Purple Carrot Cake is a healthy version of regular carrot cake. Just as moist and tasty as orange carrot cake, but with reduced sugar, less oil and full of surprising health benefits to help fight the winter ‘blues’!
Purple Carrots & Orange Carrots: What’s the Difference?
Did you know that the purple carrot was around long before the orange carrot?
Last week at our local farmers’ market in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, these purple carrots were right in the front row in all their glory. Normally I’d cook or roast them as a colourful winter vegetable side-dish, showing off their pretty bright orange or white interior. This time, however, my thoughts turned to carrot cake. Would using purple carrots be different to our familiar orange carrot cake version?
Are Purple Carrots Healthier?
For a start, purple carrots have more beta carotene than orange carrots, and have up to 28 times more anthocyanins – the purple pigment that’s found in blueberries, for example – which act as powerful antioxidants that protect the body. Studies have shown that they give us extra protection against various forms of cancer, heart disease and are good anti inflammatory agents.
For much more detail on the health benefits of purple (or marroon) carrots see this fascinating UK Museum of Carrots website, which also details the history of carrots. You’ll find everything you want to know about purple carrots.
Can You Taste the Carrots in Carrot Cake?
It’s just like beets and chocolate: can you taste beetroot in a chocolate cake? As with the chocolate beetroot flourless fondants recipe, you can’t taste the beetroot as such, but it gives the chocolate a luxurious, natural red velvet colour, adds that perfect moisture and fudginess (is that a word?) to the fondants.
Carrot cake – in all forms – is the same. As you can see from the recipe, there are a lot of carrots making the cake moist, lush and deliciously healthy.
According to the Carrot Museum, carrots contain up to 85% water, so the quantity needs to be exact to ensure there are no “soggy bottoms”! That’s why it’s important to weigh out your ingredients using digital kitchen scales.
Healthy Carrot Cake & Reduced Sugar
As I was developing the recipe for individual carrot cakes, I wondered if I could cut the sugar quantity yet again, without damaging the flavour. Why do so many carrot cake recipes contain such an unnecessary whopping amount of sugar? I put this carrot cake to the test many times by reducing the sugar gradually – and it works with much less sugar.
Do the sugar glance test for carrot cake recipes. If you see the same amount of sugar as the quantity of carrots in a carrot cake recipe, there is way too much. Carrots are naturally sweet enough and purple carrots are just as sweet. One of the most important rules I’ve learned about baking from many top French pastry chefs in Paris is:
Too much sugar can mask the flavours and kill the recipe.
Carrot Cake Variations
This purple carrot cake recipe has no raisins, no nuts – just carrots and a warming hint of orange that partners well with the spices. If you can’t find purple carrots – or any of the other colourful carrot varieties such as red carrots, yellow carrots which would also work well (there are even BLACK carrots!) – just use regular orange carrots. Ensure that they’re fresh and even better, organic for the best flavour.
Here are some deliciously different carrot cake variations from my blogging friends:
- Moist Pineapple & Coconut Carrot Cake from Christina’s Cucina
- Carrot Cake with Caramel Filling from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Carrot Cake Cupcakes (gluten free) from What a Girl Eats
- Carrot Cake Gingerbread from Farmersgirl Kitchen
- Carrot Cake Flapjacks from Tin and Thyme
- Yellow Carrot Almond Cake with Ricotta Cream from Cocoa & Lavender
and what about substituting beetroot for purple (or red carrots) and make Chocolate and Purple Carrot Flourless Fondants?
Purple Carrot Cake
Purple Carrot Cake
- 300 g (11oz) organic purple carrots (or red/orange carrots) grated
- 300 g (11oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 170 g (6oz) soft dark brown sugar muscovado or ’vergeoise’ in France
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 3 tsp round gingerbread (pain d'épices) or pumpkin spice
- 1 organic orange (unwaxed) zest keep 1 tsp for the frosting
- 3 organic eggs
- 225 ml (8fl oz) sunflower oil (or other neutral oil)
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 70 g (2.5oz) butter, unsalted softened
- 225 g (8oz) soft cream cheese (full fat) at room temperature
- 70 g (2.5oz) icing (confectioner's) sugar
- few drops vanilla extract or good pinch of vanilla powder
- 1 tsp organic orange zest
Purple Carrot Cake (23cm/9")
- Heat oven to 180°C/360°F/160°C fan (Gas 4).
- In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, spice and orange zest. Whisk together the eggs and oil, then stir into the dry ingredients with the grated carrots.
- Grease a round cake tin or springform tin (23cm/9 inch) and line it with baking parchment. Pour the mixture into the lined tin and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer poked in comes out clean.
- Leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then carefully transfer to a cooling rack.
- Optional for a flat cake: using a cake levelling cutter or a good sharp knife, cut the top off the cake then turn the cake upside down directly on to the serving plate.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Beat the butter until creamy, then beat in the soft cheese, icing sugar and orange zest (and vanilla, if using). Either spread the frosting on top of the cake using a palette knife or use a piping bag with a plain or star tip to pipe out your own creative topping.
This recipe also exists as mini cupcake-style carrot cakes, which are great for transporting for school fêtes or picnics.