Cardamom and carrot cakes with maple icing by Anna Jones

I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t like these. These are a crowdpleaser, 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 dairy and 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.

Makes 12
For the cakes
butter or coconut oil 80g
maple syrup 4 tbsp
cardamom pods 4, seeds finely ground in a pestle and mortar
ground cinnamon 1 tsp
ground ginger ½ tsp
ground almonds 150g
light spelt or chickpea flour 100g
pumpkin seeds 50g
baking powder 2 tsp
carrots 2 medium, grated
banana 1, peeled and mashed
eggs 3 organic or free-range, beaten

For the icing
cream cheese 200g
maple syrup 4 tbsp
ground cinnamon a pinch
ground ginger a pinch

To decorate
unwaxed lime 1, zested

Preheat your oven to 180C fan/gas mark 6. Line a 12-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 the 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 fine, too. Once the cakes are out of the oven and have cooled, thickly spread each one with the icing and finish off with a grating of lime zest.