Healthier apricot carrot cake

Healthier apricot carrot cake | Me & The Moose. This healthier carrot cake uses no refined sugar, reduces the fat, and increases the veggies to make a cake that is equally light and delicious. #meandthemoose #carrotcakerecipes #carrotcake #healthybaking #healthybakingrecipes #healthyrecipes #healthycake #cake #cakerecipes

Cake with vegetables sounds healthy, but is usually far from it. This version lightens up the traditional recipe with dried apricots, applesauce, and coconut sugar; reduces the fat and swaps in coconut oil; and swaps out half of the white flour for whole wheat. Add in walnuts for Omega-3s (or leave them out to make this school safe) and you have a healthier option for your Easter table that’s equally delicious and showstopping.

Take me to the cake!

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I’m still struggling with the eternal question: Is it worth it to healthify desserts? If my kid factors into the equation, then yes. He’s often satisfied with a “healthy” sweet. I, on the other hand, really wanted a doughnut for breakfast and no amount of healthy treats was going to cut it.

However! If there’s a recipe ripe for healthifying, a dessert starring a vegetable is it.

I started recipe testing this cake by dumping everything into a bowl and calling it a day. The results were delicious, but dense, so I decided to do as others have done and whip the eggs and sugar at the start to make the crumb a bit lighter. Often, cake directions tell you to cream butter and sugar / butter and eggs / sugar and eggs (as in this case) until they’re “light and fluffy.” Unfortunately, the coconut sugar is so dark that you’ll never really achieve this. What you want instead is just to aerate the eggs, sugar, and other liquids. Don’t worry about it too much, just make sure that you see lots of bubbles once all of the liquid is combined.

Healthier apricot carrot cake | Me & The Moose. This healthier carrot cake uses no refined sugar, reduces the fat, and increases the veggies to make a cake that is equally light and delicious. #meandthemoose #carrotcakerecipes #carrotcake #healthybaking #healthybakingrecipes #healthyrecipes #healthycake #cake #cakerecipes
Healthier apricot carrot cake | Me & The Moose. This healthier carrot cake uses no refined sugar, reduces the fat, and increases the veggies to make a cake that is equally light and delicious. #meandthemoose #carrotcakerecipes #carrotcake #healthybaking #healthybakingrecipes #healthyrecipes #healthycake #cake #cakerecipes

Alone, this cake is delicious, but tastes like a muffin or a quick bread, not a cake. But slathered in cream cheese frosting, this is a CAKE.

Can I tell you a secret about making the frosting? I don’t measure the sugar. You heard that: I don’t measure the sugar. I mix in a couple of large spoonfuls and then add more to taste. I like a frosting that isn’t too sweet and the beauty of cream cheese frosting is the tang, which gets totally masked by too much sugar.

Healthier apricot carrot cake | Me & The Moose. This healthier carrot cake uses no refined sugar, reduces the fat, and increases the veggies to make a cake that is equally light and delicious. #meandthemoose #carrotcakerecipes #carrotcake #healthybaking #healthybakingrecipes #healthyrecipes #healthycake #cake #cakerecipes
Healthier apricot carrot cake | Me & The Moose. This healthier carrot cake uses no refined sugar, reduces the fat, and increases the veggies to make a cake that is equally light and delicious. #meandthemoose #carrotcakerecipes #carrotcake #healthybaking #healthybakingrecipes #healthyrecipes #healthycake #cake #cakerecipes
Healthier apricot carrot cake | Me & The Moose. This healthier carrot cake uses no refined sugar, reduces the fat, and increases the veggies to make a cake that is equally light and delicious. #meandthemoose #carrotcakerecipes #carrotcake #healthybaking #healthybakingrecipes #healthyrecipes #healthycake #cake #cakerecipes
Healthier apricot carrot cake | Me & The Moose. This healthier carrot cake uses no refined sugar, reduces the fat, and increases the veggies to make a cake that is equally light and delicious. #meandthemoose #carrotcakerecipes #carrotcake #healthybaking #healthybakingrecipes #healthyrecipes #healthycake #cake #cakerecipes

Apricot carrot cake

Adapted from Bake from Scratch and Natasha’s Kitchen

Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes (about 45 minutes of active time, including frosting the cake)
Yield: 8 GIANT slices, 10-12 normal slices

1 cup apricots, chopped
1 Tbsp flour (AP or Whole Wheat)
4 eggs
1 cup coconut sugar
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour (pastry or white whole wheat are also great)
1 cup AP flour
1 tsp baking soda
1½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp allspice
¼ tsp fine sea salt
12 oz carrots; trimmed, peeled, and shredded (about 3 cups, lightly packed shredded carrots)
1 cup walnuts, toasted (optional)

 

Preheat the oven to 375.

Grease two 9-inch cake pans, or a 12-cup muffin tin liberally with melted coconut oil or cupcake liners. Set aside.

In a small bowl, chop the apricots and toss with 1 Tbsp of flour (either AP or whole wheat). Set aside.

Toast your walnuts in the preheating oven, keeping an eye to ensure that they don’t burn while you continue prepping your other ingredients. Set aside.

Trim, peel, and shred your carrots. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk together the eggs and sugar for about 3 minutes on a medium high setting (or on high if your hand mixer isn’t very strong). The eggs won’t get lighter in color because the coconut sugar is quite dark, but you will see lots of little air bubbles formed and the volume of the liquid should increase.

Reduce the speed of your mixer to low (medium-low for a hand mixer) and slowly add the oil, applesauce, and vanilla extract.

Sift the dry ingredients together into the wet ingredients. Fold until just combined and no lumps remain.

Fold in the carrots, apricots, and toasted walnuts (if using).

Pour half of the mixture into each cake pan (or, fill each muffin cup until about 2/3 full).

Bake, rotating halfway through, for 20-23 minutes for the cakes or 15-18 minutes for the muffins. You want the cakes to be springy when touched and for a tester to come out with a few crumbs or clean.

Let the cake cool entirely before icing.


Cream cheese frosting
2 blocks cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter (1 cup), softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus more to taste

Combine the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment on your mixer or your hand mixer, combine and whip the butter and cream cheese on high for 3-4 minutes. Add the vanilla and salt and whip on medium to combine.

Add the powdered sugar a few Tbsp at a time and SLOWLY whip the sugar into the rest of the mixture on low (otherwise you’ll have powdered sugar all over your kitchen). Once the initial amount of powdered sugar is incorporated, add more, a few Tbsp at a time, to taste. When all of the sugar you want is incorporated, turn the mixer back to high and whip for 3-4 more minutes.

Healthier apricot carrot cake | Me & The Moose. This healthier carrot cake uses no refined sugar, reduces the fat, and increases the veggies to make a cake that is equally light and delicious. #meandthemoose #carrotcakerecipes #carrotcake #healthybaking #healthybakingrecipes #healthyrecipes #healthycake #cake #cakerecipes
Healthier apricot carrot cake | Me & The Moose. This healthier carrot cake uses no refined sugar, reduces the fat, and increases the veggies to make a cake that is equally light and delicious. #meandthemoose #carrotcakerecipes #carrotcake #healthybaking #healthybakingrecipes #healthyrecipes #healthycake #cake #cakerecipes



Orange and almond upside down cake

Orange and almond upside down cake | Me & the Moose. Cara cara oranges, clementines, and kumquats baked in a light syrup really shine in this simple, lightly sweet, and naturally gluten-free upside down cake. #meandthemoose #citruscake #citrusrecipes #healthybaking #oranges #almonds #glutenfreerecipes #glutenfree #upsidedowncake

Jump to the recipe!

Upside down cakes, specifically citrus upside down cakes, are a dime a dozen this time of year. And I get it! Citrus is where it’s at in the winter and what else do you do with the giant bag of oranges or lemons that you find in your fridge?

Also, WTF do you do with kumquats? I always want to buy them because I’m a sucker for anything miniature, but they freak me out. And I’ll be honest: I’ve read online that you can eat them raw, skins and all. STRONG DISAGREE. The ones I’ve had are entirely too bitter to eat without any cooking. But this cake is the magical trick!

Orange and almond upside down cake | Me & the Moose. Cara cara oranges, clementines, and kumquats baked in a light syrup really shine in this simple, lightly sweet, and naturally gluten-free upside down cake. #meandthemoose #citruscake #citrusrecipes #healthybaking #oranges #almonds #glutenfreerecipes #glutenfree #upsidedowncake

I love this cake for many reasons, but primarily because it’s less sweet and naturally gluten-free. It bakes in under 30 minutes, you only need one bowl, AND it’s fancy enough for company, but simple enough for a weeknight.*

* (Don’t you love when people say that? Who has time for dessert on a weeknight?? But if you did, this would be the cake to make.)

Orange and almond upside down cake | Me & the Moose. Cara cara oranges, clementines, and kumquats baked in a light syrup really shine in this simple, lightly sweet, and naturally gluten-free upside down cake. #meandthemoose #citruscake #citrusrecipes #healthybaking #oranges #almonds #glutenfreerecipes #glutenfree #upsidedowncake

A couple of notes:

  • To make this cake dairy-free, just sub in some non-dairy yogurt and use clarified butter or coconut oil for the syrup.

  • When prepping your pan, butter JUST the sides of the pan, not the bottom. The butter/sugar syrup won’t spread out properly, which means, you’ll have pockets with syrup and pockets without.

Orange and almond upside down cake | Me & the Moose. Cara cara oranges, clementines, and kumquats baked in a light syrup really shine in this simple, lightly sweet, and naturally gluten-free upside down cake. #meandthemoose #citruscake #citrusrecipes #healthybaking #oranges #almonds #glutenfreerecipes #glutenfree #upsidedowncake
Orange and almond upside down cake | Me & the Moose. Cara cara oranges, clementines, and kumquats baked in a light syrup really shine in this simple, lightly sweet, and naturally gluten-free upside down cake. #meandthemoose #citruscake #citrusrecipes #healthybaking #oranges #almonds #glutenfreerecipes #glutenfree #upsidedowncake
Orange and almond upside down cake | Me & the Moose. Cara cara oranges, clementines, and kumquats baked in a light syrup really shine in this simple, lightly sweet, and naturally gluten-free upside down cake. #meandthemoose #citruscake #citrusrecipes #healthybaking #oranges #almonds #glutenfreerecipes #glutenfree #upsidedowncake

Orange almond upside down cake

4 cara cara oranges, 4 clementines, and a pint of kumquats
½ cup plain yogurt
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
¾ cup + 2 Tbsp finely ground corn meal or polenta
2 cups almond meal
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp kosher salt
2 tsp orange zest 
½ tsp almond extract

For the syrup:
2 tsp butter
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp water

Preheat the oven to 350.

Butter ONLY the sides of a 9-inch baking pan and set aside. *See notes above

Peel the oranges and clementines, removing the outer pith. Slice the oranges into 1/8-inch thick slices (you should get about 7 slices per medium orange) and remove the seeds. Set aside.

Slice the kumquats and set aside. (No need to peel these, but I do remove the seeds for ease of slicing. When you hit a seed, just pop it out with your knife or give the slice a gentle squeeze and the seeds will pop out.)

In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, brown sugar, and eggs.

Stir in the corn meal, almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir to combine.

Add the orange zest and almond extract and stir again to combine. Set aside.

To make the sauce: In a small saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, and water. Heat over a medium low flame and stir frequently, just until the sugar has dissolved and the sauce thickens slightly, about 3-4 minutes.

Pour the hot syrup into your prepared baking pan and swirl to cover the bottom of the pan. Place the orange, clementine, and kumquat slices in any pattern you like, nestling them into the syrup. It’s okay if there are some open spots.

Top with the cake batter and smooth out gently so you don’t move the citrus.

Bake for 23-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool for 5 minutes. Run a small knife around the sides of the cake. Place your cake plate upside down over the cake and, using oven mitts or a towel to protect your hands, carefully invert the cake and place the cake stand right side up. Carefully lift off the baking pan, being careful of any steam that might escape.

Yield: 8-12 slice

Orange and almond upside down cake | Me & the Moose. Cara cara oranges, clementines, and kumquats baked in a light syrup really shine in this simple, lightly sweet, and naturally gluten-free upside down cake. #meandthemoose #citruscake #citrusrecipes #healthybaking #oranges #almonds #glutenfreerecipes #glutenfree #upsidedowncake
Orange and almond upside down cake | Me & the Moose. Cara cara oranges, clementines, and kumquats baked in a light syrup really shine in this simple, lightly sweet, and naturally gluten-free upside down cake. #meandthemoose #citruscake #citrusrecipes #healthybaking #oranges #almonds #glutenfreerecipes #glutenfree #upsidedowncake

Sweet potato muffins

Sweet potato muffins | Me & The Moose. These one-bowl, whole grain muffins sneak in some vegetables at breakfast, lunch, or snack time. #sweetpotatomuffins #meandthemoose #sweet potatorecipes #thanksgiving #healthybaking

Thanksgiving is here! I love this holiday and the season that follows, but there are definite downsides. I’ve talked about keeping expectations in check with kids and holidays. And while it’s exciting and fun that there’s always something going on: Making cookies, making gifts, buying gifts, wrapping gifts, listening to music, decorating, holiday events, holiday parties, holiday-themed school things, concerts, visiting relatives, etc, it can be…a lot. And for a little one like mine who’s always searching for his equilibrium, it can be.. A WHOLE LOT.

Sweet potato muffins | Me & The Moose. These one-bowl, whole grain muffins sneak in some vegetables at breakfast, lunch, or snack time. #sweetpotatomuffins #meandthemoose #sweet potatorecipes #thanksgiving #healthybaking

So, let’s not add even more by completely abandoning our commitment to balanced eating, mkay?

These sweet potato muffins are a fantastic “sweet” to have around. They feel festive and would certainly make a fitting Thanksgiving breakfast to watch in front of the parade or DOG SHOW (!!!!!!!), but are just sweet enough thanks to the applesauce, a few Tbsp of brown sugar divided between the batter and the muffin tops, a handful of golden raisins, and sweet potatoes.

And did I mention that they only require one bowl? You’ll have enough dishes this week.

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A couple of notes:
- Chop the sweet potatoes into 1/3-1/2 inch chunks. Any bigger and they may not soften enough during baking, but if you shred them, they disappear and make the batter a bit too wet.
- This is a thick batter, almost dough-like in consistency. Don’t worry. It always puffs up well in the oven and results in an airy, light muffin.

Sweet potato muffins | Me & The Moose. These one-bowl, whole grain muffins sneak in some vegetables at breakfast, lunch, or snack time. #sweetpotatomuffins #meandthemoose #sweet potatorecipes #thanksgiving #healthybaking

Sweet potato muffins

4 Tbsp butter or coconut oil, partially melted
½ cup applesauce
1 egg 
1/2 cup brown sugar, divided  
3/4 cup yogurt 
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup wheat flour 
1 cup white flour 
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda 
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt 
1 medium sweet potato, cut into tiny squares (about 1.5 cups)
¼ cup golden raisins

Move your oven rack to the bottom or lower middle portion of the oven. Preheat to 375.

In a large bowl, partially melt the butter or coconut oil. Microwave it for a few seconds until it just begins to liquify, but is still partially solid.

Mix in the applesauce, egg, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, yogurt, and vanilla extract. Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined and no streaks of flour remain.

Add the chopped sweet potatoes and raisins and stir again to combine.

Spoon the batter into the cups of a muffin tin, filling about 3/4 of the way. Top each muffin with a large pinch or two of brown sugar.

Bake for 18-22 minutes until firm to the touch and a tester in the middle comes out clean. Check after 12-15 minutes and cover if the sugar browns too fast.

Sweet potato muffins | Me & The Moose. These one-bowl, whole grain muffins sneak in some vegetables at breakfast, lunch, or snack time. #sweetpotatomuffins #meandthemoose #sweet potatorecipes #thanksgiving #healthybaking

Raspberry rhubarb chia jam bars

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Preschool germs. Is there a stronger force in the universe? In my memoir, this era will be titled: The time when my child who never got sick, was never not sick.

And I don't know if all kids do this when ill, but mine is like a koala bear who drank a pot of coffee. He's both lethargic and wired, wanting to be on top of me while simultaneously thrashing like he's breaking out of a human prison. In short, this has not been a fun week.

Anyway, since we're stuck in the house for the foreseeable future, I've tried my hand with chia jam a few times. The basic recipe in that link has worked well for me as long as I cook the fruit down for about 20 minutes before adding the chia seeds and letting the mixture set in the fridge for about 30 to 60 minutes before using it. 

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And this jam is really versatile! It works in sandwiches, obviously, but is also great when added to oatmeal, yogurt, and baked goods. It would also make a tremendous baby puree.

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This is as easy as dessert/snack/breakfast gets. One bowl, no extra tools, and the same batter for the base and the top crumble. This recipe also uses gluten-free flour and clarified butter, so it's free of gluten, dairy, nuts, and eggs. And I've used as little butter and sugar as possible to maximize health without losing out on taste and texture.

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This dough is definitely crumbly, but packs down nicely with a rubber spatula. If it's too crumbly, feel free to add an extra tablespoon or two of butter.

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Raspberry rhubarb chia jam bars

For the jam:
12 oz frozen raspberries (one package or about 1 ½ cups)
2 cups rhubarb, chopped
2 large green apples, peeled and chopped
1 Tbsp water
4 Tbsp chia seeds  

Add raspberries, rhubarb and green apples to a medium pot. If your berries are still frozen, add 1 tablespoon of water to get things started. If your berries have unfrozen and there’s some liquid in your bag, skip the extra water and just start cooking.

Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium or medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is falling apart and the liquid has largely evaporated or become syrupy, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly and add the chia seeds. Cool in the fridge for 30-60 minutes before using.

Yield: About 3 cups


For the bars:
1.5 cups gluten free flour
1.5 cups quick oats
½ cup brown sugar, packed
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cardamom
½ tsp kosher salt
Zest of 1/2 large lemon
8 Tbsp clarified butter
4 Tbsp ice water
1.5 cups chia jam (see recipe above)

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9x9 brownie pan with clarified butter or olive oil and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt and mix well.

In a small bowl, melt some clarified butter. Measure the butter when melted and add to the dry ingredients, stirring after adding each tablespoon. Add the ice water, also stirring between additions.

Pack about 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of your brownie pan with a rubber spatula or wet hands. Top with the chia jam and smooth out. Crumble the rest of the oat mixture over the chia jam. If possible, pack some of the oat mixture into larger pieces and place those on top.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the edges begin to darken slightly.

Let cool completely before cutting.

Yield: 16 pieces

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Raspberry buckle

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Let's talk about the idea of healthifying desserts, shall we? Because I'm not totally sold on this strategy even though I keep doing it. Part of me thinks that boosting nutrition and finding balance (you can eat coffee cake, just make it a spelt coffee cake with less sugar, less gluten, and more protein!) is always good. But alternatively, might I actually indulge less if I just ate a small amount of the high fat, high sugar baked thing instead of trying to make spelt happen? Am I just kidding myself that a whole grain, barely sweet version is going to cut it when my real craving is for the doughy, crumbly, buttery, brown sugary coffee cake of my summer-on-the-jersey-shore dreams?

Ugh. If only there was one straightforward strategy that would always work.

I guess a wiser person than me would just accept that what we need from day to day or hour to hour can change. But I like predictability and this isn't cutting it.

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But, for now, we have an ever-so-slightly healthified raspberry buckle that is legitimately delicious on its own merits. I started with a recipe from King Arthur Flour and swapped out spelt flour for most of the white flour and reduced the amount of overall sugar.

I mostly left the crumble topping alone. I always want the first bite to pack more of a punch, which masks some of the healthier swaps later.

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I've made this cake without fruit which produces a straightforward coffee cake that's light and airy and not too sweet. I've also swapped coconut sugar for the brown sugar in the actual cake and it's good, but not great. The texture and bake time are the same, but I could really taste the coconut sugar and I didn't completely love it.

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This recipe also works best in a 9x9 pan. If you only have an 8x8, reduce the amount of batter in the pan by about 1/2 cup and either bake the extra in a ramekin or toss it. Or, if you have a deeper 8x8 pan (one with higher sides), you can bake the whole recipe, but may need a few extra minutes at the end.

Raspberry buckle
 

For the streussel topping:
4 Tbsp butter, melted
3 Tbsp brown sugar, packed
2 Tbsp white sugar
½ cup AP flour
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt

For the cake:
2 Tbsp butter, melted slightly
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup milk (I use whole, but any will do)
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup apple sauce
1½ cups spelt flour
½ cup AP flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries (do not defrost)

Preheat oven to 375. In a medium bowl, melt the 4 Tbsp of butter in the microwave for 30 seconds. Cut up the butter and add the rest of the streussel topping ingredients. Mix with a fork until the mixture is fully combined and the texture of wet sand. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, melt the remaining 2 Tbsp of butter for 20 seconds in the microwave. Add the sugar and stir to combine. Measure the milk. Add the egg and whisk lightly. Add to the sugar and butter and stir well to combine. Add the vanilla and apple sauce and stir again.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix just until no streaks of flour remain.

Gently fold in the raspberries.

Pour the batter into a greased 9x9 pan and top with the streussel mixture.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Yield: 16 squares

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