Moist Purple Carrot Cake with Orange

Purple carrot cake with orange and reduced sugar

Purple Carrot Cake

A healthy version of regular carrot cake: just as moist, still huge on flavour but with reduced sugar, less oil and full of surprising health benefits to help fight the winter blues!  As it’s difficult to find carrot cake in Paris, there’s nothing like making it at home.

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

Did you know that the purple carrot was around long before the orange carrot?

Last week at our local farmers’ market in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, these purple carrots were right in the front row in all their glory.  Normally I’d cook or roast them 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?

Purple carrots at the organic market

For a start, purple carrots have more beta carotene than orange carrots, and have up to 28 times more anthocyanins – the purple pigment that’s found in blueberries, for example – which act as powerful antioxidants that protect the body. Studies have shown that they give us extra protection against various forms of cancer, heart disease and are good anti inflammatory agents.

For much more detail on the health benefits of purple (or marroon) carrots, see this fascinating Museum of Carrots website, which also details the history of carrots.

Purple carrots

Can You Taste the Carrots in Carrot Cake?

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, but it gives the chocolate a luxurious, natural red velvet colour, adds that perfect moisture and gives a fudgy sensation to the fondants.

Carrot cake – in all forms – is the same. As you can see from the recipe, there’s a lot of carrots making the cake moist, lush and deliciously healthy to boot. It’s important to weigh out your ingredients using digital kitchen scales: according to the Carrot Museum, carrots contain up to 85% water, so the quantity needs to be exact to ensure there are no “soggy bottoms”!
It’s when you tell people that there’s carrot (or beetroot – read ‘veggies?’), then the mind starts to play games.

So, what would you do? Tell? Not tell? Or tell after it’s eaten?

Purple Carrot Cake method

Reduced Sugar Carrot Cake

As I was developing the recipe for individual carrot cakes, I wondered if I could cut the sugar quantity yet again, without it damaging the flavour.  I’m baffled why so many cake recipes contain such a whopping amount of sugar.  Is it really necessary? I put this carrot cake to the test many times by reducing the sugar gradually – and the great news is NO – we don’t need as much as you think.

Please just give it a try: if you see the same amount of sugar as the quantity of carrots, already there is 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.

Purple carrot cake

Carrot Cake Variations

This purple carrot cake recipe has no raisins, no nuts – just carrots and a warming hint of orange that partners well with the spices.  If you can’t find purple carrots – or any of the other colourful carrot varieties such as red carrots, yellow carrots which would also work well (there are even BLACK carrots!) – just use regular orange carrots. Ensure that they’re fresh and even better, organic for the best flavour.

Here are some deliciously different carrot cake variations from my blogging friends:

and what about substituting beetroot for purple (or red carrots) and make Chocolate and Purple Carrot Flourless Fondants?

Purple Carrot Cake

There’s also only one layer of frosting making it quicker to serve but that’s my lazy side kicking in. As you can see in the method photos below (the small images are clickable to enlarge in the recipe), I cut my cake’s top off to make it flat and piped out the frosting to slightly ‘French-it-up’ but that’s totally optional.  Just spread the frosting on with a palette knife.

My photos don’t give this moist purple carrot cake justice, I’m afraid: we have had 2 weeks of pretty miserable dark skies and constant rain in Paris and so the lack of light has been incredible. Perhaps we need to eat more carrots?