June 5, 2011

[guilt-free!] mini carrot cakes

Carrot cake is probably my all-time favorite dessert. My theory is that this preference is actually an adaptation I developed at school after realizing that carrot cake is one of the very few desserts/foods in general that HUDS (our dining service) seems to actually do right…some of my favorite dinner conversations at college have been enjoyed with a side of carrot cake, eaten leisurely with most of the cream cheese scraped off (while I can eat grossly large amounts of regular cream cheese, I am not a fan of sweet cream cheese) and a cup of hot black coffee in hand.

I’m at home for a few days before my whirlwind travel schedule begins, not yet in the real real world but already starting to miss the comfort (and even some of the crazy hecticness) of college…including the never-ending piles of carrot cake.

However, I definitely do NOT miss the lack of accessible/clean/well-stocked kitchens and fresh food at school. And with such luxuries readily at my disposable at home, I can make my own carrot cake ^.^

Inspired by this dairy-free carrot cake recipe from BGSK (one of my new favorite food blogs thanks to mjw!), I decided to make a healthier, crunchier, raisin-less & nut-less (I HATE raisins and also do not like nuts of any sort, except pistachios and peanuts on occasion) version of the classic carrot cake. My method was quick and dirty, lots of eyeballing measurements and just winging it, but yielded a very tasty end product, surprisingly similar to the taste and texture of a classic carrot cake despite my many modifications. The oatmeal gave the cake chew and crunch even without nuts, and I didn’t miss the real sugar at all - sometimes substituting honey for sugar means a significant change in flavor (often a negative one in my opinion, but that’s because I dislike the taste of honey), but in this case the substituted volume was small enough and the other flavors strong enough that I really didn’t notice a significant flavor difference.

These mini carrot cakes also served as the subjects of an exciting photo shoot with a brand new camera lens and beautiful midday summer sun :D I am now the proud owner of a M42 Pentax 55mm f1.8 vintage manual focus lens, thanks to my benevolent uncle. Took a little while to make the initial adjustments and get the hang of the manual focus, but I am in love with this lens. I feel super-pro using manual focus, and hearing that confirmation beep telling me I’ve focused well is strangely gratifying. Obviously it’ll take some more time to really warm up to this lens and figure out how to get the most out of it, but the improvements are already apparent (even to a photography noob like me) and very exciting! Most obviously, you can probably tell from these photos that the background blur - bokeh, and macro quality in general are much much better. And the cherry on top is that apparently this lens was very affordable too, somewhere around 100 bucks. Suh-weet!

 Afternoon tea!

For two :)


Mini Carrot Cakes
9 mini cakes

For cake batter:

3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. regular or quick oatmeal
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 c. honey
1/4 c. light brown sugar
1/4 c. water
1/2 c. canola oil
1 1/2 c. finely grated carrots (about 3-4 medium carrots)

For topping:

2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. honey
1/4 c. regular or quick oatmeal

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

 In a medium bowl, combine first set of batter ingredients (dry ingredients).

In another bowl, stir together second set of batter ingredients until combined.

Gently add dry ingredients to wet, stir gently until just combined

Lightly grease muffin pan (or cake pan if you want to make one big cake) or line with cupcake liners.

Fill each cup with 1/4 c. batter. Bake at 350 F for appx. 30 minutes.

While waiting, prepare the topping: stir together the cinnamon, oatmeal, and honey until well combined. 

After cakes have baked for 30 minutes, remove pan from oven and quickly spoon topping (about one small spoonful) onto each cake, pressing down lightly with a spoon to ensure the topping sticks to the cake. Bake for 10 more minutes, or until topping is toasted and fork inserted in center of cakes comes out clean.

Let cool for several minutes in pan before turning out onto cooling rack or plate. Serve warm or cooled completely. Add (maple) cream cheese frosting if you’re feeling decadent :) 


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