Adventures in Vegan Baking: Carrot Cake

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When my new Seattle neighbors found out that I love to cook, they asked if they could hire me to make hors d’oeuvres for them. She gave me the lowdown: six people were coming over for hors d’oeuvres before going out to dinner. Six people? Hors D’oeuvres? Sounds like a piece of cake.

Not so fast. When I followed up to discuss the details, ask about food preferences / theme, pricing, and any dietary restrictions I needed to be mindful of… she told me they were vegan. Vegan? Did she know she was talking to someone who was only vegetarian once for a period of 40 days because a friend dared her to give up meat for lent? I was not prepared for this. But not one to back down from a challenge, I set out to find and test a bunch of vegan appetizer recipes. I made white bean and rosemary bruschetta, polenta cakes with garlicky mushrooms, miniature roasted vegetable napoleons with eggplant creme, veganized rosemary roasted garlic (without the blue cheese, sigh) and blackened tomato canapes, but I wasn’t wowed by any of them. Something was missing, and it rhymes with “smutter.” Or better yet, it’s friend “schmeeze.” I racked my brain, asked my vegan friends for advice, and scoured vegan blogs in an attempt to find something delicious to cook for these people. Then it dawned on me. The only time I’d veganized a dish that kicked ass, it was literally a cake. Vegan carrot cake, to be exact, which I made for my dear friend Joe for his birthday.

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So, folks. I give you cake. And for anyone who’s wondering what happened to the catering gig: everything ended anticlimactically when they decided to cancel on me a week before the event. I am disappointed, but also a little bit relieved that I didn’t have to serve them food that I wasn’t totally stoked about. Next time they ask me to cook for them, I’ll tell them I only do birthdays!

Here’s a new track from Moby, a vegan artist (says the internet), which sounds a lot like Bon Iver. Vegan cake that tastes like non-vegan cake. Vegan artist who sounds like a non-vegan artist. This works, right?

Moby “Almost Home”

Vegan Carrot Cake
Adapted from Whole Foods

Whole foods suggested that this is a 3-layer cake, but I only had two matching (10 inch) cake pans so I made a 2-layer cake. Everything stays the same except your baking time might be a bit longer and you can be heavy handed with the frosting (yum!)

For the cake:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons egg replacer
2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup safflower oil
1 cup almond milk
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
3/4 pound carrots, finely grated (about 3 cups)
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
1 cup seedless raisins
For the frosting:
12 tablespoons non-hydrogenated margarine (i used Earth Balance’s Vegan Buttery Sticks), chilled and cut into pieces
1 1/2 pound soy cream cheese, cold
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°F and lightly grease two (9-inch) round cake pans; set aside.
Mix flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and egg replacer into a mixing bowl and whisk together to blend. Put sugar in a separate large mixing bowl and whisk in safflower oil, almond milk and applesauce. When fully combined, add almond milk mixture to flour mixture and mix just until smooth.
Stir in carrots, walnuts and raisins, then divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the center springs back gently when pressed. Remove from oven and transfer to racks to let cool completely.
Make the frosting: Beat vegan buttery sticks in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed for 3 minutes. Add cream cheese in pieces and mix until thoroughly blended. Slowly add sugar and vanilla and mix until combined. Continue to mix until frosting becomes light and fluffy. Cover and set aside until ready to use.
Once the cakes have cooled, trim off the tops so that they’re flat. Place the first cake layer, bottom side up, on a plate. Spoon one quarter of the frosting onto the top and spread it evenly. Place the second cake layer, bottom side down, on top of the others and frost the top and sides with remaining frosting. Set aside for at least 30 minutes or chill until ready to serve.
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