Maple walnut cream cheese goes great!

If you would like to frost the top of the bread try this frosting:

4 ounces 1/3 fat cream cheese (recommended: Neufchatel)

3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

With an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and lemon zest until smooth and creamy. Frost the cooled bread and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts. Store in the refrigerator.

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