Honey Carrot Banana Bread

A lightly spiced cross between a delicious carrot cake and decadent banana bread - all sweetened with honey and no refined white sugars.  

Honey Carrot Banana Bread from America's Test Kitchen's "Naturally Sweet"

Want delectable, flavorul treats without the extra sugar?  You bet!  Isn’t everyday living mostly about trying to figure out ways to enjoy all our favorite eats and still be relatively healthy?  At least that is my main goal in life.  So when America’s Test Kitchen asked if I would be interested in testing out some recipes from their latest baking book Naturally Sweet, the answer was a total no-brainer.  Naturally, I said yes (you see what I did there? Lol).

Honey Carrot Banana Bread from America's Test Kitchen's "Naturally Sweet"
Honey Carrot Banana Bread from America's Test Kitchen's "Naturally Sweet"
Honey Carrot Banana Bread from America's Test Kitchen's "Naturally Sweet"

When it comes to baking and most of the recipes I create for this blog, I typically don’t shy away from absurd amounts of butter or sugar.  I develop recipes with reckless abandon, and that probably isn’t going to change any time soon.  If you want a Tessa Huff cake, pie, or pastry, you are usually looking for something grand and show-stoppy – especially when it comes to celebratory layer cakes.  However, I don’t eat like this on a regular basis and I’m sure your day-to-day baking doesn’t involve 6-layer cakes dripping with caramel and covered in sprinkles either.  Good thing there are other resources for that…

When it comes to baking at home for my family, I try to be a bit more health conscious.  And while I spend most of my days developing treats in the kitchen, it’s been proven time and time again that I am not very good at making them with alternative ingredients.  My “healthy” muffins tend to resemble hockey pucks and don’t even get me started on my disasters when trying to go gluten-free or vegan.  Yikes!  Save those recipes for the experts.

This new book from America’s Test Kitchen is what I’m talking about.  While I can certainly make you a decadent pastry covered in slabs of butter and encrusted in sugar, turn to Naturally Sweet for all of your other needs.  Using less refined sweeteners – like honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, and Sucanat, the wizards at ATK have figured out how to make all your fave baked goods with 30% to 50% less sugar!  Since sugar is part of the science-y part of baking, you can’t always simply just take it out completely and hope for the best. Thankfully, the peeps at ATK did all the hard work for us and put it all in this beautiful new book. 

I was drawn to two classics from the book – Banana Bread and Carrot-Honey Layer Cake.  I loved the idea of the carrot-honey cake because it called for a sweetener I already had in my pantry – honey!  I had some over-ripe bananas in my kitchen as well, so I decided to combine the recipes together for the ultimate tea time bite and breakfast-y treat! 

The spices in the carrot cake are heavenly and perfect for fall, while the banana keeps things moist for days – you know, for the type of loaves and cakes that keep all week (ones where you keep cutting tiny bits off for yourself every time you walk near the kitchen, hehe).  The honey in the frosting is pretty strong (or at least with the brand of honey I used), but the touch of vanilla and pinch of salt help to mellow out and balance the flavors.  I bet a sprinkle of cinnamon would go splendidly with the frosting too!

Honey Carrot Banana Bread from America's Test Kitchen's "Naturally Sweet"
Honey Carrot Banana Bread from America's Test Kitchen's "Naturally Sweet"
Honey Carrot Banana Bread from America's Test Kitchen's "Naturally Sweet"

Honey Carrot Banana Bread
adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

2 bananas
1 ½ cups shredded carrots
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
2 large eggs
½ cup grapeseed oil
½ cup honey
¼ cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a loaf pan with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, smash the bananas with a potato masher or fork.  Stir in the shredded carrots.

Sift the dry ingredients together over the mixing bowl and stir to combines.

Whisk in the two eggs.

In a separate bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine the oil, honey, yogurt, and vanilla.

Add the liquids to the large bowl, and stir/fold until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 55 to 65 minutes or until a thin knife inserted deep into the cake comes out with moist crumbs

Let cool for 10 minutes before removing the bread from the pan.  Continue to cool on a wire rack before frosting.

Honey Frosting
from “Naturally Sweet” – double the recipe for the Carrot-Honey Cake

6 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch salt
3 tablespoons honey

Using a stand mixer, whip the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and salt together on medium speed until smooth.

Lower the mixer to low speed and add in the honey.  Once incorporated, turn the mixer back up to medium-high and whip until light and fluffy.

Banana Bread
from “Naturally Sweet”

7 tablespoons Sucanat
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3 large, ripe bananas – peeled and mashed
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
¼ cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 dgrees.  Grease a loaf pan.  Working in batches, grind the sucanat to a fine powder using a spice grinder.

Whisk the sucanat with the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk the mashed bananas, melted butter, eggs, yogurt, and vanilla until combined.  Gently fold the banana mixture into the flour mixture until must combined.  Fold in walnuts, if using.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until golden brown and toothpick inserted into the center comes out with few moist crumbs, 55 to 65 minutes, rotating the pan hallway through baking.

Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack until completely cool.

Carrot-Honey Cake
from “Naturally Sweet”

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup + ¼ cup honey
¾ cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 2/3 cup shredded carrots

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease two 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper, grease parchment, and flour the pans.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a bowl.

In a large bowl, whisk honey, oil, eggs, and vanilla together until smooth.

Stir in the carrots.

Add the flour mixture and fold with a rubber spatula until combined.

Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for 16 to 20 minutes, or until the cakes are set and center is just firm to the touch.

Cool 10 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.

Once completely cool, fill and frost with a double batch of Honey Frosting.

Thank you to America's Test Kitchen for providing me with a copy of "Naturally Sweet" and some awesome baking equipment.  Thoughts and opinions are my own.