It wasn't hard to pick the recipe for my first post, since carrot cake is by far my favourite. Almost every time I made it I had half myself (in one day). Why do I like it so much? It's got the 4 most important qualities I look for in a dessert: it's sweet (in a delicate way), crunchy, moist and the flavours are perfectly balanced. Those of you who are familiar with this classic cake might be surprised to see chocolate ganache instead of a thick layer of cream cheese frosting. That's because I don't like buttery frosting at all. It's too sticky and sweet to be able to enjoy the true flavour of the cake. I find that chocolate ganache matches it perfectly. Add to that a little bit of lemon or orange drizzle and you're in cake heaven.
Before I became vegan, I had tasted carrot cake only once and I remember it to be rather dry and too sweet and it was iced with powdered sugar. After making the switch in 2009, I started looking for vegan recipes that didn't call for any form of egg replacer, because I had never used anything like that. First I found the lemon cake, which I turned into Lemon Orange Muffins, then came the banana cake - both of them have that kind of light texture and delicate sweetness that makes eating them more enjoyable just by letting them melt in the mouth. And then I found the wonderful carrot cake on Group recipes and adapted it to suit my taste by reducing the sugar from 1 1/4 cups to only 1/2 cup, the oil from 3/4 cup to 1/2 cup, the raisins from 1 cup to 1/2 cup and by adding 1/2 tsp allspice and 1 tsp vanilla extract. After making this recipe I didn't need to look for a better one, this was IT. I also made a low-fat/low-sugar version which you can find right below the main one. I encourage you to try them both and please give me your feedback.
All that being said, let's talk...Carrot Cake.
This recipe makes 2 x 18cm (7'') cakes.
- 2 cups organic plain white flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking powder (without aluminium)
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp cinnamon (preferably Ceylon - see notes)
- 1/2 tsp allspice
- 1/2 cup organic unrefined cane sugar
- 3 cups finely grated carrot (3-4 medium carrots)
- zest of 1 medium orange
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, with pulp (choose sweet, juicy oranges)
- 1/2 cup oil (I use sunflower)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup seedless raisins
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Step 1: Sift the first 6 ingredients together, then stir in the sugar.
Step 2: Add the orange zest and carrots and fold them in gently until barely combined, like in the picture. Note: use sweet, juicy carrots (some types are bland and dry); grate the carrots on the fine side of the grater, applying some force to prevent them from releasing the juice.
Step 3: Add the orange juice, oil and vanilla and mix till homogeneous; be careful not to overmix.
Step 4: Gently fold in the walnuts and raisins.
Step 5: Lightly grease 2 x 18cm (7'') sandwich tins with oil (wipe out any excess using a piece of paper towel - too much oil will cause moisture retention on the bottom and the cake will look undone; otherwise it will require additional baking time which will cause the upper part to become dry). Divide the batter between the two tins and bake for about 40 minutes until the cake pulls away from the sides of the tin and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean (insert it diagonally for better results, since the tins are quite small). Checking the cake after 30 minutes will give you an idea about how much time the cake still needs to be done. Remove from oven onto a wire rack and let cool in the tins for 10-15 minutes. Remove the cakes onto the wire rack and let cool completely. Place on a serving dish. Draw thin vertical and horizontal lines with the chocolate ganache, letting it drip down the side and cut into pieces or slices.
Chocolate Ganache: Using a glass bowl, melt 75 g chocolate (I use 60%) over a double boiler together with 1/4 cup milk (any non-dairy milk) and 2 Tb agave or maple syrup (or 1/3 cup icing sugar). Mix with a wooden spoon and remove before the chocolate is completely melted. Continue stirring until it is.
Replace 1 cup grated carrot with 1 cup grated red apple (use the coarse side of the grater).
Replace walnuts with pecans.
Replace sugar with date paste: soak 15 pitted dates in warm milk for 30 minutes, drain and blend into a smooth paste.
Increase baking soda from 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp.
Leave out the oil.
Follow the steps as above. Decorate with chocolate ganache and lemon or orange drizzle (1/2 cup icing sugar + a little lemon or orange juice to obtain a thick but runny consistency).
If the pictures didn't convince you to try these vegan versions of carrot cake, then think about their benefits: low sugar, no cholesterol, considerably less saturated fat, good amount of dietary fiber, a lot less calories than the egg/dairy version - these factors help reduce the risk of heart disease, different types of cancer, type II diabetes and other health problems. And think about the guilt-free feeling you will have knowing that you have spared a few cows, calves and chickens from horrible suffering.
A lot of time, effort and passion goes into each recipe I post. My greatest satisfaction comes from your feedback. If you made this recipe, then please take a minute of your time to leave me a comment. And if you like it, please share it so that others have access to it as well. Thank you all in advance!
Did you know...
Raisins, when eaten alone, help fight bacteria in the mouth that cause cavities and gum disease. They are a good source of natural sugar, dietary fiber, iron, potassium, calcium and antioxidants, they contain no cholesterol and are low in sodium. Caution: grapes, raisins, sultanas and currants are toxic for cats and dogs, causing renal failure.
Chocolate, especially dark, helps improve circulation, boosts cognitive abilities, reduces blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease and lowers cholesterol. Chocolate and cocoa contain a high level of flavonoids, known for their powerful antioxidant activity. Caution: chocolate is poisonous for cats and dogs. Symptoms include: anxiety, pacing, excessive thirst and urination, vomiting, diarrhea, muscular tremor, seizures, nausea, irregular heartbeat, coma and even death. The higher the cocoa content, the more dangerous chocolate is.
Oranges are rich in B vitamins and vitamin C (a powerful antioxidant). The orange peel has more vitamin C than the juice.
Carrots have been used in puddings and cakes as sweetener since medieval times. They are cholesterol-free, fat-free, low sodium and are rich in vitamins (B, C) and minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium). Carrots are one of the major sources of beta-carotene, along with sweet potatoes, spinach and kale. Beta-carotene has important antioxidant properties, strengthening the immune system against viral infections. It is converted in the body to vitamin A. Only a small amount of beta-carotene is absorbed during digestion. That amount is considerably increased by pulping, cooking and adding oil (beta-carotene is fat soluble).
Fat-soluble Vitamin A helps preserve and improve eyesight, it maintains skin healthy and keeps eyes and mucous membranes moist. Vitamin A deficiency is caused by inadequate intake of protein, dietary fiber and zinc. It leads to anemia which is thought to impact the metabolism of iron. Excess vitamin A interferes with absorption of vitamin K and impairs the functions of vitamin D. The excess is associated with lower bone mass and increased risk of hip fracture.
Raw walnuts are cholesterol-free and rich in protein, dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E (antioxidant), B vitamins and minerals (calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, manganese, copper, selenium, iodine - necessary for healthy thyroid function). They are a good source of mono- and polyunsaturated fats that help lower bad cholesterol in the body and improve blood circulation. Compared to other raw nuts, walnuts contain the highest level of antioxidants. Walnuts and walnut oil improve the body's reaction to stress. Due to their fat content, they are highly perishable. To store, walnuts should be kept in airtight containers in a cool, dry, dark place or in the refrigerator. Walnut skin contains phytic acid which interferes with the absorption of iron, calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc. It can be neutralized by soaking the nuts in water (some sources say salty water) for 4 hours at room temperature, which stimulates the process of germination. Raw walnuts also contain enzyme inhibitors which can be de-activated by germination.
Baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) is a leavening agent that reacts with acidic components (lemon juice, yogurt, buttermilk, cocoa, vinegar etc.). It is also used as an antacid, exfoliant, mouthwash, teeth whitener, deodorant, antiseptic; also used in cleaning and scrubbing and to remove unpleasant odour from clothes and soften them during washing.
Cinnamon, one of the oldest known spices, has powerful medicinal properties that include: protection against colds, cough relief, headache, toothache, blocked sinuses, diarrhea, constipation, increases appetite, induces relaxation, promotes weight loss, prevents fermentation which causes gas, bloating, heartburn, improves digestion, stops bleeding and helps the healing process, provides relief from menstrual discomfort and cramping, stimulates circulation (particularly beneficial for people with bad peripheral circulation), regulates the metabolism of fats and sugars, helping with type II diabetes. Due to its anti-inflamatory and anti-fungal qualities, cinnamon helps treat and protect against urinary tract infection. Smelling cinnamon or chewing cinnamon-flavoured gum helps improve brain function and memory.
There are 2 types of cinnamon: Ceylon cinnamon (native to Sri Lanka, known as the "true cinnamon"), more expensive and not widely available, and Cassia cinnamon (grown in China, Vietnam, Indonesia etc.), the more common type, usually labelled simply "cinnamon". How to differentiate between them: Ceylon cinnamon has a sweet, delicate aroma, the bark is light brown, thin and soft, and filled like a cigar. It tends to shred or crumble when broken. Cassia cinnamon has a harsh aroma, flat taste, the bark is dark brown, thick and hard, and has a hollow tube appearance. Cassia contains a high level of Coumarin; when used regularly or in high amounts, it can damage the liver. Ceylon contains very small amounts of Coumarin.
Salt enhances the flavours in the food, helps reduce bitterness and acidity, and balances the sweetness.