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 autumnal, winter blues!
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.
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.
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 cake, 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.
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
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.
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.
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:
- with pineapple & coconut from Christina's Cucina
- with caramel filling from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- gluten free cupcakes (gluten free) from What a Girl Eats
- flapjack style from Tin and Thyme
- with almonds and ricotta Cream from Cocoa & Lavender
- replace beetroot with purple carrots to make Chocolate and Purple Carrot Cake.
Purple Carrot Cake
Purple Carrot Cake
- 300 g (11oz/ 2 cups) organic purple carrots (or red/orange carrots) grated
- 300 g (11oz/ 2½ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 170 g (6oz/ ¾ cup) soft dark brown sugar muscovado or ’vergeoise’ in France
- 3 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 3 teaspoon ground gingerbread spice (pain d'épices) or pumpkin spice/all spice
- 1 organic orange (unwaxed) zest keep 1 teaspoon for the frosting
- 3 organic eggs
- 225 ml (8fl oz/ 0.9 cup) sunflower oil (or other neutral oil)
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 70 g (2.5oz/ ⅓ cup) butter, unsalted softened
- 225 g (8oz/ 1 cup) soft cream cheese (full fat) at room temperature
- 70 g (2.5oz/ ½ cup) icing (confectioner's) sugar
- few drops vanilla extract or good pinch of vanilla powder
- 1 teaspoon 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, 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.
This recipe also exists as individual carrot cake muffins, which are great for transporting for school fêtes or picnics. Nutrition: Protein: 3g; Carbohydrates: 40g; Lipids: 24g; Glycemic Index: 30