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Quick Carrot Cupcakes + Giveaway

Living in the middle of nowhere, (which to me translates to: no Thai restaurants, no Trader Joe’s, no Whole Foods, no Asian market, and no natural food store) I remain grateful that my local grocery store at least carries almond milk, two kinds of tofu, decent (if not fancy) produce, and carrot juice — which is where this story begins….
When I went shopping last week, I had this sudden craving for carrot juice. Sure, I could juice my own from whole carrots, but I was in “instant gratification mode” and that large bottle of bright orange elixir looked mighty good.  My carrot juice craving then morphed into a carrot cake craving, and that’s when inspiration struck.  You know those recipes that combine a box of cake mix with a can of soda and — presto — you have a cake with no oil or other things the box instructions call for, like eggs?  Of course, the down side is, you’re still using soda.  So I thought, why not see if I can make a carrot cake using the same method, but with carrot juice instead of soda.

As you can see by the photos, it worked!  I combined about 1 1/2 cups of carrot juice with a box of carrot cake mix and made these adorable cupcakes.  The flavor was extremely delicious and carrot-y, the texture was tender and moist, and the color, as you can see, was vibrant orange. And best of all, they’re vegan with no oil added.  I made a quick cream cheese frosting using vegan cream cheese, sugar, and a little vanilla extract.

Now I’m not one to shy away from scratch cake recipes — I’ve even grown my own carrots to use in my carrot cakes!  But I must admit that this shortcut method turned out a cake that tasted every bit as good as the best scratch cake I’ve had. I garnished the cupcakes with little carrot coins that I made by simmering some carrot slices in a little simple syrup until the carrots were softened and glazed.
As for the mix, as you may know many boxed cake mixes are vegan (as long as you don’t add the eggs, etc.) but read the label to make sure.  If you have access to healthier boxed mixes from a natural food store, even better.  In addition to making the cupcakes, I had enough batter left to make this adorable little cake in a 5-inch springform pan.  I cooled the cake and froze it to use later on.

When you don’t have time to bake a cake or cupcakes from scratch, you might want to keep this 2-ingredient carrot cake trick in mind!
In case you missed it…

and now… A Giveaway:

 As I mentioned above, my local supermarket isn’t exactly “super.”  One of the items it doesn’t carry is Tribe brand hummus, which is a shame because the nice people at Tribe Hummus sent me two coupons for free containers of their product.  But my loss can be your gain: 
I’ll give both of these coupons for Tribe Hummus to one lucky winner chosen at random.  All you need to do is leave a comment at the end of this blog post. How easy is that?  Enter now to win!

Crazy for Carrot Cake

When I was about ten years old, my parents let me grow my own little vegetable garden in the back yard. I tended it carefully everyday and managed to grow a few rows of beautiful tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, and carrots. The memory of those perfect vegetables I grew as a child is what made this year’s dismal crop even more frustrating.

As expected, the deer ate the lettuce (although we managed to pick a little for ourselves first). What we didn’t expect, was that the deer also ate the tomato plants — they’d never done that before. The cucumber plants produced only enough small cukes to put up two jars of pickles. And the carrots. I didn’t even want to plant carrots this year because I wanted to save room for pricier produce such as arugula which if I didn’t grow it myself, I’d never spend the money on. But Jon wanted homegrown carrots for a carrot cake which he informed me was now a “tradition” since I baked him a cake using our own carrots for two years running.

Trouble is, for all the planting, weeding, and watering, once we dug up the carrots, washed them off, and trimmed them, they were so small this year that there was just enough to make the carrot cake — no more, no less. Jon ate a piece of the cake before we could take the photo, and it really is tasty — moist and delicious with a creamy frosting. And, as it turns out, is well worth growing just enough carrots for.

The recipe is from my latest book, 1,000 Vegan Recipes, which comes out on October 5. The book is available now for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Borders.

Crazy for Carrot Cake
This carrot cake is moist and flavorful without being cloyingly sweet, with sweet bits of carrot and cloaked in a luscious, creamy frosting. And what a decadent way to get your beta-carotene for the day. For a bit of crunch, add 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts. For an even richer “carrot” color, substitute carrot juice for all or part of the soy milk. This recipe is from 1,000 Vegan Recipes published by John Wiley & Sons.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup plain or vanilla soy milk
1/2 cup canola or other neutral oil
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups finely shredded carrots
1/2 cup golden raisins (optional)
1 recipe “Cream Cheese” Frosting (recipe follows)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt.
3. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, soy milk, oil, maple syrup, and vanilla, then add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir in the carrots and raisins, if using, until just mixed.
4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
5. Let the cake cool in pan for 15 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely. When completely cool, frost the cake with the cream cheese frosting.

“Cream Cheese” Frosting
This frosting is famous for being the crowning glory of carrot cake, but I also like it great on my Banana-Walnut Cake and Spice Cake with Mango and Lime from 1,000 Vegan Recipes.

1 (8-ounce) container vegan cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons vegan margarine
2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and margarine together with an electric mixer on high speed until well blended.
2. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla, then beat until light and fluffy. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Fun with Carrots

It’s Jon’s birthday and I promised to bake him a carrot cake. I used the recipe from my upcoming cookbook, so I can’t share it here yet. But it’s really good — moist and delicious, with a soy cream cheese glaze. This cake was extra-special because it was made with our own freshly dug carrots from the garden. Some of our carrots are a tad small, so instead of grating them for the cake, I thought it would be easier to finely chop them in the food processor.

I needed two cups of carrots for the cake recipe, but ended up with nearly double that. Instead of just saving them to add to a salad, I decided to sauté them in a little olive oil and toss them with some steamed baby potatoes and fresh parsley. The fresh flavors were incredible and the carrots also added a great texture to the potatoes.

This got me thinking about all the great ways I could season these carrot bits for different flavor effects. Maybe next time I’ll sauté the carrots with some curry powder, or jerk spices, or maybe some cumin and coriander. Garlic and ginger would also be amazing, and pesto, of course, would be out of this world, like it is most any way you use it. I can see where these spiced carrot bits would also be good tossed with rice or quinoa.

It’s funny how sometimes a great new recipe can be inspired by the simplest thing — even finely chopped carrots.