Though the Academy Awards were a bit dull this year (this year?), their occurrence was nonetheless a nice way to pass an early Sunday evening. And, for someone like me, they were also a good excuse to do a little cooking, and a little baking. I’m not sure when my obsession with roasted vegetables will fade — if it ever slackens a bit, though, it will probably happen when the weather turns toward the summery — and I once again filled my tiny oven up with asparagus, tomatoes and cauliflower. Feeling very virtuous, I made a version of pesto sans the cheese (just some basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, and a splash of lemon juice and salt) to adorn some fried polenta cakes.
This was all very lovely, naturally. But if one is going to watch an awards show, there must be red wine and something sweet — if the movie stars get to dress up and wear diamonds, surely we all deserve a little decadent treat, too.
Last week at the vegan lunch, I had a piece of carrot cake that was pretty darn impressive for not containing any eggs or dairy — I could hardly tell the difference from the ‘real’ thing, which to me is a high compliment. I had it in the back of my mind all week, and decided to try one of my own to munch on while half-watching the yearly schmooze-and-self-glorification fest. Baked-goods lover that I am, I must also own up to the fact that sometimes a rich and delicious dessert can leave me feeling over-full and repentant. While I do believe that butter and cream elevate cakes and cookies to a sublimely higher plain, it’s also nice to experiment once in awhile with some lower-fat, less-heavy recipes.
I searched around on ye olde Internet for a bit and finally cobbled together a few vegan carrot cake recipes, taking a bit of whole wheat flour from one, walnuts from another and orange juice from a third. Another aspect of vegan baking that I rather enjoy is it’s a little simpler — meaning, I rarely have to unearth my hand-mixer because there is no butter to cream. A whisk and a large bowl are often all that’s required, and as I’m usually pressed for time I appreciate the ease with which I can throw these goodies together. My Sunday afternoon experiment was no exception.
First off: I upped the carrot-content to three shredded cups, because if I’m going to pretend I’m making a healthy cake, it really should contain a lot of the good stuff (and for those with poor vision — like myself — carrots are always welcome). I loved the idea of using maple syrup, and did not notice the absence of sugar; plus, it imparted that lovely maple-y flavor redolent of Vermont’s snowy fields (some day …). The cinnamon and nutmeg hinted at late-winter (yes! it is ‘late-winter’ at last!), quite appropriate for the grey, drippy day. I don’t think the finished product would be found lacking by even the most hardened meat eater, for it was still moist, full-flavored and nutty. The faux-cream-cheese frosting was a little too tofutti-ish for me, but next time I might add some margarine to help disguise that.
Orange, orange-juicy and delicious, this is yet another for the files. Accompanied by a generous glass of red, it was just the indulgence needed to pass the
Carrot Cake, on the lighter side
3 cups peeled and grated carrots
1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup orange juice
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp. powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup soy milk
1 cup maple syrup
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350 F, and grease and flour two cake pans. Soak the raisins the orange juice for about 5 minutes, while you’re preparing the rest of the ingredients, then drain and reserve the juice. Sift dry ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together oil, soy milk, maple syrup, vinegar, vanilla and orange juice. Add the dry ingredients and whisk until well-blended. Fold in the carrots, raisin and walnuts. Pour into prepared pans and bake for about 35-40 minutes (check the bottoms, as I initially did not, to make sure it’s cooking all the way through). Cool in pans fir 10 minutes before removing from pans.
“Cream Cheese” Frosting (which may be adapted to include real cream cheese, of course)
1 package vegan cream cheese
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tb. margarine
Combine ingredients and mix with a blender until well-combined. Fill and frost cooled cake.