Okay, yes, “healthier birthday mini carrot cakes with mango cream cheese frosting” is possibly the longest post title on this whole blog but sometimes there is nothing like being literal and descriptive, you know? Without the detail, you might have assumed I have snuck some veggies into these cakes, right? Totally understandable, of course, if you know the way I like to bake (cases in point here and here) but not this time, my friends. Not this time.
These healthier mini carrot cakes are as close to the real thing (aka birthday cupcakes) as I could go, without sacrificing my beliefs in not using refined sugar and refined flours completely for the sake of the kids’ birthdays.
And you know, I have struggled with this. Every year, I look at those spongy sugary cakes covered in buttercream, thick ganache or fondant, and think, hmmm, should I? Just this once? And then I decide that, for me personnally, overloading children with sugar is not a celebration and I look for alternatives. And the more I look, the more I see not only that there is a different way but that these days, there are many options to treat ourselves for birthdays and other celebrations (like weekends, am I right?) without foresaking all our dietary and health goals. And if you are looking for that different way too, here is an option for you. (And if you’re not, carry on as you were – no judgment here.)
Why are these called mini carrot cakes?
Truth is, my kids call these “cupcakes”. That said, they are not as spongy and light in texture as standard cupcakes and so I thought calling them cupcakes would be misleading. But, for all intents and purposes, I have been making these for the kids’ birthday celebrations for about the last three or four years – mostly for the additional family or friends get togethers which are not on the actual birthday – but this year, for the first time, for the main event! (Which only goes to show how good they are, since the kids requested them – and then proceeded to eat the whole lot, assisted by some of our family members, in two days flat.)
For example, these are perfect if you want to do the frosting with the kids – make the mini cakes the day before and, if your kids are like mine and they love to help in the kitchen, whip up the frosting together on the day of their birthday party and let them have a go at piping the frosting onto the cooled cakes. They can choose their favourite colours (remember you can colour frosting with fruit – like here – or with natural powders, like beetroot powder which makes a lovely pink). We also have this Wilton coupler which lets you do a rainbow swirl – and what kid doesn’t like that?
So what is the texture actually like, you ask?
Well, I would describe these mini cakes as being denser than cupcakes (due to the addition of coconut and buckwheat flour), more akin to muffins, but still beautifully soft and a little crumbly. The denser texture is a plus in my book because they support the icing better and for longer.
That said, even though I like them by themselves as well, my kids think the icing is absolutely essential (and what kid wouldn’t – sometimes I think they eat these, always starting from the top of course, as if the recipe was for the frosting with the cake as the secondary element. But, even I have to admit that it’s together with the icing that these mini cakes shine – the contrast between the cakey bottom layer and the smooth fruity creamy frosting is what makes them complete (and what always draws me in).
And if you have a little extra time when you’re preparing them, you may also include an extra element – a jammy filling! Yep, on occasion I have cored these mini cakes and included a teaspoonful of a homemade jam in the cakes, before frosting them. On this occasion, I have used my mango jam so that the mango flavour within the cupcake as a whole would be enhanced (we did have a tropical birthday theme this year after all) but feel free to use your favourite jam instead if you don’t feel like making your own (ideally make sure it has no, or very little, added sugar – otherwise all your hard work in making sure these cakes are healthier will have been in vain).
Are these mini carrot cakes versatile?
Yes, definitely. I am fairly certain that every time I make them, I tweak something in the recipe but they always come out great.
I have made these with different flours (spelt and quinoa) and different frostings (I will post a recipe for my strawberry frosting soon – it’s so good!), substituted some of the carrot for grated zucchini (perfect when you’re in the middle of your summer zucchini crop!), added some crushed nuts or seeds for more texture, and they always turn out beautiful. If you are including a jam filling, you can also use different jams and make these a little different as a result every time.
Do these cakes stay fresh for long?
I usually make the mini cakes the day before, storing them in a cake box on a kitchen bench, and then make the frosting and frost the cakes the following day – i.e. on the day of the birthday party. That way the frosting will be fresh and beautiful for the party and birthday photos (and it honestly does not take long).
After they’ve been frosted (following the birthday party, if there’s any left), I store them either on the kitchen bench (that way, they need to be eaten within a day or two but they’ll stay nice and fluffy) or in the fridge (which might give you an extra day or two) but the cakes tend to get a little harder/denser so I prefer the benchtop.
I haven’t tried freezing these cakes (without frosting) so if you do, let me know how you go!
PS: If you like the cake stand, it’s from Ikea – what a beauty, hey?
Healthier birthday mini carrot cakes with mango cream cheese frosting
Mini carrot cakes
- 1.5 cups wholemeal flour
- 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
- 1/2 cup desiccated coconut
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 3 large carrots (blitzed in a food processor, or grated)
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup macadamia milk (or other plant based or cow milk)
- 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
- scant 1/2 cup rice malt syrup
Mango cream cheese frosting
- 250 g cream cheese
- 160 g mango chunks, fresh or frozen (and defrosted ahead of time) and blitzed in a food processor
- 150 g butter, melted
- 1 heaped tbsp rice malt syrup
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
Mini carrot cakes
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C and line your muffin tins with paper cupcake liners. This recipe will make about 12 to 18 mini cakes, depending on how much you fill the liners.
- Whisk all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl – the wholemeal flour, buckwheat flour, desiccated coconut, baking powder and the spices.
- Blitz or grate your carrots and mix into the dry ingredient mix until the carrot bits are well incorporated.
- In a small bowl, whish together the wet ingredients – i.e. the eggs, milk, coconut oil and rice malt syrup.
- With a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula, mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until well combined (do not overmix).
- With an ice cream scoop, fill the muffin liners until about 3/4 full.
- Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until the top springs back and a skewer comes out clean. Take out of the oven and let cool completely. (I do this step the previous day and leave these mini cakes overnight in a box on the kitchen bench – I frost them on the day of the celebration.)
Mango cream cheese frosting
- Defrost your mango chunks if you're using frozen.
- You may also wish to pull out the cream cheese out of the fridge at this time- it is easier to get the frosting smooth if the cream cheese is at room temperature before you start making the frosting.
- Blitz the mango chunks in a food processor until smooth.
- Melt the butter and mix the rice malt syrup into the warm butter – it blends in easier.
- Place all the frosting ingredients into a bowl and whisk either with a whisk or a handheld mixer, until smooth.
- Place the frosting into a piping bag with a large piping tip and frost the cooled mini cakes.
The mini carrot cakes recipe is based on an I Quit Sugar Recipe which you can find here. The frosting recipe is my own.
This recipe will make about 12 to 18 mini cakes, depending on how much you fill your liners.