Well+Good’s recipe writer Tatiana Boncompagni is a wellness reporter, group fitness instructor, and mom of three based in New York. She’s also the co-founder of Sculptologie. She believes that truly good food nourishes both the body and the soul, and that healthy food should be easy to make and even easier to enjoy.
Growing up, we didn't have a ton of sweets in the house. There were always Oreos in the cupboard and sometimes ice cream in the freezer, but cakes were a rare treat. My mom's go-to was a box of Betty Crocker marble cake, which she would bake in a bundt pan and doctor up with half a package of coconut flakes. It wasn't until I was older that I learned the coconut was her own addition, but to this day, whenever I think of cake, I think of coconut.
So when my own daughter asked to make carrot cake with me (she's been watching those competition baking shows), I thought I'd continue the tradition and add a little coconut flair to our creation. Turns out, the two are a match made in vegan heaven. The chewy texture and earthy yet sweet flavor of the carrots gives structure to the light and creamy coconut frosting.
To maximize the nutritional benefits of the carrots, I used a couple hacks I learned in James Wong's recently released book, How to Eat Better. In it, he makes the case for not peeling the outer layers (the part of the veggie that contain the highest amount of antioxidants) before shredding them and letting the grated carrots sit in the fridge for several hours. Apparently, doing this increases the polyphenols by two and a half times.
The other suggestion he has is to use purple carrots, which have anthocyanin compounds (the same stuff in purple cabbage, red wine, and blueberries) as well as increased levels of beta carotenes (which are absorbed in the body as free-radical-fighting vitamin A) found in orange and yellow carrots. The last tip is to eat carrots cooked versus raw to get more cancer-fighting alpha-carotene, so the recipe calls for carrot puree instead of applesauce. This make the cake taste all the more carrot-y, too.
Want to try making this nutritionally supercharged vegan carrot cake with coconut cream frosting for yourself? Keep reading to get the recipe.
Vegan carrot cake with coconut cream frosting
I use equal parts almond flour and regular flour to increase the nutritional goodness, and just a little maple syrup to sweeten the cake and keep it low-sugar. The cake is super moist, wholesome, and satisfying. You can also bake the cake in a loaf or bundt pan or muffin tin and skip the frosting. It's just as tasty if not quite so decadent and pretty.
Makes one two-layer cake or 12 cupcakes
For the cake:
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 cup almond flour
1 cup cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp ground flax seeds
1/4 cup organic carrot puree
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup almond milk
2 cups grated purple and orange carrots, chilled in the fridge for 3 to 6 hours
1. Heat oven to 375°F. Grease two 7-inch round pans with one tablespoon coconut oil.
2. In a bowl, add almond meal. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer.
3. In another bowl, stir two tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseeds with six tablespoons of water. Let sit for ten minutes.
4. Add carrot puree, maple syrup, coconut oil, vinegar, vanilla, almond milk, and the flaxseed water mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix to combine. Add shredded carrots and mix until just combined.
5. Divide mixture between two cake pans and transfer into the oven. Bake until a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 20 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Let cool completely before frosting.
6. In a chilled bowl, carefully scoop the solids from the can of coconut milk. Discard extra liquid at the bottom of each can. Combine remaining frosting ingredients except coconut flakes. Mix until smooth and fluffy.
7. Frost top of one cake, layer over the second cake and frost entire cake. Top with coconut flakes. Allow to set in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving. Keep refrigerated.
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