It finally feels like spring has arrived here on Nantucket. A perfect excuse to make a spring carrot cake. (Like I needed an excuse.) Carrot cake has always been a favorite in our house. I mean, fluffy layers of moist spiced cake with tangy cream cheese frosting will kinda do that to you. Its hard to eat just one slice and it’s always gone by the next day.
What Makes a Good Carrot Cake
A good carrot cake should be fluffy, tender and moist and full of flavor from aromatic spices like vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. Shredded carrots of course give this cake its tender moist crumb, which gets even better the next day. I’ve used coconut milk in the past but it creates a very rich cake, so I lightened this version up by using soy milk instead (almond or oat milks would be good alternatives as well). Adding orange zest brings out the flavors of the spices and adds a bright citrus note. I love chopped walnuts in carrot cake but left them out because our little guy has a nut sensitivity, though I highly recommend adding them to the batter if you eat nuts.
Fun with Frosting
The cream cheese frosting is so simple and can be made quickly in a food processor. If you don’t have a vegan cream cheese you like (I’ve only found one available here that is ok) try using thick Greek-style coconut yogurt instead. You may have to add a bit more powdered sugar to get a nice thick frosting consistency if using coconut yogurt, but it’s very tasty. I added some powdered bright orange algae called Dunaliella Salina, which is super high in beta-carotene, to create the orange-hued frosting. It has slight taste of citric acid, kind of like a vitamin C tablet would, and didn’t affect the flavor of the cake negatively at all. I decorated the top with edible violas from our garden and some fancy natural sprinkles I’ve been hoarding.
New Oven Love
It’s such a treat to bake in my new Bluestar RNB series range in custom pigeon blue with copper knobs and trim from AJ Madison. I feel like I need to give her a name, I mean she’s kinda like a member of the family now. Yes, I’m weird like that. Any suggestions? The extra large oven interior of the 36″ range fits a standard half sheet pan which is ahhhmazing when your roasting all the things. I haven’t used the convection fan setting yet, but the standard bake setting has been keeping accurate temperature and preheats quickly. This carrot cake is the first layer cake to come out of this blue beauty and I know it’s one that will be made many times over. I baked pavlovas in the oven for Easter and although they cracked, which I think was do to 100% humidity that day, they came out beautifully and were a huge hit. Looking forward to my next bake!
scroll for recipe…
Spring Vegan Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Yield 8 servings
One of my all time favorite cakes! This moist spiced vegan carrot cake is a perfect springtime treat and very simple to make. The cream cheese frosting whips up easily in a food processor. Two great easy recipes to have in your arsenal! This recipe make one 8" layer or two 6" layers of cake. Double the recipe for a 2-layer 8" or 9" cake.
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
- 3/4 cups dark sugar such as coconut palm sugar or whole cane sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground clove (or allspice)
- 1/2 cup unsweetened soy or almond milk
- 1/2 cup canola or olive oil
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
- 2 cups shredded carrots
- 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) vegan butter, softened at room temperature
- 8 oz vegan cream cheese or thick Greek-style coconut yogurt
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- natural orange food coloring (optional)
- edible flowers
- natural sprinkles
- Preheat oven to 350˚F.
- Grease the bottoms and sides of two 6" cake tins with vegan butter/shortening or oil and line the bottoms with parchment paper rounds.
- Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove in a medium sized mixing bowl.
- Whisk together milk, oil, maple syrup, vinegar, vanilla and orange zest in a large measuring cup or bowl. Fold shredded carrots into wet mixture with rubber spatula.
- Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined, being careful not to over-mix the batter.
- Divide batter equally into prepared pans and spread with rubber spatula.
- Bake at 350˚F for 35-40 minutes until golden brown, cakes come away from the sides of pan and a toothpick inserted into the center of cakes comes out clean.
- Remove cake from oven and cool in pan for 10 minutes.
- Run a butter knife along the sides of pan to loosen cake if needed. Then invert cakes onto a cooling rack and peel away the parchment paper. Cool to room temperature before frosting.
- Add softened butter and cream cheese or yogurt to bowl of a food processor and pulse until smooth, about 30 seconds.
- Add sifted powdered sugar, salt, vanilla extract and lemon zest and process until smooth and thick, stopping to scrap sides as needed, about 30 seconds - 1 minute.
- If frosting is too loose (which may be the case when using yogurt), sift in an additional 1/4 cup of powdered sugar and pulse to combine. Repeat by sifting in more powdered sugar by the tablespoonful if needed until frosting is thick and spreadable.
- Optionally transfer about 1/2 cup of frosting to a separate bowl and stir in natural orange coloring until you've reached your desired shade. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Transfer remaining frosting to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Put a small dollop of frosting onto center of a cake plate and position first layer of cake.
- Spread about 1 cup of frosting on top of the bottom layer of cake with an offset spatula then place second layer on top.
- Spread the remaining frosting onto top and sides of cake.
- Spread colored frosting onto sides and top in your desired design.
- For a naked cake presentation, use an icing smoother, bench scraper or offset spatula to scrape away frosting on sides.
- Decorate top of cake with edible flowers and/or naturally colored sprinkles.
- Keep cake refrigerated until ready to serve. Cover and refrigerate leftover cake for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 6 months, thaw in refrigerator to serve.
- Optionally add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans to the batter and/or 1/2 cup raisins. Fold them in when you add shredded carrots.
- I used Dunaliella Salina, a naturally super bright orange algae powder, to create the orange colored frosting. I needed about 2 teaspoons to get a bright orange shade per 1/2 cup of frosting.
- This is the Vegan Cream Cheese I used. Best tasting I've come across from the supermarket.
- I used Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks for the butter.
- Similar Natural Sprinkles Mix and Shimmer Pearls to the ones I used.
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