Cardamom & carrot cakes with maple icing

I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t like these. These are a crowd-pleaser, loved by old, young, boys, girls, junk-food lovers and health freaks alike. This is as close to a cupcake as I get – super-buttery sugary cupcakes don’t really 
do it for me. I like something with character and depth. These are what I make if I am taking cakes to a party or to a friend’s for tea. They work well at any time of day, stay super-moist and are packed with goodness.

These are free of refined sugar, and sweetened with maple syrup and banana (though you can’t taste it). You can easily make them gluten free with no compromise on flavour. My favourite version uses coconut oil, instead of butter, and chickpea flour, but you can use butter and plain or spelt flour, if you prefer. Soy cream cheese or very thick yoghurt works for the icing too.

I sometimes swap the carrot for butternut squash or even a parsnip, so
 in that sense they are a very wonderful way to use up any lingering roots.



80g butter or coconut oil
4 tablespoons maple syrup
seeds from 4 cardamom pods, finely ground in a pestle and mortar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon ground ginger
150g ground almonds
100g light spelt or chickpea flour
50g pumpkin seeds
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 medium carrots, grated
1 banana peeled and mashed
3 organic or free-range eggs, beaten


200g cream cheese
4 tablespoons maple syrup
a pinch of ground cinnamon
a pinch of ground ginger

grated zest of 1 unwaxed lime

Preheat your oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6. Line a twelve-hole muffin tin with paper cases and put to one side.

Put the butter or coconut oil and maple syrup into a pan with the spices and let it melt over a low heat. Set aside to cool.

Now put the ground almonds, flour, pumpkin seeds and baking powder into a bowl. Add the grated carrot, mashed banana and eggs, then pour in the cooled maple mixture and mix well. Spoon into the paper cases. Bake for 25 minutes, until golden on top and a skewer poked into the cakes comes out clean.

While the cakes are cooking, make your icing. Put the cream cheese into
a bowl with the maple syrup and spices and beat until light and fluffy. I like to do this with an electric hand whisk, but a wooden spoon works just fine too. Once the cakes are out of the oven and have cooled down, thickly spread each one with the icing and finish off with a grating of lime zest.

Posted: 16.01.15 20 Comments


Posted by Jess Houston at 8:11 on the 08.03.15

I love these cakes, they’ve worked out really well but I can’t get an icing to work.
Both Greek yoghurt and cream cheese go too sloppy once the maple syrup is added. What I am I doing wrong?!

Posted by Jessica Lea-Wilson at 9:40 on the 09.03.15

Thanks for your comment Jess and glad to hear you like the cakes. If you’re struggling, Anna suggests using a higher ratio of cream cheese and making sure the icing is very cold.

Posted by susana at 5:27 on the 17.03.15

Hi Anna ,
that can replace the yogurt, I do not take animal milk
thank you very much

Posted by Anna at 1:44 on the 14.04.15

Hi Susana. If you mean the cream cheese for the icing, you can use coconut cream. Put a can of coconut cream in the fridge for a couple of hours, and then scoop out the creamier stuff on the top. Whip this up well with the ingredients mentioned above. It will be best to keep the cakes in the fridge if using this method. Hope you enjoy!

Posted by basma at 6:26 on the 26.07.15

Thank you for this recipe.I have been making it for a few months from the book and its the one that my family request every week.I have also tried it with walnut instead of the seeds and its amazing.I no longer bother to make the icing because they disappear before i get to make the icing.

Posted by Anna at 8:55 on the 27.07.15

So pleased to hear you are enjoying it. AJ x

Posted by Kendra Fischer at 3:47 on the 09.08.15

I was hoping to make these for a friend back in MN whose puppy just passed…do you think these would make it in an overnight care package? perhaps better traveled without the frosting?

Posted by Anna at 11:07 on the 14.08.15

Hi Kendra, yes they will travel much better without the frosting. AJ x

Posted by Kai at 6:06 on the 01.10.15

Hello Anna, When I make these they are dry and I’ve checked I’m using the right ingredients, right quantities and baking for correct amount of time. What am I doing wrong?

Posted by ViWei at 7:51 on the 13.10.15

Hello Anna,

It’s great that your book is now also available in Germany and I look forward to trying out your recipes!
One question: Instead of the baking several small cakes will this recipe also work for one big cake?
Thanks and best regards from Munich!

Posted by Anna at 11:39 on the 24.11.15

Hi Viwei thanks for your message. Should be fine as one big cake, yes. AJ x

Posted by Tam at 4:59 on the 21.01.16

Oh my! I just made these and they are delicious. I am usually really rubbish at baking but these have turned out so well. I added some sultanas to half of the batch and I liked the extra sweetness. Yay!

Posted by Clelia at 3:15 on the 28.01.16

Hi Anna,

Are these freezable by any chance (obviously sans the icing)?


Posted by Jen @ at 10:19 on the 06.02.16

These little cakes look perfectly delicious and just the thing to make with the bag of chickpea flour sitting in my fridge. I love that you made these without resorting to pre-mixed gluten free flour, which always seem to have xanthan gum or other ingredients that disagree with me.

Posted by Liz Mcmullan at 5:10 on the 18.03.16

I like reading these comments, and eating these cakes.

Posted by AW at 10:47 on the 21.09.16

Hi Anna! These look delicious. Do you use medium or large eggs?

Posted by Julia at 8:12 on the 12.10.16

Hi, we love your seeded banana bread loaf as a post nursery snack and would like to do a whole carrot cake instead of cupcakes, as there are always arguments on spooning the cupcake mixture! How would I adapt the recipe, say for a loaf tin?

Posted by Sarah at 3:10 on the 22.01.21

Hi. Love your recipes and sure these are delicious. But you have them in the gluten-free section. Spelt isn’t gluten free so best to make this clear just in case.

Posted by Dipika at 3:56 on the 19.02.21

Hi, I love this recipe, made it many times. However I need to make it nut free due to allergies. What is a best replacement for ground almonds or can I just replace it with more flour?

Posted by Prue Lavery at 9:10 on the 21.03.21

Hi – I want to make this recipe as a single large cake, do I need to make any changes? What about cooking time?

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