Naturally Sweet Carrot Cake

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Hard to believe, but my second trimester is coming to a close. Ryan and I completed our hypnobirthing class on Monday, and we found a sweet doula, Sarah York, over the weekend. After much thought and debate and prayer, we’ve decided to give birth at the hospital. Thankfully my OB is a family friend and lives just three houses up from my parents. Even more reassuring, she had natural births with all four of her children and is excited about my choice to avoid as much medical intervention as possible. Perhaps next time around, we’ll consider doing a home birth or making the drive to Denver, but since there is so much I don’t know about labor and delivery, I believe the hospital will be the best atmosphere for Lucy’s arrival.

That being said, I’m working on a birth plan that is both specific and purposeful. We talked about birth trauma in our hypnobirthing class, and the concept has guided my thinking as I consider labor and delivery. We often forget that babies are an equally important part of the birthing process. Their tiny, flexible bodies work down through the birth canal, leaving behind the safety and security of the womb. It is their lungs that must take those first gasps of air and their eyes that lock onto the faces of their mothers. As we enter into the third trimester, I’m preparing my body and my soul for a peaceful and joyful birth. One in which Lucy feels no fear. Now of course, so many different scenarios can occur and birth rarely happens the way we expect. But I do know that my mind and my soul can hold onto the promise of hope and peace no matter what turn my birthing may take.

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As I mentioned last week, my appetite has grown IMMENSELY. I feel like I need to eat every two hours…and not just a granola bar…a hefty meal. Last night, I ate an apple, peanut butter, a whole wheat bagel, two slices of cheese and cinnamon raisin bread. All of this consumed after a full dinner of pasta and shrimp. She’s growing, I’m growing, so I’ll keep on eating as much healthy and real food as my body demands.  Thankfully, I haven’t had any cravings for cake or cookies or ice-cream. I tend towards more savory food or treats that have been naturally sweetened, like this Carrot Cake.

We had a few friends over for dinner on Saturday night, and I wanted to offer them both a healthy and not-so-healthy dessert option. This carrot cake seemed like a natural choice for the beginning of March. As I grated carrots and chopped dates, I felt Lucy’s foot along the right side of my abdomen (her very favorite place to remind me she’s there, inside me). I gave her a gentle rub and continued on with my mixing bowls. Now, as a baker, I read dozens of recipes each month. I spend more time baking than most people spend cooking. So I know that 4 oz. of butter is equivalent to one standard stick. However, pregnancy brain has been a definite symptom this trimester, and on Saturday, when I read 4 oz. of butter in the recipe, I cut my stick in half, only melting 2 oz.

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As often happens, I realized my mistake mid-bake. The loaves were already rising in the oven, and there was nothing I could do but hope that they still tasted okay. Much to my delight, the carrot cake loaves were still moist and light, not too greasy but flavorful. Not only had my mistake not been fatal, but I actually preferred the carrot cake with 1/2 as much butter as the original recipe calls for.

Now, as a word of caution, this is a lovely carrot cake recipe, but there is absolutely no sugar, no honey, no maple syrup. Ripe bananas and dates provide all the sweetness. So if you’re looking for a classic carrot cake, I’d find another recipe. But if you’re like me, this naturally sweet carrot cake will become a favorite. It’s wholesome, moist, and full of texture and flavor. A real winner in my book…and I think Lucy likes it too.

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Naturally Sweet Carrot Cake

Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
2 ounces unsalted butter, heated until just melted
1/2 cup dried dates, seeded and finely chopped into a paste
3 ripe bananas (1 1/4 cups), mashed well
1 1/2 cups grated carrots (about 3 medium)
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 eggs, lightly whisked

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a standard 8-cup loaf pan (or 8×8 cake pan or four mini loaf pans) and line it with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the walnuts and set aside.

Stir the dates into the melted butter, breaking up the dates with a knife or fork.

In a large bowl combine the bananas and carrots. Stir in the date-butter mixture, breaking up any  clumps as you go. Whisk in the yogurt and the eggs. Add the flour mixture and fold until everything just comes together. Spoon into the prepared pan (s). Bake for about 50 – 60 minutes (35-40 for mini loaf pans) or until a toothpick tests clean in the center of the cake.

Allow to cool for ten to fifteen minutes before removing to a wire rack. Eat within one day or two of baking. These loaves freeze well, so don’t be shy about saving a loaf for next weekend.

Monet

Anecdotes and Apple Cores

50 thoughts on “Naturally Sweet Carrot Cake

  1. Patty

    Monet-your wholesome carrot cake looks absolutely delicious! Don’t you like cutting back on fat or sugar in a recipe and finding out that it works even better than the full fat version?!
    You look marvelous as a pregnant lady- best wishes and continued excitement for you and Ryan ;-)

  2. lisa fine

    Yum! I absolutely love carrot cake, and could see adding a little cream cheese or maple syrup on top to make this a little more decadent.

    Love hearing the progress of Lucy, and the choices you and Ryan are making throughout your pregnancy. It’s all so exciting to see and hear!

    1. Monet Post author

      I did do a quick cream cheese frosting…just mixed a block of cream cheese with some maple syrup. It was delicious! Made this a bit more decadent. Thank you for your sweet words, Lisa!

  3. Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking

    This honestly could not have come at a better time! I was leafing through carrot cake recipes today and really wished I could find one with less butter and sugar than typically called for. I’ll be making this soon, especially since carrot cake is my favorite dessert! Thanks, Monet! Glad you’re doing well in the later stages of pregnancy and feeling peaceful and confident about Lucy’s arrival!

  4. LisaR @ Who Stole My Baby?

    Oh man, I do that all the time. Except, instead of half as much butter, I usually put in twice as much as I need. There are certain recipes that I can’t even make without two or three whole sticks of butter now.

  5. Becky

    Monet,
    I love your recipe for this lightened version of carrot cake. Baking with Greek yogurt add moistness, too, and I use it often.

    Glad to hear that your birthing plans are coming along nicely:)

  6. Becky

    Monet,
    I love your recipe for this lightened version of carrot cake. Baking with Greek yogurt add moistness, too, and I use it often.

    Nice to hear that your birthing plans are coming together.

  7. TheKitchenLioness

    Monet, I really like the title to this post, “naturally sweet carrot cakes” already sounds wholesome and the ingredients for your recipe sound terrific – ripe bananas and dates as sweetener, than carrots, of course, and Greek yogurt – that sounds really good, too good not to try it out. I have these mini loaof pans and a bake sale at one of the girls´school is coming up very soon – I think this would be the perfect recipe for some mini versions of this cake!
    Have a wonderful Thursday!
    P.S.: You look gorgeous!

  8. Mary

    This sounds like an excellent cake for breakfast or for serving with a cup of tea. I’ve been surprised this past year by just how much flavor and sweetness dates can add to desserts. This is definitely a recipe I will be playing with soon. Thanks, Monet!

    P.S. You look absolutely beautiful!

  9. RavieNomNoms

    I love this recipe! I love the cookbook is came from too. I am totally in love with all things carrot so this is right up my alley and since Patrick is out of town I can sneak the nuts into the cake and not feel bad about it haha

    You are beaming Monet! So pretty!

  10. Nancy/SpicieFoodie

    Hi Monet! I love coming to see your photos of your (adorable) growing belly — so very excited for you and Ryan. I love your carrot cake, in fact you’ve got me craving it now. Thanks for sharing. xx

  11. Biz

    My grandma made the best carrot and zucchini cake, so moist! It wasn’t until she passed away that I got her recipes – each recipe called for TWO CUPS of oil! No wonder!

    Yours looks delicious! When I was pregnant with my daughter, I craved Chinese food and couldn’t stand red meat.

    My now 21 year old daughter loves Chinese food and can’t stand red meat – she blames me about the meat because I never introduced it to her when I was pregnant!

  12. Annie

    I can’t believe you’re at 26 weeks already! Lucy will be here, what feels like, tomorrow. What a great mistake with the butter. I’ve purposely tried to reduce the amount of butter in recipes and not had such great luck. Your carrot cake sounds delicious!

  13. Bonnie

    This looks so delicious! And, the fact that it depends on natural sweetness is a good thing! I often try to cut down on the fat in recipes. It usually works just fine. I know you are so excited planning for sweet Lucy. I hope all goes very smoothly for both of you.

    Best,
    Bonnie

  14. kelly von hemert

    Hi Monet! Long time! I saw we became friends on Goodreads.com! I am so glad I found you again! My Galley Girl blog crashed a long time ago and I have been pursuing other projects.

    Love your new blog, you are a beautiful, luminous pregnant lady! Congrats! I had two natural births in the hospital and I am still glad I was there. Your plan sounds wonderful. I know it is going to be beautiful!

    Look forward to checking in! Way to pursue your writing!

    xo Kelly

  15. mangiabella

    you radiate more and more with every photo of Lucy’s growth! oh bella this last trimester is so exciting, the most growth takes place, you will feel the most miraculous things….your birth is going to be fantastic, your body was made to do this!! just the fact that you are even thinking intently on the “birth plan” says so much. When the time comes, you will be focused and ready to help bring Lucille into your loving arms. That focus will help you breathe and allow your body to do what comes naturally. I bet she loves your naturally sweet carrot cake!!! and everything else her mama will make her in the years to come….blessings to you all!!!

  16. zerrin

    This is the cake I’m in search for! I don’t like too sweet cakes, and natural sweetness of this cake will be perfect for me! Adding dates into it is a great idea! I heard that dates make the birth easier, so it is my favorite snack these days. I’m already in my 30th week and I’m so excited! It’s getting closer and closer!

  17. Sprigs of Rosemary

    What a delightful cake! An indubitable success from a would-be flop. Love it. And love you with your ever-growing bump, Monet. Little Lucy’s going to have a ball with you and Ryan. Getting (almost!) as anxious as you! miss you . .

  18. Rachel @ My Naturally Frugal Family

    A happy accident indeed.

    I cannot believe how fast your pregnancy seems to be going by.

    You look just fabulous in the picture above and how exciting to hear you say “next time.”

    Congrats on having a decision as to where you will birth, I am sure all will be well. I think knowing you are in good hands with your doctor will make all the difference.

    I hope you have a wonderful Thursday and keep enjoying all of those healthy foods :)

  19. Cass @foodmyfriend

    You are positively GLOWING! Lucy – I love it. I was actually meant to be called Lucy. I’m glad you have decided to have a hospital birth. So much less risk. My sister in law tried to have my neice at a birthing clinic and ended up being rushed in for an emergency C section. Your first time should be completely taken care of. Oh.. and your carrot cake looks delicious :P

  20. Orchidea

    It is nice to read about the pregnancy progress and this carrot cake looks very good… it is very interesting the dry fruit you put in it. I will definitely try it… I love carrot cake!
    Ciao.

  21. a farmer in the dell

    I love your frame of mind as you enter this third trimester. You may not be in complete control of your body, but the mind is a powerful tool! As always you look stunning. I love seeing your growing belly! This carrot cake sounds amazing. Carrot cake is my favorite. My husband and I had it as our wedding cake. Your version sounds healthy and delicious!

    1. Monet

      Smile. We had it as our wedding cake too! Everyone loved it…and I ate two slices! Thank you for your sweet comments!

  22. Nami | Just One Cookbook

    I get happy seeing you – marriage, pregnancy, having a newborn baby, they all make me excited and happy. You look gorgeous and I cannot wait to meet Lucy! Things get busy but hope you can keep it up. You will want to eat more (!!) and it seems like you are having a very good maternity life. Love the healthy carrot cake. It looks really moist and delicious too! Take good care!

  23. CCU

    You are progressing beautifully my friend, so excited for the big day!
    And delicious looking carrot cake!

    Cheers
    CCU

  24. Joanne

    I’m so glad you made a decision that works for you guys and are preparing for a happy third trimester!! I’m SO excited for you.

    This carrot cake looks awesome! ANd how great that it’s lower in fat because of your mistake!

  25. Julia {The Roasted Root}

    Pregnancy brain worked out in your favor! It’s amazing how great quick breads can turn out with minimal butter or oil. I’m with you, sweet breads are sweet enough for me with just bananas and dates. Sometimes I’ll do a couple of tablespoons of honey in my banana bread and that’s really all it takes! Gorgeous healthy bread!

  26. Liren

    Monet, this is perfectly wholesome, and just a reminder of how you will be a wonderful mother once Lucy arrives. You’re already a wonderful mother now, feeding her good foods, in utero! As each week pases, I find myself getting more and more excited for you and Ryan!

  27. Beth

    Your carrot cake looks wonderful. I think I’d like it too! You look so happy – and I’m happy for your little family too.

  28. Nuts about food

    What a coincidence! I just posted about a “breakfast” cake because it is full of ingredients like carrots and coconut and yogurt and honey and contains no sugar or butter. We all loved it and it was moist and delicious despite being healthy. Sounds like this cake is just up my alley.

  29. Jenny @ BAKE

    This carrot cake seems like the perfect indulgence when you’re trying to be careful what you’re putting in your body! Finalising your birth plan is so exciting! I hope you find as much joy in your third trimester as you have in your first and second!

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  31. Rhiannon

    Your recipe looks fantastic, I can’t wait to try it.

    I just wondered if you had a suggestion for something as an alternative to bananas? I’m afraid I am one of those strange people with a banana phobia (think an allergy to Amoxicillin started it!)

    Hope all is well in Colorado – I visited there last year on a road trip – was definitely my favourite state!

    Thank you,
    Rhiannon

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