No, I’m not a vegan. But when it comes to baking, less butter and eggs means less poundage and more cake! I’ve been a vegetarian for 8 days now, and while I’m not going out of my way to eliminate eggs and dairy from my diet, there have certainly been times when it seemed like the obvious choice.
I’ve loved to bake since I was about 10, but always felt guilty about the buttery, sugary treats I was making for my highly diabetic and high-cholesterol family…not to mention the extra pair of hips that I grew as a result of my delicious new hobby. For the past year or so, I’ve been trying to bake more healthily. And it’s actually really easy, cheap, and delicious!
I created this carrot cake recipe this weekend mostly out of boredom, but also due to my relentless sweet tooth. The original carrot cake recipe that my family uses is from a sweet women from Barbados who used to live next door to my grandparents. She herself was like a grandmother to me and my sisters, always buying us ice cream and bringing us unique treasures from the Caribbean whenever she would go. Her carrot cake with cream cheese frosting has been a staple at our Christmas dinner for decades…but like most Christmas-only foods, it’s packed with oil, sugar, and butter! This is my attempt, not to replace her recipe, but to not feel guilty when I want carrot cake more than once a year. It’s incredibly easy, loaded with wholesome ingredients, and practically fat free!
But before we talk recipes, here are a few healthful and helpful baking tips.
1. Eggs: 1 egg = 1/4 cup applesauce or 1 tablespoon flax meal + 3 tablespoons water. Flax meal is so healthy that you should add it even it you’re using eggs. It’s also a great addition to oatmeal, smoothies, and breads.
2. Butter: Use olive oil (not extra virgin), canola oil, or mashed sweet potato! The only time I would avoid the sweet potato is with chocolate cake. It just tastes weird. People recommend shredded beets, but I’ve yet to try it.
3. Milk: Boiling water. It makes the batter really thin, but once it bakes the cake is fluffy, moist, and dairy free. You could also use soy milk, almond milk, or rice milk.
2 cups gluten-free multipurpose flour (I used King Arthur, but Bob’s Red Mill is good, too)
1/2 cup agave nectar, honey, or maple syrup
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons orange or lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon flax meal + 3 tablespoons water, combined
2/3 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup boiling water
1. Peel and grate 1-2 carrots, to yield about 2/3 cup of shreds and set aside. Chop 1/2 cup walnuts and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of flax meal with 3 tablespoons of water until it forms a paste. Add olive oil, agave, vanilla, and applesauce.
3. Add baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and lemon/orange zest. Some people like to mix all the dry ingredients in one bowl, and wet ingredients in another bowl, and then combine them. I prefer mixing the wet ingredients and then gradually adding the dry ingredients one at a time. It lets you keep an eye on the moisture and make sure that the leavening agents (baking soda, etc) are evenly distributed.
4. Using an electric mixture, gradually add the flour. Gluten-free flour absorbs moisture a lot more than white all-purpose flour. If the batter looks coarse and drier than you’re used to, worry not! That’s what the boiling water is for.
5. Slowly mix in the carrot shreds and chopped nuts.
6. Add the boiling water. Depending on the flour you use, you may not need the whole 1/2 cup. But don’t add more than this much or the cake won’t cook properly. The batter will be loose, almost like pancake batter, but don’t forget, most of this will cook off in the oven.
7. Bake in a greased pan for about 20 minutes! For cupcakes, 15 minutes.
8. Optional: top with cream cheese frosting.