Lose that, eat this: carrot cake

Carrot cake might seem like a more healthy choice, but despite the vegetable element, cakes sold in shops or cafes simply piles on more calories.

carrot cake on a plate garnished with autumn leaves
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Whichever way you look at it, a slice of cake is always going to be an indulgent treat, best enjoyed on a not-too regular basis, and savoured over a cup of tea. Carrot cake might seem like a more healthy choice, but despite the vegetable element, cakes sold in shops or cafes will most often be made with plenty of butter and sugar and contain added preservatives. A thick layer of full fat cream cheese icing simply piles on more calories.

So, this version of carrot cake is a healthier version of the classic. We have replaced the butter with more healthy groundnut oil and the natural yoghurt helps to add moisture.

Unrefined wholemeal flour is better for you than the traditional white variety, but when experimenting with this cake we found that when just wholemeal flour was used the cake tasted rather bready. Using half and half is a good compromise, although it's advisable to experiment to adapt for your own taste.

Agave syrup or nectar is available from health food stores - ours was purchased from The Organic Store in Dubai Mall. It is a natural sweetner, has a low glycemic index and is thought by many to have a number of beneficial properties. I found that I needed to use rather a lot of it to achieve the right level of sweetness, so in the end opted to add some caster sugar too, but a reduced amount.

Low-fat labneh is an excellent choice for the cream cheese topping, with the natural yoghurt letting the mixture down and preventing it from being too rich. Make sure you allow the cake to cool completely before icing it, or simply dust with caster or icing sugar.

Healthier carrot cake

120g wholemeal flour

120g self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

tsp fine salt

120g raisins

75g walnuts, roughly chopped

1 egg and 1 egg white

100ml canola oil, plus extra for greasing

100g agave syrup

50g light brown sugar

100ml natural yoghurt

280g finely grated carrot

For the icing:

100g low-fat cream cheese

50ml natural yoghurt

2 tbsp agave syrup

2tbsp walnut, chopped

Preheat the oven to 160C/fan 140/gas 3. Lightly oil a 20cm round cake tin and line the base with parchment paper. Tip both types of flour, the baking powder and baking soda, cinnamon, salt, raisins and walnuts into a large bowl and stir well until the mixture is free of lumps and well combined. In a separate bowl lightly whisk the whole egg and white together. Gradually pour in the oil, then add the agave syrup and light brown sugar, whisking continuously. The mixture should be slightly frothy. Mix in the natural yoghurt and grated carrot. Tip the flour mixture into the wet ingredients (half at a time) and use a folding motion to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking tin and bake for 45 minutes, or until risen and firm, and a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool for a few minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack, remove the parchment and leave to cool completely.

To make the icing simply beat together the cream cheese, yoghurt, and agave syrup until smooth. Spread over the cake and scatter the chopped walnuts over the top.

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