Were you the weird kid whose favorite cake was carrot? We were, and still are. In honor of Mom (whose favorite cake is carrot — we got it from somewhere), we’re bringing you our own best carrot cake recipe. Think of it as the version for the modern eater. It’s the ultimate vegan version and 100% addiction.
My favorite cake ever since I was a kid has been carrot. I attribute it to the Saturday trips my family and I would take to the Sara Lee store, when I was growing up in the suburbs of Chicago. After payday, my parents would go there to stock up on bakery goods. They would allow my brother and I pick out whatever we wanted. It was probably their version of giving us the American Dream, as they did not grow up with abundant aisles of food available.
For me, I always chose the carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. You don’t find carrot cake in many places nowadays. Whenever it’s on a dessert menu though, I break my no-sweets rule. For the best carrot cake recipe, it’s worth it to break rules.
A Healthier Version
I have such good memories of carrot cake, but nowadays, I prefer to go gluten and dairy free where possible. I made this the first time with the Minimalist Baker’s recipe. It was a great base, but I found the recipe too sweet and it didn’t work for standard 9-inch cake pans. So I modified and made it Galavante’s own. Our version isn’t vegan, as eggs make a moister cake with better consistency. Also, I reduced sugar significantly. Part of the beauty of carrot cake is when it isn’t so sweet and allows the carrots to shine. That’s also what makes this the best carrot cake recipe.
The Secret to the Best Carrot Cake Recipe
This recipe is easy, though at the same time, it requires focus and organization. If you forget any of the ingredients or deviate significantly from proportions, you can impact the results. Baking is after all, a science. The major complexity is the amount of ingredients required and the measurements, so stay focused on the prize. The good news is you can make this in one bowl. As long as you pre-measure and organize, it’s fairly straightforward. Simplicity makes the best carrot cake recipe.
Assembly Time: 25 minutes
Cooking Time: 60-70 minutes
4 organic eggs
¾ cup organic maple syrup
½ cup walnut oil
½ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
1 ½ cups apple sauce
1 teaspoon salt
2 ¼ tablespoons baking soda
2 ¼ tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 ¼ cups oat milk
2 ½ cups shredded organic carrot
2 ¼ cups almond flour
2 ¼ cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
FOR THE ICING
2 ½ cups powdered sugar
¾ pound vegan butter
12 ounces vegan cream cheese, preferably Kite Hill brand
Orange and green organic gel food coloring
Walnuts, finely crushed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line two 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper and lightly grease with olive oil or other cooking spray.
In a large bowl, combine the eggs, maple syrup, walnut oil, light brown sugar, and sugar. Add in apple sauce, and gently whisk in baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Next, mix in milk and the shredded carrot. When fully combined, add in your flours and walnuts or pecans.
Pour equal amounts of the batter into the cake pans; the cake will rise to about 1 ½ times the initial level in the pan. Bake for 60 minutes. The cake should be golden brown, and a toothpick should come out clean from the center of the cake. It can take anywhere from 60-75 minutes depending on the oven. When the toothpick does come out clean, cool the cake for about 20 minutes. Then, remove the cakes from the pans, peel off the parchment paper, and cool them for another 30 minutes or longer on cooling racks.
Make the Icing
Meanwhile, combine the vegan butter and cream cheese in a bowl, and add in the powdered sugar in 1-cup increments. In two smaller bowls, place 3-4 tablespoons of the icing in each, and add a few drops of the green and orange food coloring in separate bowls to your desired color intensity to decorate the cake with icing carrots. Chill the icing while your cakes cool.
Assemble the Cake
When your cake has fully cooled, place the bottom layer of the cake right-side up on a cake stand and evenly spread a layer of icing to taste. Add the second layer of the cake, but this time, stack the cake bottom-side up. The icing will spread more easily and the cake will be more even with the bottom side as the top of your cake. With a flat knife or icing knife, add a layer of icing just thin enough to cover the sides, with a more generous but still thin layer of icing on the top of the cake. This will create a “naked cake” effect while also cutting some of the sugar content.
Cake Decorating 101
Now it’s time to decorate the cake. In lieu of the contrived traditional large icing carrots with bold colors, we like to opt for small mini-carrots on top. We create a more pastel palette, which also makes our cake more elegant. With two separate ziplock bags, cut a small corner off each bag. You’ll need two icing nozzles: one larger to make the carrots with the orange icing and one smaller to make the delicate carrot top with the green icing. Place your icing nozzles to the edge of the cut corners in the bags, and add the orange icing to one bag and the green icing to the other.
AN INSIDER TIP
Take a practice plate and work on your carrots, first using the orange icing with greater pressure at the start and tapering off at the end. With the green, make the carrot leaves; you can do 2 or 3 lines. You’ll need to work quickly so the icing doesn’t get too soft. Gently place the finely chopped walnuts or pecans around, but not on top of, your icing carrots. Immediately refrigerate the cake so that the icing sets, preferably overnight. Take the cake out 15-20 minutes before serving.