I recently was admiring a friend’s “new” purse. I knew it had to be vintage because it was one of those styles they just don’t make anymore. When she explained that it was actually her grandmother’s—she’d found it recently when cleaning out her old apartment—a pang of jealousy hit me: I never knew either of my grandmothers, and they both had a very simple personal style (I wonder where I get it from…) so I had no chance of ever inheriting such a fabulous, timeless item.
Then I realized that in fact, I’ve been inheriting something even more valuable my entire life: recipes. How much more special and delicious are those foods that have been passed down through your family, the ones where you can taste the memories and tradition baked into them? The women in my family have given me many of those I hope to pass on myself, one of which is my mother’s (actually, her German aunt, Tante Erna’s) famous carrot cake. This is the dessert that’s my madeleine moment for so many occasions: my and my sister’s one-week-apart birthdays (we’ve made an irrefutable cake vs. frosting eating sequence), my grandfather’s birthdays, barbecues, graduations, dinner parties, even illness recovery. And though many have attempted it, no one in our gene pool has been able to really make it like my mom, and carrot cakes at restaurants are just not even an option anymore.
When my first birthday as a vegan came around a few years ago—a milestone I was mostly proud of—the idea of not being able to enjoy carrot cake hit me hard. Would I never be able to enjoy this emotionally- (albeit equally calorie-) rich food again? A few years passed before I even contemplated altering the recipe (the original isn’t exactly vegan-friendly), but eventually I worked up the courage to ask Mom. And reader, I tell you it worked.
I’m happy to be sharing this important piece of my family with you, Dumplings (and veganized enough that doing so isn’t going to violate the sacredness of the recipe itself), and hope you enjoy it with your loved ones at your next springtime gathering. The combination of the bright flavor notes and the thick, creamy frosting is the perfect thing to welcome warmer weather, and it makes a beautiful statement on a flower-strewn table.
Classic Carrot Cake
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Servings: 1 2-layer cake, 12-14 slices
4 flax eggs ( 4 tbsp. flax + 12 tbsp. water)
1-1/4 cups canola oil
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups flour
3 cups grated raw carrot
1 tsp. salt
Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
¼ cup raw pecans, finely chopped (plus about a dozen pecan halves for decorations)
8 oz. vegan cream cheese
10 tbsp. non-dairy butter (solid)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 lb. powdered sugar
–Wash, peel, and chop the carrots into 2-3 inch wedges. Grate them in a blender until finely chopped, being careful of any big chunks that may get caught in the blade. (This step can be done ahead of time.)
–Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour 2 9-inch round cake pans.
–Prepare the flax eggs in a large mixing bowl and let sit. Add the sugar and oil; stir well to combine.
–Add the carrots, then the rest of the dry ingredients until well mixed.
–While the cake is baking, prepare the frosting. Bring the vegan butter and cream cheese to room temperature or until just warm enough to blend easily. Cream them together, adding the pecans and vanilla. Add the sugar in small batches (to avoid a mess!), and stir very well until combined and smooth. Refrigerate the frosting until the cake is cool.
–Frost the cake with a generous layer between the two cakes. Place the pecan halves around the edge of the cake if desired.
–Keep the cake refrigerated until ready to serve.
Also by Jen: Vegan Savory Steel Cut Oats
Related: Raw Vegan Strawberry Cheesecake
Get more like this—Subscribe to our daily inspirational newsletter for exclusive content!
Photos: Jennifer Kurdyla