It has been a busy and stressful week. So I made a cake. Cakes are such a satisfying thing to make (unless we are talking about the first one of these cakes I made during the experimental stage. That one was edible, but not so satisfying). Fortunately the second cake turned out beautifully. It has a light texture for a grain free cake and is packed full of wholesome ingredients. The lemon cream cheese icing tops this cake perfectly.
Rather than using a sugar or sweetener for this cake, I have used stewed dates. Dates are inexpensive and add a wonderful caramel flavour to baked goodies. Dates are also a good source of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that our body can’t make on its own but needs for normal body and brain function. Tryptophan is used by the body to make serotonin and melatonin (among many other things), both of which are crucial for good brain function and sleep regulation.
Dates hold far more nutritional value than white sugar and they have a much lower glycemic index at around 30-40 versus 58-65 for table sugar (that means they don’t cause rapid blood sugar spikes). Dates are rich in iron, potassium and other minerals including calcium, manganese, copper and magnesium. They are also high in fibre, which helps in keeping blood sugar levels more stable and the gut happier. When eaten in moderation, dates are a fabulous addition to a healthy whole foods diet.
This cake has a few more steps than some of the others that I make. But it is worth the effort. However, if separating eggs and whipping egg whites is not your thing, feel free to omit that step and mix everything together instead. The cake will be much more dense and fudge-y, but will still taste delicious with a good slathering of icing (or nothing at all).
Carrot & Date Cake (Grain Free)
200g finely ground nuts (I used a mix of cashews and almonds but just ground almonds is lovely too)
2 TBLS coconut flour
pinch of sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
3 large free range eggs – separated
1/3 cup milk (or nut milk)
70g butter – melted (or coconut oil)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 TBLS lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon – finely grated
1/2 cup grated carrot
175g pitted dates
1/2 cup water
Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius and place the rack in the centre of the oven. Grease and line a 22cm cake tin with parchment paper.
- Place pitted dates into a saucepan with 1/2 cup of water and cook over medium heat. Simmer gently until the liquid has reduced completely and the dates are very soft and falling apart. Add more water if necessary while dates are softening. Remove from heat, mash with a fork and let cool to room temperature.
- In a large bowl, combine ground nuts, coconut flour, sea salt, baking soda, and ground spices and mix well.
- In a separate bowl or mixing jug, combine egg yolks, milk, vanilla, lemon juice and lemon zest and mix well. Add melted butter and cooled date puree and grated carrots and mix well.
- Place egg whites in a clean bowl and using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form (several minutes). I used to do this by hand, so it is possible with a whisk and a strong arm.
- Combine the ground nut/dry mix with the wet mix and mix thoroughly. Gently fold in the egg whites using a rubber spatula, trying not to deflate the whites, until just combined.
- Gently scoop/pour the mixture into the prepared tin and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
Lemon Cream Cheese Icing
100gms cream cheese
1-2 TBLS pure maple syrup (or honey) – to taste
2 tsp lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon – finely grated
1 tsp vanilla
- Place all ingredients in a bowl and whisk by hand until smooth (or using a mixer). Leave the cream cheese out to come to room temp to make mixing easier. But I like to do things the hard way. And I am impatient.
- Using a spatula (or the blunt edge of a knife) gently spread the icing evenly over the cooled cake or serve it on the side.