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.