Carrot cake has always been my favorite cake. I could live the rest of my life and never have another thing for dessert so long as I can have carrot cake. But it has to be good. I have a very high standard. Carrot cake has a place in many of my memories.
When I was a kid, my mother and I would make carrot cake. I got the “fun” job of grating the carrots and trying not to add my knuckle flesh to the mix. My mother didn’t make any frosting for it. We just ate the cake as it was: moist and delicious.
At 15 years old, I had a huge crush on a guy who worked at the hospital where I volunteered. When I learned carrot cake was his favorite also, my mother helped me make one for him. The way to a man’s heart and all….swoon!
When Tom and I eloped to North Carolina, we called dozens of places trying to order 2 carrot cakes. Since we were doing everything for the ceremony ourselves including making the chuppah, decorating, etc., we thought we would also decorate our own wedding cake. We even make our own cake topper: 2 Westies standing under a chuppah.
But either no place would make us the 2 round cakes at such short notice or they wouldn’t make them without adding fruit to the cake. I’m a purist. I like my carrot cake plain.
Finally, we found a place, Sweet N’ Savory, who said, “No problem.” They made us 2 round carrot cakes in less than 24 hours. Then I set about decorating the cake with craft supplies and our special topper. Our theme was Westies (for Poochie, my flower girl in spirit) and autumn leaves.
The cake was delicious. And one year later, the piece we put aside for good luck was still delicious (though honestly I was worried about eating something that was a year old).
When Tom and I became vegan, we tried carrot cake from natural food stores and from vegan restaurants (even the famous ones) but none tasted right. We did find one place that made delicious vegan carrot cake, an Ital restaurant in the Bronx, but sadly they closed.
I have been unable to find a vegan carrot cake I love, let alone a gluten-free vegan carrot cake. So one day when I was bored, I went into the kitchen and attempted my own. To my surprise, it was amazing. Better than any of the ones I’ve tried. Tom said it’s the most delicious carrot cake he has had since our wedding!
Usually when I make a dessert, I try it and then it’s up to Tom to finish it. But this time, I had a piece of carrot cake every single night until Tom and I had finished the whole thing! That’s what is keeping me from making it again right away – I’ll eat it!!
The walnuts are optional but they add a nice texture. The gluten-free all-purpose flour mix I used (Bob’s Red Mill) does not contain xanthan gum and I didn’t add any. It doesn’t need it. It also has only unrefined ingredients – sorghum, fava and chickpea flours with potato and tapioca starches. If you don’t need it to be gluten-free, just use your favorite flour.
My Gluten-Free Carrot Cake with Walnuts and Cream Cheese Frosting would make a wonderful dessert for Easter. Or for after Passover. Or for a wedding. Or for any day. Enjoy!
Gluten-Free Carrot Cake with Walnuts and Cream Cheese Frosting
2 ¼ cups gluten-free all-purpose flour mix
1 tsp. baking powder
1 ¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. Kosher salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. ground ginger
¼ cup ground flaxseed
¾ cup warm water
¾ cup organic sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup canola oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract, divided
Zest of one orange
1/4 cup of fresh orange juice
3 cups carrots, grated
1 ½ cups walnuts, chopped, divided (optional)
12 oz. vegan cream cheese, softened
½ cup vegan butter, softened
3 Tbs. maple syrup, or more to taste
1 ½ – 2 cups powdered sugar, or more to taste
In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger and whisk it well so all the dry ingredients are well-combined.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flaxseed and warm water. Let it sit for 5 minutes until it thickens a bit. To this bowl, add the sugar and brown sugar. Using an electric hand mixer (or your own well-toned muscled arms), start on a low speed and mix the sugar with the flaxseed/water. Add the oil and 1 tsp. of vanilla and mix, starting on low speed and moving up to medium. Next add the orange zest and juice and mix again.
Now slowly add the dry ingredients to the large mixing bowl. I do it in thirds. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients and beat with the mixer, starting on low speed and building up to high. When the batter is fully mixed, repeat with the second 1/3 and the last 1/3 of the dry ingredients.
Fold in the carrots and ½ cup of the chopped walnuts (if using). You could also add raisins here. I like it best plain or with some walnuts.
Divide the batter between the 2 cake pans and using a spoon, smooth out the top surface. Bake for 35-45 minutes, depending on your oven. Check the cakes at 30 or 35 minutes and see if a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean. If the toothpick is still wet, bake for another 5 minutes at a time until the cakes are done. It took me 45 minutes total but everyone’s oven is different. Gluten-free cakes take longer to bake than gluten cakes (we made a gluten version and it took 30 minutes).
While the cakes are baking, make the frosting. In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese and softened butter and beat with an electric hand mixer. Don’t beat it too long because vegan cream cheese tends to get watery. Add the maple syrup and the remaining tsp. of vanilla extract. Add the powdered sugar a little at a time, beating it with the mixer on low and then high speed.
When the sugar has been fully incorporated, taste the frosting. This is important. You’re looking for 2 things here: you want the frosting to be as thick as you can get it while also keeping track of how sweet it’s getting. I don’t like my frosting too sweet so what I used was enough to give me a frosting that was sweet enough and thick enough. For me. You may want it thicker and/or sweeter. Some recipes use up to 6 cups of powdered sugar. Yuck!
When you have the frosting to your liking, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it until you are ready to frost the cake.
When the toothpick comes out clean, remove the cakes from the oven and set the cake pans on a cooling rack. Let them completely cool. When they are completely cool, lift them carefully by the parchment paper and rest them on cooling racks until you are ready to frost them.
When you are ready to frost them, transfer one cake to a cake stand or platter. Frost the top of the cake. Carefully stack the second cake on top of the first. Frost the top of the 2nd layer and the sides of the cake. If there is extra frosting, enjoy!
Decorate with chopped walnuts on the side of the cake. Place a small amount of chopped walnuts in your hand and gently pat your open hand along the sides of the cake – the walnuts should stick to the frosting.
Keep the cake refrigerated so the frosting stays firm. It tastes even better after it’s been in the fridge.
The “V” Word: Say it. Eat it. Live it.