DISH: Dairy-Free Carrot Cake
TYPE: Celebratory Cake
DIETARY RESTRICTION: Dairy Free
I may be a decent baker, but I’m not so good with surprises. So when, for Alex’s birthday, I determined I’d make him a cake, I didn’t have the wherewithal to kick him out of my studio apartment while I did so. He claims to have guessed at the nature of my concoction long before the scent of the cake wafted out of my kitchen to the desk where I’d exiled him, eight feet away. It was the sound of me grating a vegetable drawer’s worth of carrots, apparently, that tipped him off. Anyway, before we went out for the evening I made the cake as fast as I could. By the time we left, I had the cake nearly cooled, frosted (well, the frosting melted into the layers a tad), and hiding in plain sight on a cake plate on my table.
My fiancé Alex, who made the stomach-related decision, several years ago, to consume no dairy whatsoever, thought (and I quote) that he would never eat things like creamy icing ever again. Having vowed, somewhere in the fall of 2007, that I’d be a vegan for life, I had an idea of what it was like to stand in his shoes. I got both the sadness and the conviction of this vow. And that year of dairy-, meat-, and egg-free life back then led me to the knowledge now that carrot cake is a resilient, long-suffering hero of a confection. You can cut out its eggs, its butter, its cream cheese, and somehow the cake still tastes delicious. I’m not exaggerating. This faith-like belief in carrot cakes long ago chose the flavor of Alex’s birthday cake for me, and I made him a fantastic carrot cake, which he seriously loved.
Though this makes enough for a crowd, don’t worry about baking it up for just two or four. Leftovers are unbeatable for breakfast.
Cara is the co-founder of Big Girls, Small Kitchen and Small Kitchen College. She is slowly introducing Alex to the wonders of low-lactose cheese.
Dairy-Free Carrot Cake
makes one 2-layer, 9-inch cake
If you do eat dairy, you can substitute standard cream cheese and softened butter for the tofu cream cheese and margarine/shortening.
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 large eggs
3 cups finely grated carrots (about 6-7 medium carrots)
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
Maple Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grease two 9-inch cake pans, and, if you like, cut out a circle of parchment with which to line the bottom. Grease the parchment too.
In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in medium bowl). In another, larger bowl, stir together the sugar and oil until the sugar is saturated by the oil. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the flour mixture, and fold with a rubber spatula until just combined. When the flour’s almost stirred in, add the carrots, raisins, and walnuts, still being careful not to overmix. Divide batter equally among cake pans.
Bake the layers for 40-50 minutes, or until a tester inserted into center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans for a few minutes, then turn them out onto a rack or a plate to cool. Cool completely before icing.
Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
12 oz tofu cream cheese
12 oz margarine or shortening
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
Beat all the ingredients in a food processor until very smooth. You may need to chill it in the fridge for a few minutes so that it’s thick and easy to spread.
Trim the layers as necessary if they’re really puffed up in the center. Then spread a thin layer of frosting on top of the first layer. Top with the second and carefully cover the top and sides with icing. Keep in the fridge–it’ll stay good for a week.