Although a cake with cream cheese frosting seems appropriate all year round, carrot cake, with its warm spices seems all the more appropriate as the cooler weather arrives. Most carrot cakes I’ve come across have thick layers of dense, and sometimes dry cake, with a thin almost nonexistent layer of frosting in between them. Not this cake.
The layers of cake are thin and moist, with an abundance of frosting. A ratio that’s closer to half cake, half frosting. A proportion that’s much more appropriate in my mind and equates to utter cake bliss. It really should be half/half, a cake without frosting is really just a quick bread, and frosting without cake is… well, delicious (but that’s another story).
The cake recipe itself has less sugar than you would find in most carrot cake recipes thanks to the addition of pineapple and raisins. In fact, both my husband and dad swear it’s the best carrot cake they’ve ever had (and my dad doesn’t usually like carrot cake, so that’s saying something).
This cake is ridiculously quick to prepare, no box grater required. Coarsely chop the carrots and add them to your blender with the wet ingredients. A few quick pulses and you’re done. Easy peasy, right? A perfect end to a Sunday family dinner, a dessert that’s casual and fuss-free. Completely casual, simply a stack of layers and frosting. No frosted sides, no turn table or piping bags, just rustic casual goodness. The coconut cream cheese frosting? It pairs nicely with the cake, fluffy, sweet, tangy, its frosting perfection. The coconut adds a nice texture and gives the frosting a little extra structure so it holds up nicely when you stack the next layer.
Easy Peasy Carrot Cake
Makes 1 8-inch square cake (serves 8-10)
- 2 cups carrots, scrubbed and roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup pineapple, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 1 cup unsweetened cashew milk, or other non-dairy milk
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 cup pecans, chopped (optional)
- 1 cup non-hydrogenated shortening (such as Earth Balance or Spectrum)
- 12 ounces non-hydrogenated vegan cream cheese (such as Tofutti)
- 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon coconut extract
- 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup pecans, chopped and toasted (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 9 x 9 inch square baking pans and line with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on each side.
In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and allspice.
In the jar of a blender combine the carrots, pineapple, raisins, canola oil, and cashew milk. Pulse until the mixture in combined and the carrots are finely chopped. You don’t want to puree the mixture, the carrot pieces should be similar in size to pieces of grated carrots.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the carrot mixture. Stir until just combined. Gently fold in the chopped pecans, taking care not to overwork the batter.
Equally divide the batter among the 2 prepared pans, and smooth the top pushing the batter into the corners of the pan with a spatula. Bake on the center rack for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of the cake come out clean.
Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool completely.
To prepare the frosting: In a large bowl add the shortening and vegan cream cheese, and mix with a hand-held mixer until both are smooth and combined. Add the confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, and extracts and continue to mix until smooth.
Add in the shredded coconut and mix one last time.
To assemble: Remove the cake from the pans by lifting them out with the parchment paper. Transfer one layer to a plate or cake stand, and top with approximately half the frosting. Spread the frosting to the edges of the cake with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Repeat with the second cake layer and the remaining frosting (note, you may have some additional frosting leftover, don’t worry it great with fruit… or a spoon). Sprinkle the top of the cake with toasted pecans if using.
Cake can be kept refrigerated until ready to serve, but it best eaten the same day.