Every one recognises carrot cake as a spice cake but the agreement ends there. Extra additions such as raisins, pineapple, citrus, coconut and nuts can cause a stir and divide people into camps. I took an unbiased approach to decide the most popular version of carrot cake with two people as taste testers (my sister and I).
Everything happens for a raisin – raisins belong to fruit cakes and celery sticks and should not foray into a carrot cake. The crumb should be the star of a carrot cake, and those little buggers are an unwelcome detraction. If you insist on using raisins (for example, as a natural sweetenner), at least blend them into a paste. Even then, both testers preferred the carrot cake without raisin paste.
Pineapple, Citrus (Fruits)
To counter the warming spices of carrot cake, it does benefit from a zesty, uplifting agent such as pineapple or citrus. However this is a fine balancing act as ultimately it is a carrot cake and you do not want your additional fruit to overpower the carrots. So be light-handed.
As long as the coconut is blended fine, it is acceptable. Like raisins, having long shreds of coconut in your mouth is like biting into pencil shavings. Carrot cake should boast enough texture from the shredded carrots. Because of this reason, I decided to use coconut flour to get the aroma of coconut without causing too much of a textural issue, and also it adds a healthy dose of fibre.
I tried two versions – one with walnuts and the other pecans. The pecan version had a heavy, woody and earthy flavour, while the walnut version had a more subtle taste and was more friendly to pair with frostings.
Ways to cook your carrot cake
I tried three methods with the same batter: raw (no-bake), dehydrated and steamed. The raw carrot cake was the least preferred – too much of a jaw work-out and too moist. The 24-hour dehydrated carrot cake was firmer and the carrots softened a bit, while still retaining a bit of fibrous chew. This is the best choice if you want to keep your cake raw. The 45-minute steamed carrot cake was the most firm and most cohesive; the carrots, flour, dates, and spices had all fused into one. It was both our favourite.
With so many options, why not make it your carrot cake? Do you prefer a hint of refreshing citrus? A confident dash of mix spices? A cake accented with… eek– raisins? Maybe you let the season lead the way. A sprinkle of lemon zest and almonds can make a brighter, lighter version of this classic cake for spring. Or maybe you add fresh pineapple and coconut to bring a touch of the tropics to summer picnics. Gear your cake towards the holidays with pumpkin pie spice and pecans. The possibilities are endless! Start with the basic recipe below, and tweak it to your preference. Enjoy!
- 4 tsp flaxseed powder
- 60 g (1/4 cup) orange juice or pineapple juice
- 100 g (1 cup) walnuts or pecans
- 50 g (1/3 cup) almonds
- 28 g (1/4 cup) desiccated coconut
- 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice or a mix of cinnamon, ginger, allspice nutmeg and cloves powder
- 150 g (2 cups) carrot, finely grated
- 66 g (1/3 cup) pitted dates
- 33 g (1/5 cup) dried unsulphured apricot or dried pineapple
- 15 g (1 1/2 tbsp) cold-pressed coconut oil
- 18 g (1 tbsp) maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp orange zest
- 200 g (1 1/4 cup) soaked cashews or young coconut meat (you can use a mixture)
- 64 g (1/4 cup) coconut nectar
- 60 g (1/4 cup) almond milk
- 40 g (1/6 cup) lemon juice
- 20 g (2 tbsp) Nutiva buttery coconut oil
- Pinch Himalayan Salt
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flaxseed powder with orange juice. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the flax to gel.
- In a food processor, grind the walnuts and almonds separately into flour. Do not over blend or it will turn into nut butter. In a large mixing bowl, combine the nut flours, coconut flour and spices.
- In a food processor, pulse the grated carrots, dates, dried apricots, coconut oil and orange zest until just combine. Do not over blend as you will want to have some texture.
- Add the wet ingredients and flax egg into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix together by hand until the ingredients are well and evenly distributed. Allow the batter to rest for 10 minutes to allow the coconut flour to hydrate. At this stage, you have three cooking options - raw / no-bake; dehydrate; steam.
- Press the batter into a cake or cupcake molds. Place in the freezer for at least 2 hours to allow to set. Unmold and frost.
- Press the batter into a cake or cupcake molds. Unmold and dehydrate at 47°C for 12-24 hours or until desired dryness. Proceed with frosting.
- Press the batter into a cake or cupcake molds. Steam for 45-50 minutes or when a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
- Update 14/03/20: I replaced coconut flour with desiccated coconut as I personally do not like the texture and post-digestive effect contributed by coconut flour.