Vegan Carrot Spice Cake

This started out as a riff on the famous Vegan Chocolate Cake, which I have helped to further the cause of but for which I can certainly not claim credit; it seems to have been circulating at least since WWII, long before there was a word “vegan.”

When my in-laws were here. I made a vegan spice cake by an old recipe I had that was taped inside a vintage cookbook I bought some years ago, and it didn’t come out as well as I remembered.

Having time to try again, I thought I’d apply the spicing from that failed cake to the method from the Vegan Chocolate Cake, replacing the white sugar with brown, the cocoa with spices, and adding raisins. I poured over orange juice instead of water as the liquid. It worked quite well, and was a hit with my mother-in-law, and even with Chimp the Raisin Hater.

It was a good riff, so I thought I’d see how far I could take it. I hardly ever make sweet stuff – don’t really think it’s helpful to have a big tempting pile of white flour and sugar product around, as it just tends to get eaten if it’s there, as in any house – but I wanted to see what would happen if I added some carrots. And almonds. And different spices with a slight Indian slant.

So this ended up as a vegan spice cake with carrots, raisins and almonds. It’s not actually a carrot-cake-tasting cake – one cup of carrots isn’t enough to make it truly carroty. The carrots are a background flavor instead of a predominant flavor. I might try it without carrots next time in order to get a more straightforwardly-flavored, less complex “plain” spice cake.

I have reduced the liquid in the recipe I give below slightly from what I did; I used one cup orange juice in the cake pictured, and it’s just a touch too moist in the middle. I’ve reduced the liquid in this recipe to three-quarters of a cup before, with good results, so I feel confident recommending that.

This would look nice in a shaped pan like a Bundt, but as this was my first attempt (and I was out of spray oil) I stuck with the easily-greaseable cake pan.

1 1/2 c. flour (you could use some whole-grain white flour here if you are especially hardcore)
1 c. brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. ginger
1/2 t. cardamom
1/2 t. cloves
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1/3 c. raisins
1/4 c. slivered blanched almonds
1 c. shredded carrots
6 T. oil
1 T. vinegar
1 t. vanilla
3/4 c. orange juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a round cake pan by lining the bottom with a circle of waxed paper and greasing the sides, or grease the whole pan. In a large bowl, place the flour and sift in the brown sugar to avoid any lumps. Add the spices, baking soda, and salt, and whisk together thoroughly. Add the raisins, almonds, and carrots, and stir until completely combined.

Make three deep wells in the mixture. To the first, add the oil, to the second, the vinegar, and to the third, the vanilla. Pour the orange juice over the whole mixture and stir well to combine. When the batter is completely mixed, turn into a 9-in cake pan.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until cake is solid through and responds to a gentle prod just off center by springing back. Cool for a few minutes on a wire rack and then gently turn out of the pan.

Makes one layer. This recipe can be doubled and the batter divided between two pans.

To top, drizzle with a confectioner’s sugar icing made with a little bit of orange juice, or top with melted apricot preserves or marmalade.

7 thoughts on “Vegan Carrot Spice Cake

  1. Hello:
    I was browsing the Food Porn and followed the link to here. I was going through your entries for the past half an hour. Interesting recipes.
    Coming to this recipe, I am puzzled by the addition of vinegar, is there a particular reason for adding it to the carrot cake?

  2. Hi- love this blog. I think it is a great find for me when the blogsphere is so full of food blogs right now. I like your innovative touches to Indian dishes. I am adding you to my blogroll.

  3. Indira, thanks so much for the comment, and my most sincere apologies for the very tardy reply! For some reason your comment never made it through the automatic email system to me, and I just happened to discover it today. Thanks for stopping by! Believe it or not, I have your blog bookmarked, and have been very impressed with the depth and breadth of your site and your experience.
    I admit, the vinegar in the cake does sound unusual, but it is there for a very good reason. It is essential to the cake’s leavening – it is the acid that reacts with the baking soda and provides the cake’s lift. It does so very quickly, so it’s best to get this cake into the oven right away.
    This cake happens to have no baking powder, which works in the presence of liquid and then in the presence of heat, and which can give you a little more time to get your batter mixed up and into the oven.
    The good news is that the final cake does not have a vinegary taste – it all seems to evaporate in the baking, in my experience.

  4. Thank you for your comment, Mika! Just as with Indira’s comment, yours seems to have slipped through the cracks somehow. I have been thinking about adding a blogroll as well, and I’ve saved your site for when I finally get that together. I love how the blogosphere gives us all the opportunity to learn from each other – I can tell your site will be a real help to me. Thank you for stopping by.

  5. Thanks Jocelyn for the explanation and for your nice words about my blog.
    I’ve also come across few cake recipes with vinegar in them, now understand why it’s added. Thanks again for your time and for your comment on my blog. Greatly appreciate it.

  6. Hi,
    Another ‘wow’ in the blog world! Just one question on this recipe… which type of vinegar should i use. I have never used vinegar before (surprised, shocked… but that’s the truth) and in Germany (like everywhere,i suppose) i saw red wine, white wine, raspberry vinegars, to name a few (confused so didn’t buy any of them).Please help! Would love to try the recipe soon…

  7. Latha, you can use plain vinegar – sometimes called white vinegar – for this recipe. All that’s needed is its acidity – you wouldn’t want to add the flavor that the wine and raspberry vinegars would impart. Thanks for the comment!

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