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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 – or purples! Find out more about purple carrots and get the easy recipe, topped with an orange and cream cheese frosting.

slice of moist, dark cake topped with cream cheese frosting with purple carrots and orange in background

Purple Carrots & Orange Carrots: What’s the Difference?

Did you know that the purple carrot was around long before the orange carrot? Every Autumn and Winter at our local farmers’ market in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, purple carrots make a welcome appearance as ‘les légumes oubliés’ – old-fashioned ‘forgotten vegetables’, which are becoming more popular each year.

Purple carrots don’t need to be cooked and can be eaten raw as French crudités with dips. So if you’re looking for something a bit fun for Hallowe’en, this is a healthy option. Imagine serving it with a fresh broccoli hummus – deliciously purple and green! But I digress.

Normally I’d cook or roast purple carrots 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? Well, the colour of regular carrot cake is normally a lot darker than orange – but with purple carrots, the resulting colour is velvety and extra dark. In short, it’s lush.

purple and orange carrots at the French market

Are Purple Carrots Healthier? 

For a start, purple carrots have more beta carotene than orange carrots. They have up to 28 times more anthocyanins to make them purple – it’s the same pigment that’s found in blueberries. These act as powerful antioxidants that protect the body.

According to Aprifel, studies have shown that they give us extra protection against various forms of cancer, heart disease and are good anti inflammatory agents.

Are Purple Carrots Real?

Indeed, purple carrots are very real and come under the variety of Purple Dragon. In fact, they came well long before our more popular orange carrots today. 
For many fascinating facts, I discovered the Museum of Carrots – sadly, it no longer seems to exist but there were many interesting details here, namely that purple carrots originated as purple, not orange carrots around Afghanistan then the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Europe about 9000 years ago. 

Purple, along with black, yellow, red and white were all popular carrots until as late as the 16th Century. It was the Dutch who intervened to create an orange carrot using a red and white variety. Who knew the ‘Longue Orange’ carrot was created by the protestant fan club under the ‘House of Orange’? 

For more, see the French market guide to carrots.

Purple carrots

What Does Purple Carrot Cake Taste Like?

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. Instead, it gives the chocolate a luxurious, natural red velvet colour, adds that perfect moisture and fudginess 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. I personally think it has a subtle naturally sweeter taste to the cake. It seems even a little rustic. If you can find the words, please do tell me below your impressions, as I honestly can’t tell that much of a difference between the two!

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.

slice of dark cake topped with cream cheese frosting on a plate with purple carrots and orange in background

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.

How to Make a Purple Carrot Cake

Purple Carrot Cake method

  • First weigh out all ingredients using a digital kitchen scale. The amount of purple carrots used (300g) is once they are peeled. Grate the carrots.
  • 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 on a wire rack.

Purple Carrot Cake Method 1

  • When cool, cut the top off the cake for a smooth, flat look. Use the extra cake top to replace the gingerbread for these Apple, Caramel and Gingerbread Trifles.
  • To make the cream cheese frosting with orange, ensure all ingredients are at room temperature to ensure an even and smooth blend.

slice of purple carrot cake topped with creamy orange frosting

More Purple Carrot Dessert Recipes

This purple carrot cake recipe has no raisins, no nuts – just carrots and a warming hint of orange that partners well with the French pain d’épices (gingerbread) spices of aniseed, nutmeg, clove and cinnamon.

If you can’t find purple carrots, any of the other colourful carrot varieties (red carrots, yellow carrots, even black carrots!) work well. Needless to say, this recipe is just as good with regular orange carrots. Ensure that they’re fresh and organic for the best flavour.

Here are some deliciously different carrot cake variations from my blogging friends.
Just use purple carrots instead:

slice of purple carrot cake topped with piped out cream cheese and orange frosting

slice of moist, dark cake topped with cream cheese frosting

Purple Carrot Cake

Author: Jill Colonna
Prep Time25 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time1 hr 5 mins
Course : Dessert, teatime
Cuisine : British
Keyword : Purple carrot recipes, purple carrot cake, reduced sugar carrot cake recipe, healthy carrot cake recipe
Servings : 12 people

Description

Purple Carrot Cake, just as moist and tasty as orange carrot cake, but with reduced sugar, less oil and full of surprising health benefits

Ingredients

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 ground gingerbread spice (pain d'épices) or pumpkin spice/all 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

Instructions

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, orange zest and vanilla.  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.

Notes

Good tea partners with carrot cake: serve with either Assam, Yunnan, Rooibos, or Earl Grey teas, for example.
This recipe also exists as individual cupcake-style carrot cakes, which are great for transporting for school fêtes or picnics.

 

From the market

From the kitchen

8 responses to “Purple Carrot Cake”

  1. Carrot cake is one of my favs whatever the colour. I’ve not heard of gingerbread or pumpkin spice, would ordinary mixed spice do the job? I always reduce the sugar in my cakes too – don’t like them too sweet 🙂

    • Ordinary mixed spice is perfect, Suzanne. Glad we think the same on the sugar! Gingerbread spice is what we use in France (pain d’épices).

  2. Interesting about purple carrots being around first—when I have made them here, Bill thought they tasted strange. Sigh. Maybe he needs a blindfold at dinner time? LOL. I can’t believe your daughter is close to going off to university! Time is flying.
    P.S. I adore carrot cake and would love a big slice of yours with the hint of orange 🙂

    • Blindfolding not needed at least with this cake, Liz. Isn’t it funny how the mind plays games. Yes, I can’t believe my eldest is already leaving the nest soon, either!

  3. So sorry for getting myself so distracted that I missed this completely! 🙁 I will fully admit that even though I love anything purple, I have never tried purple carrots, but I do love the way they look and would definitely be willing to try this recipe! I love that you combined butter and cream cheese for the frosting. Yum!

    • Please don’t be sorry – you’re here, Betty and so glad you popped in for a slice. Hope you do try this x

  4. I actually had some purple carrots in my fridge, but they were part of a mixed bag of colored carrots. I’m sure this is so much more nutritious than the normal carrot cake! And what better color is there than purple?! Thanks for sharing my own recipe for carrot cake, Jill! I shared your cake on a FB page called Purple Carrot! 🙂

    • Isn’t that funny, Christina? Even using the mixed carrots would be like a multi-coloured carrot cake. Thanks for the share – a purple carrot page? Must check that out, as we’re purple fans indeed …

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