I've never really felt one way or another about carrot cake. I mean, I recognize it as a classic and all but I wouldn't really say that it was in my repertoire until I was challenged to a carrot cake cook off over a game of cards last spring. Well friends, I love a good competition and I really love hanging out with other folks who like to bake so I immediately accepted and imagined a big blue ribbon pinned to my chest. When the time came I tested and labored and fretted over the cake then over the frosting. I settled on a dairy and egg free cake (wacky I know) that was the moist, slightly spicy cake of my dreams. For the frosting, I knew that I wanted to go a little non-traditional because I've never really been a fan of the extreme sweetness of traditional cream cheese frosting. I turned to my favorite swiss buttercream with hopes that it's smooth texture and subtle sweetness would lend itself to the addition of cream cheese. I whipped up a batch and enriched it with some tangy cream cheese and the tiniest bit of lemon zest and my goodness. I had created a buttercream that tasted like fluffy whipped cheesecake, victory was mine! The day of the Carrot Caketacular came and I packed up my prize winner in a wicker basket, hopped on the subway and hoped for the best. Five cakes were offered up to the masses, votes were cast, fingers were crossed and no one was more shocked than me when my cake fetched second place. What?! Second Place?! It was a pretty narrow margin between me and #1, so I blame the raisins. I was the only one who used 'em and I guess there were a lot of raisin haters there that day. Not even my revolutionary frosting could save me.
You see that last photo up there? The hosts lovingly tied a frilly topped carrot to their buzzer to mark the spot, so cute!
Vegan Carrot Cake
(Don't knock it til you try it)
2 1/4c flour
1c packed brown sugar
1 1/2 t cinnamon
1/2t freshly ground nutmeg
1 1/2t baking soda
1/2t baking powder
1c plus 2T orange juice (room temp)
1/2c canola oil
1 1/2T apple cider vinegar
1T vanilla extract
1/2c golden raisins (or not, if you don't like em)
1c toasted and chopped pecans
2c peeled, grated carrots
Preheat oven to 350, grease and line 2 9'' pans with parchment paper
1. Add raisins to room temperature orange juice to soak while you prepare the other ingredients.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Stir in the pecans
3. In a large bowl whisk together the sugar, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Then stir in the orange juice with raisins, and carrots
4. Add the flour mixture to the liquid mixture all at once and fold gently to combine.
5. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and bake for 20-25min or until a cake tester comes out clean.
6. Let the cakes cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, then invert on a rack to cool completely before assembly.
Cream Cheese Swiss Meringue Buttercream (not vegan)
makes about 4 cups (enough for your cake, plus a little extra)
5 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
8oz unsalted butter, room temp
8oz cream cheese, room temp
1T vanilla extract
1/2t lemon zest
1. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and cream cheese until no lumps remain, then blend in the vanilla and lemon zest.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk continuously until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch (5-7min).
3. Using your whisk attachment, beat the egg white mixture until stiff glossy peaks form and the mixture has cooled completely (up to 10ish minutes). If you get ansty and don't let the mixture cool completely you will end up with frosting soup and no one wants that. Don't get antsy.
4. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter/cream cheese mixture about 1/4c at a time and beat until smooth.
During this last step it is VERY possible that your frosting will 'break" and you will think you messed something up. Good news! You didn't! Mine breaks almost every time I make it too. All you have to do is turn up the speed on your mixer for a moment, until the mixture comes back together and then keep adding the butter mixture until your buttercream is smooth and creamy.
Did I mention that this frosting requires patience? It does, I really mean it, but most really good things require a little patience.
For a more traditional cream cheese frosting (that requires less patience), try here. You really can't lose, anyway you shake it, cream cheese frosting is delicious.
To assemble the cake:
Peel the parchment paper from the layers and place one onto your serving platter or pedestal, domed side down. Scoop about 1 cup of frosting onto the cake layer and spread evenly. Place the other cake on top, domed side up for a more homestyle look, domed side down for a cleaner look. Cover the top and sides with a thin layer of frosting (a crumbcoat) and refrigerate for about 30 min. Pull the cake out and spread another, thicker layer of frosting on the top and sides. Put it back into the fridge if the frosting is really soft, but make sure to serve the cake at room temperature.