After roasted banana bars forever changed my view of banana desserts, I began to envision other ways to use roasting as a flavor enhancer. When I considered the addictive sweetness of roasted carrots, I easily made the leap to roasted carrot cake bars. The best elements of carrot cake all turn up here – chopped walnuts add nice texture to the spicy cake layer, and lemon zest brightens the smooth and tangy cream cheese frosting. As for the roasted carrots, I like to think they add a bit of nutritional value to these dessert bars!
Roasted Carrot Cake Bars
2 cups peeled and sliced carrots (about 4 medium)
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, diced
1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp lemon zest
Preheat oven to 400°F and arrange carrots in a single layer on a sheet pan lined with foil; sprinkle with brown sugar and diced butter. Roast for 20 minutes, gently stirring mixture halfway through. Cool carrots slightly, then process in a food processor until coarsely chopped.
Reduce oven temperature to 350°F and coat a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with nonstick spray. Whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Combine carrots, buttermilk, and vanilla in a small bowl. Beat butter and sugar in a large mixer bowl on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs and beat well. Reduce speed to low and add half of flour mixture to sugar mixture; beat just until combined. Add buttermilk mixture, then finish with remaining flour mixture.
Gently fold in walnuts, then pour mixture into prepared baking dish and smooth top with an offset spatula. Bake 15 to 17 minutes, until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs attached. Remove from oven to cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
For the frosting, beat cream cheese with a mixer on medium speed until smooth. Reduce speed to low and gradually add powdered sugar until combined; beat in lemon zest. Use an offset spatula to spread frosting evenly over cooled cake. Cover and chill in the refrigerator at least 2 hours before cutting into squares with a sharp knife. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 3 days.
Yield – 24 bars (serving size: 1 bar)
Calories – 173
Carbs – 25