Tag Archives: unrefined

The BEST Carrot Cake

My mom is known to a lot of her friends as “the cake lady”.  Her cakes not only taste incredible, but they are always something really elaborate.  When Amanda and I hiked to the top of Mt. Whitney in CA, she made us a 3-D cake modeled after the mountain—complete with all the switchbacks and two hikers made out of pipe cleaners.  It was one of the coolest cakes she’s ever made, and that is saying a lot because she has easily made hundreds of cakes throughout my life.

My junior year in high school she made my Volkl racing skis—full size!  Then there was the full size bassoon cake she made for a friend that played the bassoon.  She also did a 3-D model of a local theater to celebrate one of its anniversaries.  She made paint cans, sports logos, Paddington bear, ladybugs, Barbie—pretty much anything and everything you could imagine.  She is incredibly talented and everyone is always in awe of her beautiful cakes.  The best part is that everything is homemade—none of this fondant stuff—she makes the icing from scratch and models the cakes using the frosting as a mold.

I grew up watching my mom make these cakes, but it wasn’t until I moved to Japan three years ago that I attempted to make one on my own.  It was our friend Mike’s birthday and he had made me a pyramid of Funfetti cake for my birthday (brilliant, right?) so I wanted to make him an awesome cake in return.  I was pretty nervous about it because I felt like there was a lot to live up to, but I was very excited at how well it came out.  It turns out I did learn a thing or two from watching her all those years!

The Pyramid of Funfetti Cake!

My first fancy cake!

The reason I’m telling you all of this is because today is my friend Lindsay’s birthday and each year I tell myself I’m going to make Lindsay a cake, and for one reason or another I haven’t done it yet.  She made me an awesome birthday cake two years ago—this time involving Funfetti cake (can you tell I LOVE Funfetti cake?) and a cookie crust…YUM!!—and I still hadn’t returned the favor.

The delicious cake Lindsay made for me.

I wanted to make Lindsay a cake in the shape of Oregon because I have never met anyone who is more proud of where they are from than Lindsay.  We always tease her because anytime she sees anyone’s pictures from vacation she says, “It looks just like Oregon!”  In order to make one of my mom’s famous cakes, I would have had to use a lot of processed sugars, and since I’m not eating those right now, I thought that would be submitting myself to unnecessary torture and temptation.  I asked Lindsay how she felt about me making her a naturally sweetened birthday cake and she was in.

I decided on carrot cake because I thought it would go well with honey.  And it just so happens that my mom also makes a killer carrot cake that can be made with sugar or honey—jackpot!  When I say this is the BEST carrot cake ever, I’m not exaggerating.  One of our friends told me he doesn’t even like carrot cake and he ate two pieces.  Trust me, it’s amazing—even if you think you don’t like carrot cake, you’ll love it.  My mom won’t steer you wrong :).

The BEST Carrot Cake Ever

Mmmmmmm so moist and delicious!

For the Cake:

3/4 lb. (about 6 medium) carrots

zest from 1/2 lemon

1 cup honey (I used 3/4 cup honey and 1/4 cup maple syrup because I ran out of honey)

1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

4 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

2/3 cup walnuts, chopped

1 cup raisins (I used golden raisins)

1. Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Butter and flour a 9-inch Bundt pan.  Knock out excess flour.

2. Shred carrots in food processor using shredding disc.  Remove and set aside.

3. With metal blade in place, combine honey, lemon zest, and butter.  Add eggs and vanilla and process until smooth.  Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Add to work bowl and pulse on and off only until flour just disappears.  Add shredded carrots 1/3 at a time, pulsing on and off after each addition until shreds disappear.  Add walnuts and raisins and pulse a few times.

4. Pour batter into Bundt pan and spread evenly with a spatula.  Bang pan on countertop to release trapped air bubbles.

5. Bake on center rack in preheated oven for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and cool thoroughly on a wire rack.  To remove cake from pan, loosen from side of pan with a knife, then invert onto a serving plate.

**Makes 1 Bundt cake.

For the Frosting:

16 oz (2 pkgs) cream cheese (low fat is okay, but don’t use fat free)

1/2 cup butter

6 tbsp honey

1-2 tsp vanilla

Combine all ingredients and mix until smooth and creamy.

**I know you might be thinking, butter in the cream cheese frosting?  I thought that too, but it gives it a really good flavor without being too rich.

And now for a few of the other cakes I’ve made over the past three years:

This was a giant sugar cookie for my husband who prefers cookies to cake.

For our friend Marc who was obsessed with this game for a little while.

For a friend's daughter.

Another cake for Mike. He lucked out that his birthday always fell on my break for school when I had more free time.

Please excuse me if there are any typos here.  I re-read it, but I’m pretty tired so I may have missed something!  We’re leaving for China tomorrow, but I wanted to post something before we leave.  I hope you enjoy this recipe and please let me know if you try it!

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Filed under Desserts

Baking with Honey

After my first experiment baking with honey, I decided to look up some tips on baking with honey because I felt the cookies I made were very rich (although delicious).  I also wanted to find out what sort of recommendations are out there for substituting sugar with honey.  I know from my many baking experiences that baking is definitely a science and the smallest change in ingredients or measurements can make a huge difference in the final product.  Since honey is a liquid, I figured it would change the properties of the ingredients and how they worked together in the baking process.  I found some good advice and tested it out this evening on some Maple Honey Pumpkin Muffins.  Here are the helpful tips with the recipe to follow:

  • Reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup
  • Add ½ tsp baking soda for each 1 cup of honey
  • Lower baking temp by 25°

I decided to test out this advice with pumpkin muffins because I had some leftover pumpkin and don’t want it to go bad over the next two weeks while we’re in China.  The recipe comes from Ellie Krieger on the Food Network who is known for her healthy recipes.  By substituting all of the brown sugar with honey and maple syrup, these muffins are even better for you because unprocessed sugars take longer to digest and therefore do not cause the huge surge (and consequent drop) in blood sugar levels as processed sugars do.

Maple Honey Pumpkin Muffins

Recipe adapted from Ellie Krieger, Food Network

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-grain pastry flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons unsulphered molasses
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk (I made my own using milk and lemon juice)
  • 1/4 cup raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.

In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, molasses, oil and 1 egg until combined. Add the other egg and whisk well. Whisk in the pumpkin and vanilla. Whisk in the flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Whisk just until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan and sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of 1 of the muffins comes out clean.  (**Mine were done after 18 minutes, they maybe could have come out after 16 or 17 minutes.)

Let cool on a wire rack and enjoy!

**I didn’t have any pumpkin seeds so I didn’t use them, but I’m sure they would add a nice texture.  I think these muffins would also be great with chopped walnuts or pecans added to the batter.  Oatmeal would probably also make a great addition!

QuestionHave you ever replaced all of the sugar in a recipe?  What did you use instead and how did it turn out?

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Satisfying My Cravings

Fist off, let me apologize for not posting for so long.  I was finishing up my classes last week for grad school (yay!), which means I just have my thesis to write this summer and then I will graduate with an M.S. in Global and International Education.  I have loved the program, but it has been a long two years and I’m very excited to know the end is in sight!  Then my cat ran away.

This sounds like a silly excuse that kids give their teachers for not doing their homework, but in my case it’s true.  He is an indoor cat, except for going out on our balcony.  On Sunday night he ran away and we didn’t find him until Tuesday evening.  It was a long two days and I was starting to feel pretty depressed about it.  I love my little Harold and I’m so happy to finally have him home!

Our little Harold 🙂

Anyway, enough with the excuses!  I am happy to report that we are now two weeks into our challenge and so far things are still going really well.  I have found that I am craving sugar a lot less, which for me is a HUGE accomplishment!  I also think I have more energy.  I have been subbing a lot in the past two weeks and spending a lot of time out in the hot sun, so it’s a little hard to tell, but I haven’t taken any naps and in the past, I was taking a 30-minute nap almost every day!

Although I am not craving sugar as much, I still want something sweet once in a while.  I made some of HEAB’s oaties the other day.  My friend Katie made some for me before and they were delightful, but without adding any chocolate chips or butterscotch chips, they were too “healthy” tasting and didn’t really taste like I was having a treat!  I highly recommend them though with chocolate or butterscotch chips.  HEAB has many variations and the ones I have tried are all delicious.

I sought out to find something else that doesn’t involve chocolate, but would satisfy my craving.  I found a recipe for peanut butter honey cookies.  These were excellent and definitely satisfied my sweet tooth.  Dare I say they were even too sweet for me?  I know that is hard to believe, but I’m finding that honey gives baked goods a very rich flavor so I need to start reducing the amount of honey called for in the recipes I try.  Anyway, these were excellent and I thought I would share the recipe with you.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I think they would be delightful as cookie sandwiches with cream cheese “frosting” (cream cheese sweetened with a little honey) in the middle.

Peanut Butter Honey Cookies

Recipe from http://www.honey.com

Makes 2 dozen

3/4 cup honey

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 egg

3/4 cup peanut butter**

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

In medium bowl, cream honey and butter until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg, peanut butter and vanilla.  Add flour, salt and baking soda; mix until combined.  Drop dough, one tablespoon at a time, onto well-greased baking sheet.  Dip fork into flour and press flat on each cookie to form an “x.”  Bake at 350°F for about 10-12 minutes.  Remove cookies from sheet and cool on wire rack.

**I used natural peanut butter (the kind with oil on top that you have to mix in).

**I also halved the recipe, so only used the yolk of the egg.  I like my cookies under done so I only baked them for 8 minutes rather than 10-12 as the recipe calls for.  Oh and the “x” in the cookies was not happening.  I don’t know if it’s because it is super humid here or what, but the fork kept sticking to the cookies even after I sprayed it.  “X” or no “x” they were excellent :).

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Filed under Baking Tips, Cookies, Desserts

And So It Begins

Welcome to our new blog!  We are two best friends about to start our journey of mindful eating by consuming more wholesome and unrefined foods.  Please check out the “How It All Began” section to read more about how this blog originated.  We look forward to seeing where this blog takes us and we hope you’ll follow us on our journey.

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