I tried to do an Easter menu without carrot cake but I just couldn't fight it. All the other springtime sweet treats I want to make will have to be saved for the rest of the month! These carrot cake bars taste just like the real deal but are surprisingly healthy enough to have for breakfast or Easter morning brunch without sending you into a sugar crash. Sweetened with a little coconut sugar and maple syrup and made from oats and almonds. No one will know but you. If icing can be made without icing sugar and still suit the dessert then that's my first choice. This one comes together in seconds and the fact that it's only sweetened with pure maple syrup really lets the cream cheese shine.
Serves 8 - 12 depending on the size you cut squares
Prep: 10 min
Cook: 40 min
Total: 50 min
2 cups oats
1 cup almonds or almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 eggs (try flax eggs for vegan)
1/2 cup melted butter (or coconut, or avocado oil)
1/3 cup plant-based milk with 1 tbsp lemon juice or use 1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 cups coarsely shredded carrot, about 2-3 large
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts + extra for garnish
Maple cream cheese
1 cup (8oz/225g) full-fat cream cheese, room temperature
2 tbsp butter, room temperature
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean
good pinch of sea salt
Pre heat oven to 350' and grease a 9x13 " rectangle pan.
First, make your buttermilk. Combine 1/3 cup milk (or plant based) with 1 tbsp lemon juice. Don't stir, allow to sit and curdle. Set aside.
Place oats and almonds in the blender. Blend until a fine flour forms. Sift through a fine sieve into a large mixing bowl. Discard any large chunks that didn't blend. Add in your baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Whisk to combine and set aside.
In another bowl whisk together melted butter (or oil), coconut sugar, maple syrup, and vanilla. Add eggs and whisk again. Pour in buttermilk and whisk once more.
Add dry ingredients to your wet ingredients and mix well until no dry ingredients remain. Lastly, Fold in carrots, walnuts, and raisins with a rubber spatula until just incorporated.
Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes. Once slightly cooled, run a knife around the sides of the cake and invert onto a wire rack. Remove parchment and allow it to cool completely.
Place cream cheese on a few stacked paper towels and allow all liquid to dry off, blot the top with more paper towels if there is any liquid (this ensures your icing will be thick!) Add to a bowl with butter, maple syrup, and vanilla. Mix well with a whisk or a spoon. Add lemon zest and a pinch of salt. Taste and adjust by adding more maple syrup or salt to your liking. If your icing is too thick add a squeeze of lemon juice.
Frost the cooled cake with the back of a spoon making a swooshing pattern. Garnish with a few more chopped walnuts and cut into square sizes of choice.
Keep left overs covered for up to 2 days on the counter or in the fridge for up to 1 week.
This is actually best made ahead. The flavour and texture the next day is even better!
This can be made entirely vegan by using dairy free cream cheese and butter.