Monday, November 21, 2011

Healthy Polish Carrot Cake

Slice of Carrot Cake on Plate
Carrot Cake with Double Frosting Recipe

Recipe from Healing Foods by Miriam Polunin

I’ve wanted to try this recipe for ages. What’s not to like when “a large slice of this super-moist cake has a food value similar to that of a main course” according to Miriam Polunin, who created the recipe in 1990 when carbo-loading was in style. Actually, this is healthier than most cakes. One serving has 190 calories and most cakes have at least twice that. It is sweetened with honey, and only a small amount. Though not really high fiber, the whole wheat flour, raisins, poppy seeds, and carrots do contribute 2 fiber grams per serving.

The cake has only 3 tbsp. of fat, instead of the usual ½ - 1 cup. The original recipe calls for sunflower margarine, but I’ve substituted butter because trans fats are of greater concern these days than saturated fats. This cake is a “rich source of carotenes, phosphorus, vitamin A and B12” according to the cookbook.

Carrots, Raisins, Whole Wheat Flour, Yogurt, Eggs, Butter, etc.
Mostly Healthful Ingredients
What makes this cake Polish—from a 1990 British perspective? The poppy seeds and honey? Yogurt? The farmers cheese in the frosting? The hearty, no-nonsense ingredients and dense moist texture with whole grains and very little sweetening? Does it count towards my quest to explore my Polish cooking roots?  The Polish part is a mystery, but it’s a hearty and fun recipe that’s a keeper.

Notice that this cake bakes for 1 ½ hours, then must sit for 20 minutes before unmolding and further cooling for best results. Take this into consideration (like I didn’t) before you start preparing it for a potluck or party. Also, Ms. Polunin states that the cake should be stored covered in the refrigerator and consumed within 4 days. I’d say that’s especially true in hot and humid climates because of its denseness and moistness. In winter, leftover cake can be covered and stored in a cool part of the house.

Orange Cake Batter in Tube Pan
Cake Before Baking
To save time, grate carrots in food processor, then run them through again with the slicing blade so they’ll be finely grated. Of course, a hand grater can be used instead. We used a mortar and pestle to crush the poppy seeds. I’m not sure, but they might be just as good uncrushed.

If you like a sweeter cake, you could add more raisins. The frosting is not sweet, and I would add more honey to taste next time. For my family this would be about 2–3 tbsp. rather than the 2 tsp. in the recipe.

About the frosting quantity: recipe makes an extremely thin layer if ¼ lb. of farmers cheese is used. This would work best if only the top is frosted, but seemed a bit skimpy when I frosted the sides too, plus the cake draws moisture from the frosting and cracks it and turns it brownish by the second day. I would double the quantity to ½ lb. of farmers cheese whipped with honey to taste if you want to frost both top and sides.

Ring of Cake with White Frosting
Farmers Cheese Frosted Carrot Cake
Polish Carrot Cake
makes 10 slices

canola oil to coat the pan
½ cup clear honey
3 tbsp. soft butter
½ cup golden raisins
½ lb. finely grated carrots
grated zest of 1 lemon
2/3 cup nonfat yogurt
2 eggs, beaten
1 ½ cup whole wheat flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
3 tbsp. crushed poppy seeds
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Frosting: double quantities if frosting top & sides:
¼ lb. lowfat fromage frais or smooth soft cheese
2 tsp. honey, or to taste
2 drops vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a 7-inch square or 8-inch round pan. (I used a light-colored 8-inch tube pan, and recommend it.)

In a large saucepan, gently heat the honey, butter, and golden raisins, stirring until they’re just heated enough to be blended.

Remove from heat. Stir in carrots, lemon zest, yogurt, and (beaten) eggs.

Blend dry ingredients: Sift the flour with the baking powder and cinnamon and mix well. Stir in poppy seeds.

Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients till blended. Transfer to cake pan.

Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Reduce temperature to 300 degrees and bake for about 30 more minutes, till the edges of the cake begin to come away from the sides of the pan. (I only baked it 20 minutes at 300 degrees.)

Cool cake in pan for 20 minutes. Invert cake onto wire rack and cool.

Make frosting: beat the fromage frais or farmer’s cheese till spreadable, and stir in honey to taste. Using a spatula or knife (I used a very small spoonula), spread frosting over cake.


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