I love coming up with recipes – but I especially love when the recipe which appears in my head has an immediately iconic vibe, a “this will come to define you and you’ll thank it for the honour” vibe. Not every recipe has to relentlessly imply historical significance, that would be exhausting. It’s fine for some recipes to be merely excellent rather than One For The Ages – more Tony Awards red carpet than Met Gala – but when you know, you know. And as soon as this Roasted Carrot Cake entered my head: I knew. She’s a star.
Unfortunately, the first time I made it I couldn’t get the cake out of my head into the oven – the roasted carrot aspect of it was great, delicious, inspired, but the texture was okay at best. I scribbled some notes, I moved proportions around like a small prodigy at their chessboard, I put it aside. I then, with some ailing bananas, made these Banana Crumb Muffins from The Minimalist Baker – and the excellent results gave me the idea which saved the cake: more baking soda. (And then, upon looking at the cake I make the most, my Mocha Cake – well, that has two teaspoons of baking soda too. Turns out the answer was in my heart all along.) You might think two teaspoons sounds like too much, but it works and it’s exactly what the ingredients needed to spring together and form a dense, moist, rich carrot cake.
What makes this cake especially amazing is, of course, the roasted carrots. I’ve spoken enthusiastically and at length about my love of the fried or roasted carrot – in THE Fried Carrot Noodles, this Kale, Pecan and Fried Carrot Salad, and this Roasted Carrot Mac’n’Cheese. This cake is the zenith of my carrot preoccupation – although perhaps it’s recency bias talking – but it makes sense, right? The toasty, nutty depth of flavour and sweetness which comes from applying oil and high heat to your carrots would surely benefit a cake! In fact, I don’t know how it didn’t come to me sooner.
Roasting the carrots does add an extra step to this recipe, but you have to heat up the oven anyway, and besides, I’d rather wait around for carrots to brown than spend even a millisecond grating them. And from one extra step, you get this glowing, fulsome carrot flavour that the mere raw vegetable on its own could only dream of. It’s truly a perfect carrot cake – dense, hefty, yet light and cup-of-tea-friendly; warmed up with cinnamon and nutmeg and draped in a zingy buttercream. The buttercream uses the quick-emulsion method I devised – also iconic, as befits a cake like this – which I’ve made in various iterations before, such as these cupcakes and the aforementioned mocha cake. Here I’ve added a little more apple cider vinegar to give it a zingy bite – not too sharp, I mean, there is all that icing sugar – and its presence is vital and necessary. Yeah, you could get away with not having the icing but a fridge-cold slice of this carrot cake – feeling your teeth slide through the fudgy, wet-sand texture of the buttercream into the damp crumbs of cake and softly crunchy walnuts below – it’s honestly quite unreal.
Roasted Carrot Cake with Apple Cider Vinegar Buttercream
An incredible vegan carrot cake: moist, dense, rich, but light, with a zingy buttercream. The ACV gives all that sugar a necessary sour edge, but I promise it doesn’t end up tasting like salad dressing – if you’re really not sure though, use lemon or lime juice instead. Roasting the carrots gives them a nutty depth of flavour – a little extra work – and so worth it. Recipe by myself.
- 400g carrots (roughly four medium carrots, don’t worry if it’s a bit over or under)
- 1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 2 tablespoons golden syrup (or treacle, or molasses – in which case reduce it to one tablespoon)
- 1/4 cup soy milk
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped or broken into small pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 and 1/2 cups plain flour
1: Set your oven to 200C/400F. Scrub the carrots (no need to peel) and chop them into sticks. Place in a roasting dish with the olive oil and roast for fifteen to twenty minutes, until the carrot sticks are tender and slightly browned in places. (You can turn your oven up higher if you want, but keep an eye on them.)
2: While the carrots are roasting, place the chia seeds and water in a mixing bowl and let it sit for a few minutes till the chia seeds have swollen and absorbed most of the liquid.
3: Stir the brown and white sugar, golden syrup, milk, baking soda, spices, walnuts and salt into the chia mixture, and beat well to thoroughly combine.
4: Remove the roasting dish from the oven and lower the heat to 190C/375F. Line a loaf tin with baking paper.
5: Use tongs to lift the carrots onto a chopping board (you’ll probably need to do this in batches) and chop them roughly but finely. A large heavy knife and a rocking motion – as though you were finely chopping herbs – are useful here. You could pulse the carrots in a food processor till they’re roughly yet finely chopped but that’s a whole extra thing to wash – it’s up to you. Transfer the chopped carrots to the mixing bowl and continue till they’re all chopped. Tip any remaining olive oil from the roasting dish into a 1/4 cup measure, and top up with extra olive oil till the measuring cup is full. Add this to the mixing bowl and stir to combine.
6: Add the flour to the mixing bowl and gently fold it together – don’t overmix. Spatula the cake batter into the waiting loaf tin, and bake for about thirty-five minutes – although it may need a little longer, depending on your oven. You may need to cover it with tin foil towards the end if it appears to be browning too much – again, this depends on your oven. Once it’s done, remove it from the oven and let it cool before frosting with the buttercream.
Apple Cider Vinegar Buttercream
- 3 generous tablespoons refined coconut oil, soft but not liquid
- 3 tablespoons soy milk, plus extra if needed
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- pinch salt
- 1 and 1/2 cups icing sugar
1: Beat the coconut oil, milk, cider vinegar and salt together in a small mixing bowl with a wooden spoon. Don’t worry if it looks a little unlikely! Stir in the icing sugar (sieving if you have the energy) to form a thick, pale buttercream. Add a splash of extra milk if it’s too thick. Spread over the cooled cake. (I, of course, absolutely couldn’t wait for it to cool, which is why the photos show the buttercream running down the sides of my cake.)
Store the cake in an airtight container in the fridge. It tastes better and better upon sitting for a day, I’m afraid to say.
Note: while this is my recipe, it was making these delicious Banana Crumb Muffins from Minimalist Baker which gave me the idea to boldly increase the baking soda. (I definitely recommend making the muffins, too.)
Party Up (Up In Here) by DMX – Man, I’m so sad about his passing. Like, he’s got poignant songs, and it’s impossible to hear the whistles at the start of Party Up without wanting to triple somersault from a diving board landing in the splits in the centre of the dance floor, but this is the one I wanted to hear most today.
I’m a Stranger Here Myself by the queen of Golden Age Broadway Mary Martin from the 1943 Kurt Weill musical One Touch of Venus. I don’t know how this song hasn’t become more of a standard – it certainly comes out the gate confidently sophisticated and arch – but there just aren’t that many cover versions of it (Kristin Chenoweth’s is charming, though.)
Venus in Furs by The Velvet Underground. Almost irresponsibly phenomenal? And I know I repeat this mild anecdote every time I mention this song but in 2006 I briefly worked in a German bakery and one day I was playing this song on loop on the little stereo and my boss pulled up in front, walked in, turned it off, walked away and drove off all without saying a word.
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