Monday, April 7, 2008

Best Carrot Cake Ever--Healthy & Sweetened with Agave

Have you ever heard of agave?

No, not the hip new Mexican restaurant that opened down the street.

Agave is a plant that grows in Mexico and out of which tequila is made. But agave nectar, which comes from the sap of the plant, is a natural sweetener that tastes a lot like honey but is healthier for you.

Since your body digests it slowly, it doesn't cause low blood sugar, it's low on the glycemic index (though this varies by processing method, etc.), and is becoming increasingly popular among diabetics. It's also great for baking.

To read much more on agave, read Sweet Savvy's post here.

So what does this have to do with babies?

Babies don't need refined sugar of any kind. Ever. Neither do kids (of any age, though it gets harder to have your say as they get older and obsessed with candy, gum, lollipops, chocolate ... you get the idea.) Interestingly, breast milk is very sweet, and many parents choose to feed babies mashed yam or banana -- both which contain lots of natural sweetness -- as a first food. The natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables is perfectly healthy for babies. White sugar, though, is not.

What do you do when the tiny creature born yesterday is turning one (already!) and you want to have a party (for you, not the kid) and bake a cake? Make this healthy agave-sweetened carrot cake recipe, adapted from one by Andrew Weil, and both the babies and grown-ups will be delighted.
2 cups firmly packed finely grated carrots (do this with the S-shaped blade in the cuisinart and it's ready in seconds)
Juice of 1 large orange
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup agave nectar (found in the bulk section of most natural food stores, near the maple syrup)
1 Tablespoon Brewer's Yeast + 2 Tablespoons of bran + enough unbleached white flour to make one cup
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt (optional)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Combine the carrots, orange juice, vanilla, olive oil, and agave.

3. In another bowl or big measuring cup, stir together all the dry ingredients.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the carrot mixture, stirring until just mixed. Do not overstir.

5. Pour the batter into a greased 8-inch-square baking pan and bake at 350 for 45+ minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

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