Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Healthy Cake!

Well, I might be stretching the truth a little there... But this is healthier than most cakes, but still pretty tasty - actually, it rates pretty well in the flavour stakes. It's also has an undeniable autumn feel to it - walnuts, apples and spices - so seems perfect, now that the leaves are turning (everywhere except Wellington city, that is!) and there's a chill in the air.

I really miss Christchurch in Autumn - I love seeing the leaves turn, and seeing Hagley Park in shades of gold at Easter was fantastic but also made me a bit sad, so I'm hoping this cake will help recreate the Autumn buzz. Though I really enjoy my Wellington waterfront commute, there really aren't any deciduous trees around so if it wasn't getting colder I'd barely know the season.

This cakes rather extensive ingredient list creates a very hearty, nutty, warming kind of cake - and though the recipe looks daunting it is purely the long list at the beginning making it seem complicated - it's actually very straightforward. 

The oats are an unusual addition (in this form) but bulk out the cake and give it substance. And (I like to think) make it healthier. Compared to normal cake it is pretty healthy (everything's relative!); the recipe makes an absolutely enormous cake and it's less butter, more oats/carrot/apple/walnut. Of course, coconut isn't exactly low fat but it goes perfectly so let's overlook that, shall we? ;-)

Most of the time I am pretty good at resisting the temptation to lick the spatula when making cake - cookie dough is another story, but I generally prefer my cake cooked. This cake, though... Well, let's just say the delicious spiced smell is too good not to taste. Besides, I've got to get my 5+A Day somehow, right?

The recipe does make a very large cake - perfect for sharing with a crowd, but if you don't have a crowd to feed feel free to halve the recipe and bake it in 22cm tins instead. It will take less time to cook - perhaps 40 minutes (but just keep checking on it and you'll be fine).

The topping is a crunchy, baked-on coconut concoction - again very simple, and I think a variant of this needs to be incorporated into more of the cakes I bake! The original recipe called for 1/4 cup of milk in this, but I found that just meant I had watery stuff leftover, so I've left that out. 

The cakes are pretty fragile so don't unmold them straight away - let them cool a bit first. You can see below how close one of mine cake to falling apart!

The icing is a nice little bit of richness, though I think this would also be nice with just a bit of natural yoghurt - if you want to use yoghurt and still have a two-layer cake you probably want to opt with a very thick Greek-style yoghurt.

I am very impressed with this cake - it's yummier than I'd expect for something packed with healthy things (oh, I am so judgemental!).  Mr Cake rates it 9/10, which is high praise, and I have to agree, even though it's not slathered with huge quantities of gooey icing.

Finally, this is a photo is for my Mum, who wants to know what the rest of my kitchen looks like while the camera lens is zoomed in on the mixing bowl. A bit messy - what do you think? Am I a mess or not too bad? Mum, is it what you expected? (I think she's remembering the baking whirlwinds I used to create in her kitchen - hopefully I've improved a bit over the years)

Are you a messy baker or do you clean up as you go? 

Autumnal Apple Carrot Cake (adapted from The Kitchn)
1 3/4 cups rolled oats
2 cups boiling water
1 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened
2 cups dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon rum (optional)
3 cups flour
1 cup unsweetened coconut
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
2 cups grated carrots (about 3 large carrots)
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Coconut Topping
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup coconut

Cream Cheese Icing
50g butter, softened
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
125g cream cheese
1 tsp rum (or vanilla essence or lemon juice)

Heat the oven to 180 C. Grease two 25cm round cake tins.

Mix together the oats and boiling water and set aside for 10 minutes. Beat the butter and sugar until well combined, then add eggs one by one, beating after each addition. Add the vanilla, rum, and oats and mix to combine.

Add the dry ingredients and combine. Mix in the apples, carrots, and walnuts. Divide mix between the cake tins and bake for 50-60 minutes.

While the cakes are baking, beat together the coconut topping ingredients. About 15 minutes before the end of the cooking time take one of the cakes out and carefully spread or crumble the topping over the top, then place back in oven. Cakes are done when a knife comes out clean or when the top springs back when pressed gently.

Allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tins.

Beat together the butter and icing sugar for the icing, then add the cream cheese and rum and beat until smooth.

When the cakes are cool, spread the icing on the one without the coconut, then top with the coconut-topped cake.


  1. Love the sound of this recipe, with its soaked oats and coconut and cream cheese and all kinds of good things! Definitely sounds enormous - must be all the fruit that bulks it out, because the regular ingredients don't seem to be that vast.

    Also - you're not a mess at all, you should see my kitchen, even making a cup of tea I seem to mess it up!

  2. When I studied in Wellington that's hands down what I missed about Christchurch the most. Autumn. Pretty much moved back here for just that - the seasons. I just have to have them in visual. Thankfully earthquakes do not change the seasons. Fantastic looking cake BTW. :)

  3. Kitchen mess doesn't look nearly as bad the mess you left in my kitchen - perhaps I have more kitchen bench to spread mess around. No sign of autumn here - buds bursting out - but we went back to the yummy chocolate shop in Banff and asked for an ice-cream and the young woman said they would start making them tomorrow. Had to go across the road and get one from Cows.

  4. Yum that looks good! Wish I were your neighbour...

  5. Your kitchen looks nowhere near the mess my kitchen is when I have finished baking! Try as I might I just CAN'T seem to clean as I go. This cake looks delicious and perfect for one of my 'Baking for nightshift' treats...might have to make it for tomorrow night (if I wake up in time)

  6. I'm a clean up once the cakes in the oven sort of cook.I don't have a great deal of bench space so it helps.

    Can I ask a question,I notice you have put walnuts optional.I wonder if as a general rule the texture of cakes and biscuits would be affected by leaving an ingredient like nuts,dried fruit etc, out.One cup is a reasonable amount,although as you say in this case it is a big cake.


  7. Laura, I know, how could it go wrong with all that good stuff? It is massive - it was a bit like the loaves and fishes at work today, I took a chunk of it and it didn't seem to diminish when people took slices!

    Simone, I understand your motivation! I've always adored the turning leaves.

    Mum, I guess there is more motivation not to make mess in my own kitchen. ;-) And I presume "Cows" does not refer to beasts but a store of some sort...

    Anita, there are some vacant apartments in our building, you could be. ;-) I promise I'd knock on your door regularly with treats if you were!

    Megan, this is a perfect cake for sharing, went down a treat with both Mr Cake's colleagues and mine today. Just be warned it is massive!

    Cheryl, I think the way it works is that if an ingredient retains its structure and doesn't leak anything into the cake it doesn't affect the cake - I haven't tried this cake without the nuts but have made carrot cakes and coffee cakes with walnuts in the recipes without the nuts with no problem. :-)


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