After spending my entire three-week Winter Break sinking my teeth into every single dessert I saw—sugar cookies, hazelnut cake, raspberry truffles, and more—I decided to skip all sweets as my New Year’s Resolution during my sophomore year of college. Yes, I now bake and blog as a living… And I enjoy a small treat once, twice, or sometimes three times a day. But that holiday season, my sweet tooth completely spiraled out of control!
That year, I originally challenged myself to shoot for just one quarter—10 weeks, plus another week of finals—without dessert. After those three months passed, resisting treats basically became second nature, so I decided to continue and see if I could go the entire year without a single dessert.
For the record… Dark chocolate does NOT count as dessert. Just like your 8 glasses of water, a small square or two is a daily necessity!
The weekend my birthday rolled around in late June, I had to leave town for a few days. When I returned, I opened my apartment door and found bright purple and yellow crêpe paper strung all around the living room and hanging from the ceiling fan. Matching balloons came flying around the corner, closely followed by my two roommates shouting, “Happy birthday!!”
They handed me tissue paper-filled gift bags and brought out a large homemade sheet cake on our biggest cutting board from the kitchen. “We know you aren’t eating dessert,” the girls explained. “But we still wanted you to be able to make a birthday wish and blow out candles!” After setting down the cake on the coffee table, the three of us knelt down on the carpet with a packet of matches, carefully avoiding the temperamental smoke detector, and began my little birthday celebration.
Since they knew I wouldn’t sneak even a teensy tiny bite, the ladies elected against my preferred fudgy chocolate cake and baked their favorite flavor instead: carrot cake. They followed the directions for a boxed spice cake mix and simply added freshly grated carrots, but they happily finished it off in my honor over the next few days. Now whenever I eat carrot cake, I think of those girls!
My lightened Classic Clean-Eating Carrot Cake is much healthier but still just as easy as their doctored box mix version! Saturated with spices and topped with a generous layer of sweet vanilla ricotta frosting, each large square elicits memories of big church potlucks or decadent Easter feasts, grandma’s famous baking or special family dinners. This simple recipe will immediately win you over, convincing you that carrots are your favorite vegetable and cake is the best way to eat them!
Because I turned to melted coconut oil instead of creaming butter and sugar, there’s absolutely no need for a mixer. Just grab your favorite sturdy spoon or fork and stir! I know, I know… You probably think I’m crazy, adding coconut oil to a classic carrot cake recipe. But I promise you can’t taste the coconut! Its flavor is completely masked by maple syrup and plenty of spices. You’ll use both cinnamon and nutmeg; the latter adds a subtle depth and really helps the cinnamon’s warmth shine.
Like many of my other cake and cupcake recipes, this low-fat one only requires 1 tablespoon of oil. Instead, the majority of the cake’s tender texture comes from Greek yogurt. As a true powerhouse in healthier baking, it contributes lots of moisture while lowering the fat and calories. Bonus: Greek yogurt adds a little extra protein too!
Now for the star of the show… The carrots! Pack in as many as you can: the more the merrier. I mixed in a whopping 2 cups, but if you accidentally measure a little more, go ahead and add in the extra too. Make sure you use freshly grated carrots. Avoid the pre-shredded ones available in the produce section because those are dry and crunchy. Freshly grated carrots contain more moisture and natural juices, which they release as the cake bakes and make it unbelievably moist. Because of that, be sure to spray the pan really well to prevent the cake’s bottom from sticking!
Tip: Grate the carrots using a food processor to speed up the process!
The frosting is laughably easy to make. Just mix the 4 ingredients together in a bowl with a fork! Do NOT use an electric or stand mixer because those would over-beat the frosting, resulting it a thin runny texture. Unlike cream cheese, ricotta has less of a “cheesy” taste, so this frosting actually tastes more like vanilla than cheese as written. Feel free to adjust the vanilla extract according to your tastes.
Ricotta also contains a grainier texture than cream cheese, so right after mixing the ingredients together, the frosting feels rather grainy on the tongue. As it rests, the graininess gradually fades. I found it best to frost the cake at least 1-2 hours before slicing and serving to really reduce that grainy texture.
Pure veggie dessert bliss.
Loaded with soft carrots and warm spices, this skinny Classic Carrot Cake carries all of the comforting flavors your childhood favorite but none of the guilt of typical oil-laden recipes. Its supremely moist texture draws you back bite after bite… I should know—I ate three slices the day I photographed this cake! One as an after-lunch dessert, another as post-dinner treat, and the third as an I’m-still-hungry-and-craving-something-sweet-as-a-midnight-snack just before bedtime.
Yup, it’s that addictive! Even the Easter Bunny would agree. ♥
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