Chai Spiced Carrot Cake w Lemon Cream Cheese Icing
It's taken me a while to feel like any v/gf baking recipe I've made is completely fool-proof - in that it stands up to the original (or is more delicious in it's own right) and will reap the same results time and time again. Gluten-free baking is just so fickle...and slippery! Just when you think you've hit some gf-socery it reminds you that it's a fussy little thing and will respond differently to the tiniest changes in ingredients - brands of ingredients - hidden gums in plant milks etc. etc.
I've spent a considerable amount of time this year trying to learn everything I can about it. I hope I'm well and truly on the other side of Mt.Overwhelm, but I still find it to be a bamboozling field. Every effort still requires a little pep-talk or medative moment - repeating the mantra it's simplier than you think replaying in my head. Generally that helps - because it's when thinking adding this ingredient...oh and then this ingredient that the finished result looses it's appeal.
Vegan & gf baking can be simple and I hope this recipe marks a change in my v/gf sweet-er recipes. In that are they are all the more reliable, spectacular and alluringly straightforward with the knowledge I have gleaned and ever-improving handle I have on this nichy cross-over.
a note about gums: white a little xanthum gum helps hold your cake together, ensuring you have a realistic crumb that isn't crumbly (we don't want to perpetuate that crumbly-gf stereotype!) - when it comes to gums, a little does go a long way. Too much and your cake will be - well, gummy! So to prevent any issues follow these tips.
- Xanthum gum will likely be in the flour-blend you use (see notes about gf flour below), and this is the easiest way to add it in a controlled way. If it's not in the mix of flours you're using then it will likely be added seperately. It's not listed seperately in this recipe as it's assumed it will be in your flour mix.
- Gums are often added to plant milks to improve their consistency - which is handy in a hot coffee-senario, but not so much in a baked-good. So use a few ingredient as possible plant milk (a natural organicy one that tastes a little earthy is perfect!) in baking to ensure you're not adding extra gums unintentionally.
- Don't over mix your batter - this can accentuate gumminess.
- Let your cake cool completely before icing/serving/using (as you should anyway) on a wire rack. Whip any baking paper off the bottom as well so all the steam can escape. Trapped steam can accentuate gumminess.
the gf flour blend i've used: I'm still trialing the million different gf flour mixes that exist out there. For cakes and other light & fluffy-themed things I've found Bob's 1:1 Baking Flour to lead the pack (read...so far!). If - like for me - it's expensive where you are, then I recommend making this copy-cat recipe which I have done in this recipe. It's far cheaper to do so anyway, and you can make cookies, pancakes, cakes, donut holes, cinnamon buns - essentially all things with it, reaping very decent results.
- 1 cup non-dairy milk (with no added gums)
- 4 chai tea bags, tags removed
- 2 cups gf plain flour (I used this copy-cat recipe of Bob's 1:1 Baking Flour), sub for regular wheat flour if not GF
- 3/4 cup castor sugar (or any other sugar - eg panela, dememera, coconut)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 2 tbsp ground flax seeds
- pinch of salt
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1 chai tea-bag
- handful walnuts, roughly chopped
- 1 large carrot, finely grated
- 1/2 cup apple sauce
- 1/4 cup light-flavoured vegetable oil
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- zest of half a lemon, finelly chopped
- 1/4 cup vegan butter (I used Nuttelex)
- 1/4 cup vegan cream cheese (I use tofutti)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- small squirt of lemon juice
- 2 cups icing sugar
- Add the non-dairy milk to a small saucepan along with 4 chai tea-bags (tags removed). Bring to the bubble over medium heat then set aside, leaving the tea-bags to steap for 10 minutes (or longer if you're prepared).
- Grease and line the bottoms of 2 x 22cm/8.5 inch round cake tins. Pre-heat your oven to 160C/320F.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, sugar, raising agents, flax, salt, spices, the dried tea from 1 chai tea bag, walnut and carrot (I find it easiest to add these bulkier ingredinets here). Whisk to combine.
- Remove the tea-bags from the plant-milk (ringing them dry of all their goodness beforehand!) and add the apple sauce, oil and vanilla to the pot. Whisk to combine.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry and gently whisk to combine. Add the boiling water and gently whisk to incorporate - not over mixing. Divide the batter between the two pans, smoothing over the top - then bake in the pre-heated oven for 30-40 minutes, or until they're firm to touch and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
- Leave to cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then flip out onto a cooling rack (peel off the baking paper right away) to come to room temperature.
- Meanwhile, make the icing by gently melting the butter (or softening - you don't want it to bubble, as then it will split) and whisking in the lemon zest. Whisk to combine then pop in the fridge/freezer to set and the flavours to blend together. (Skip this step if you don't have time, and just add the zest to the icing as is).
- Once firm, add the tofutti, vanilla and squirt of lemon juice to the lemon butter. Whisk until combined (by hand or with a electric beaters). Add the icing sugar in 1/2 cup increments until fully combined and smooth.
- Ice the cooled cakes with icing. It will seem like there isn't enogh icing, but there is just enough to sandwhich them together and cover all sides. Watch my video to see how I do it if hesitant. A small stainless-steal spatula makes easy work of it - but isn't essential. Decorate as desired.
- Can be stored in the fridge or at room temperature. Lasts 3 days.