Carrot Cake with Cranberry Ricotta Frosting
A happy healthy carrot cake, perfect for the holidays, or for any other time
Because there were way too many cranberries in the fridge, I was looking for a recipe to combine them with. And because we ate all the brownies I made before, I decided it was time to bake something new. It had to be something with vegetables and with cranberries, so I decided to make a healthy carrot cake with cranberry frosting. Years ago, I actually believed that carrot cakes were healthy because they had vegetables in them. And yes, it might have some nutrition because of the vegetables, but I don’t think the rest of the ingredients would be contributing towards good health. I’m happy that I was able to make a truly healthy carrot cake. And it came out so delicious, I couldn’t get enough of it! It’s a good thing I didn’t have to ;-).
Find out why this carrot cake is so good for you:
You already know about the health benefits of most ingredients from my pumpkin muffin recipe, so I will describe those ingredients briefly.
- In a healthy carrot cake, the main ingredient should be carrot. That is why I use a lot of it! It is incredibly healthy and it makes the cake extra sweet and moist. Carrots are high in beta-carotene, from which our bodies make vitamin A. Vitamin A helps defending the body against diseases. Beta-carotene is a fat-soluble nutrient, that needs fat for better absorption. Thank you butter! Carrots also contain carotenoids, which are antioxidants. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) uses carrots to strengthen all the organs, detoxify, benefit the eyes, and clear heat.
To gain all the health benefits, make sure you buy whole carrots and you grate them with their skin because in and right below the skin are the most nutrients. It might look less pretty than grated carrots that were peeled before, but after baking the carrot cake you won’t be able to see (or taste) the difference. And carrots even get more nutritious when you cook them, so they have great purpose in a baked carrot cake. If you want to increase the health benefits even more, buy purple carrots. They are the healthiest (and the prettiest: the inside is orange!).
- As a base, I started with a combination of oats and almond flour. This is a great combination! The lightness of the oats and the moisture of almond flour together make a great texture. It will be light and moist at the same time. In addition, the combination of fiber from the oats and the healthy fats in almond meal fill you up. These two ingredients will also give you energy.
- To add sweetness, I used the combination of stevia extract and coconut sugar again. Another match made in heaven. While the stevia is natural and doesn’t contain any calories, it can have a slight aftertaste. That’s where the coconut sugar jumps in. This is an unrefined sugar that has low influence on blood sugar levels, but it has a very rich taste that will mask the stevia’s aftertaste.
- Another combination I like to use is the one of baking soda and cream of tartar. This combination is a natural substitute for baking powder, and it will do the same without the chemicals that you really don’t need.
- A cake, and especially a healthy carrot cake, needs eggs help it bind. But I also added them for their protein and omega 9, -6, and -3 fatty acids. Always try to buy eggs from pasture-fed chickens because those are higher in omega-3 fatty acids, the kind we tend not to eat enough.
- I added a little salt to intensify the flavor. Because I don’t like using refined salt which contains chemicals and processing additives which do nothing good for your health, I used my go-to salt again: Celtic sea salt. Celtic sea salt is unrefined and contains 72 trace minerals. These are almost the same as the trace minerals that are in our body cells.
- I will always choose butter over margarine, halvarine, or shortening, because butter is a natural product. Although it is high in fat, your body recognizes the natural fats and knows how to digest them. Butter will nourish your body and brain, makes you feel satisfied, is a great source of energy, and can even help with fat burning. Do make sure you only buy high quality butter from grass-fed animals because that contains the omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin K.
- Unsweetened vanilla extract is full of antioxidants, has antibacterial properties, relaxes, and promotes healthy digestion.
Now we have the basics, we’re going to add some warmth and depth in the flavor.
- Cinnamon is not only a delicious spice, it also is full of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, and it can lower blood sugar. Try to find Ceylon cinnamon, that is the “true” cinnamon with most health benefits.
- Ginger pairs very well with cinnamon. Ground ginger contains less gingerol, but it is higher in shagaol, which has an anti-cough effect. It also reduces blood pressure and gastric contraction and has memory and cognitive enhancing properties.
- Turmeric is in fact a member of the ginger family. The taste is earthy/spicy and it is very healthy! It is antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory, so another great ingredient for flu season. Turmeric is also considered a preservative in baking, and it gives a beautiful color that perfectly matches the carrots. In TCM, turmeric helps against damp, created by sweetness. So adding just a little bit of turmeric to your sweet tasting recipes could prevent a runny nose, something so many people have in fall and winter.
- The next ingredient is another unusual one: tea! Normally we drink tea, only steeped in hot water for a few minutes, and then we throw away the rest. So why not use the whole thing? You will taste the delicious aroma in your cake, and gain all health benefits at the same time. Because I was looking for an orange/mandarin flavor to complement the carrots, I used Sweet Tangerine Positive Energy Yogi Tea. This tea combines herbs traditionally used to uplift the spirit with a blend of Assam Black Tea and Yerba Maté to help provide energy. Lotus Flower and Tangerine flavors add sweet, floral and fruity notes. You could also use Republic of Tea Orange Spice Green Tea if you don’t like black tea.
- Green tea and mate have the same health benefits, only mate is stronger. Yerba mate is well known for providing an energy boost that’s been described as gentle, clean, and calm. It is also so loaded with nutrition that it contains practically all the micronutrients needed to sustain life. Orange peel, as with all citrus peels, is used in traditional herbal medicine to support the digestive system. Citrus peel is pungent, bitter and warm. Only buy real tea with only natural ingredients, chemical aroma’s will add nothing to your health.
- If you like some additional crunch, you can add chopped hazelnuts. Hazelnuts contain Chromium, which regulates blood sugar and helps with carb cravings.
With these ingredients, you can already make a delicious and incredibly healthy carrot cake. But for special occasions, you can add this festive, healthy, and yummy frosting.
- Carrot cake is usually topped with a cream cheese frosting. And although I love cheese and I’m not afraid of using ingredients high in fat, I decided to go with ricotta instead. Ricotta is made from whey, which contains a lot of protein. It is also rich in amino acids, which is great for muscle recovery.
- The fresh cranberries make a great combination with the ricotta. Cranberries do not only have a beautiful and festive color, they are also incredibly healthy! And using them in this recipe is a great way to eat more of them. Cranberries can fight bacteria and can prevent and treat bladder infections. They are also high in vitamin A, C, and K. When not much fruit is in season, cranberries are, so I try to use them as much as I can. Because they taste so tart, they do need some sweetness added. I don’t like the cranberry recipes loaded with sugar, therefore I added stevia and a little bit of honey.
- Honey rounds up the taste and makes this frosting the perfect topping for the carrot cake. Honey also has many health benefits, as long as you buy real honey from bees that can use their own honey when they winter, instead of sugar water. Raw honey is even better, because that still contains all the nutrients. Raw honey is antibacterial and it contains enzymes, B-vitamins, and minerals. The exact nutrition depends on the flowers of which the honey was made of.
After learning about all these ingredients, you can feel confident to make this nutritious and delicious healthy carrot cake as a snack, desert, or even as breakfast. A great way to start the holidays!
Carrot Cake with Cranberry Ricotta Frosting
This healthy version of a carrot cake works as a great snack, desert or even breakfast. Make it by itself or with festive and nutritious cranberry ricotta frosting
- ¼ cup butter melted
- 4 eggs
- 2 bags orange/citrus natural flavored tea
- 1 cup oat flour or make your own from rolled oats
- ½ cup almond meal
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp cream of tartar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp ginger powder
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp stevia extract
- 2 tbsp coconut sugar
- 3 ½ cup grated carrot
- 1 Pinch celtic sea salt
- ½ cup chopped hazelnuts optional
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ cup ricotta
- ¼ tsp stevia
- 1 tbsp honey
- ½ cup cranberries fresh
- ½ cup water filtered
Preheat the oven at 350
(Line a cake pan with parchment paper or grease with coconut oil or butter)
Chop the oats into a meal/flour in the food processor or use oat flour.
Combine all dry ingredients
Whip the eggs until airy and combine with the butter and other wet ingredients.
Add grated carrot and mix.
Scoop batter into cake pan.
Put cake pan into oven and bake for about 50 minutes.
Place cranberries and water in a small saucepan.
Cook until all cranberries have bursted, about 10-15 minutes.
Allow to cool for a little bit.
Press the mixture through a strainer.
Add stevia and honey
Mix ¼ cup of the cranberry substance with ¼ cup ricotta
Add mixture to carrot cake
Place 2 tbsp cranberry substance in a plastic sandwich bag and cut one of the edges to create a piping bag and decorate as you like.
You can also add a little bit of stevia and honey to the ricotta if you like.
Alternate the frosting between red (cranberry sauce) and white (ricotta) to create a festive / holidays look!