Celebrate spring with a simple, not-too-sweet Carrot Cake with Lemon Frosting.
Cooking at my house means often multi-tasking and working in shifts. Whisk together flour and dry ingredients in the morning. Grate veggies during lunchtime. Frost cakes late at night, after everyone else is in bed.
I like it this way, the non-rush of the task. Being in the kitchen trying to get a project done as the rest of the family jostles for my attention doesn’t usually result in the most cohesive of recipes. When the house is quiet, and the only sound is my chopping, I can get focused. I like to think it’s “me” time, even though I’m cooking for the rest of the family to enjoy. But at the very least, it allows me to think while I work.
The other day I realized that Easter is soon approaching. It’s not that I really forgot — after all, I do freelance marketing for every single holiday — it’s more that I remembered we should do something for it. Sure, we do the egg hunt thing, but other than that, not much, especially because our families live so far away.
It’s hard to remember sometimes that we are our own little family, and we have our own traditions to sow. Sometimes that means new pajamas on Christmas Eve, sometimes that means a family costume for Halloween. Sometimes that means making a cake for us to share.
I always try to make treats a little healthier, so this cake is chock-full of carrots, uses applesauce instead of oil or butter, and features mostly whole-wheat flour with the all-purpose flour. But don’t worry that this is one of those cakes you don’t want to eat — it’s lovely in texture and kid-approved.
Adding lemon zest to the frosting brightens it up, bringing the sunshine of the spring inside. You can leave it out, if you like, or try orange zest instead. I limited walnuts to the top rather than folding into the batter so the pickier eaters can avoid them (it also helps the cake bake up better).
To make this carrot cake, I enlisted the help of one of my favorite kitchen tools, the Kitchen IQ Container Grater. I’m not kidding when I say I use this almost every day, thanks to the interchangeable blades and super convenient container. I love that I can use it for both shredding the carrots and zesting a lemon, and can also grate cheese for pizza, just by changing the blades and rinsing the box. The blades are super sharp (I’ve grated my fingers a few times…) so I know it will work easily for pretty much anything. Next on my list is making hashbrowns for breakfast!
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup applesauce
- 1/3 cup turbinado sugar
- 2 cups grated carrots
- 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces neufchatel cheese, softened.
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Walnuts (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line 3 6-inch cake pans with parchment rounds (or use 2 8-inch cake pans).
- In a large bowl, beat together eggs, applesauce, and sugar, then mix in carrots.
- In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, then stir into carrot mixture until just moistened.
- Divide batter among cake pans (it will be thick). Tap bottoms on the counter to help it spread, or use a spatula to even out.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Invert cakes onto a wire rack and let cool before frosting.
- To frost, beat together neufchatel cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest until smooth. Frost cake and top with walnuts, if desired.