Monday, October 24, 2011

Roasted Carrot Carrot Cake (and muffins!), Gluten-Free

On a mountain
It must be fall. I'm in serious baking mode. French-style bread. Gluten-free risen bread. Monster cookies. Brownies (semi-failure). Chocolate pumpkin cake. Carrot cake. If only I had more time. The day I made this cake, I also hiked a nearby mountain with a co-worker and then volunteered to yank invasive species out of the ground at a local park for three hours in advance of Make-a-Difference Day since I'll be at work on the actual day. Then, I went home to walk S (okay, okay, hike with S) and call a couple of people who I've been playing phone tag with for a week or so. There's so much to cram into weekends.

I had this much carrot
when I gave up grating
To say the least, this cake was inspired by general feeling of "there's no way I'm going to stand here for 45 minutes and hand-grate carrots for this carrot cake," which I was making at the request of my supervisor for another co-worker who's birthday had recently passed. I said yes, because I love to bake (and I knew I could try and make it gluten-free) and when I said yes, I had no idea how much time I'd invest into other activities during my weekend.

Rather than grate the carrots, I decided to pan roast them (which I define as different from sauteing only because I didn't stir them very often at all) until they were very soft and then mash them before adding them into the cake batter. Pan roasting the carrots let me:

1) work on making dinner, which was good, since I'd only had a carrot since breakfast
2) do a little kitchen clean-up
3) mix up other cake ingredients
4) turn on Chain of Lakes because I had carrot-free hands
5) feel less irritated by the very slow process of hand-grating carrots (I did hand grate about 1/2 cup before I got fed up with the process and you could do this too, if you were so inclined--I just added the grated carrot with the mashed carrots to the cake batter.)

Roasting the carrots also makes them sweeter and deepens their carrot-y flavor.
Look at those brown sugar-spots

The base recipe for this carrot cake came from one of my favorite carrot cake recipes--a vegan recipe (though I used regular cream cheese in the images you see--I have made it the other way and actually prefer the way Tofutti  Better Than Cream Cheese tastes to regular cream cheese, but that's just me--because the person I'm making this for is neither GF or vegan).

I'm still experimenting with gluten-free flours and trying to avoid that not-so-lovely GF flavor. Since I started helping a friend out with her pie stand at the local growers market, I've heard several people say "I don't like anything gluten-free," to which I have a hard time not being snarky ("do you realize how much you eat that's naturally gluten-free?"). But to be fair, a lot of gluten-free baked things not only taste gluten-free, but they have a particularly grainy texture that's not so appealing. In this cake, I used a mixture of brown rice flour, GF oat flour, quinoa flour, and millet flour.

I poured the batter into an 8x8 pan and still had plenty of batter left to make a dozen cupcakes (muffins, I'm not adding extra sugar to them all and if I were to intentionally make them as muffins, rather than cake, I'd probably scale back the sugar by at least 1/2 a cup--I think it's far too sweet right now for muffins).

Vegan Roasted Carrot Carrot Cake (Gluten-Free)
2 pounds carrots, washed and sliced into coins
Olive oil

3/4 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup oat flour
1/2 cup quinoa flour
1/4 cup millet flour
2 teaspoons guar gum
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon each cardamom, cloves, nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup light brown cane sugar 
3/4 cup cane sugar
3 egg equivalents (I've used both flax eggs and Ener-G Egg replacers with this recipe, both work fine)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 14-oz can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup shredded coconut
nuts and raisins, optional

Faux Cream Cheese Frosting
(again, you could use regular cream cheese and butter if you're not vegan or preparing this for a vegan, but this is really good frosting)
1 8-oz package vegan cream cheese
1/3 cup vegan margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups vegan powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (really, you should do this after you've mashed the carrots to save energy, but this type of information is usually at the front of recipes, so here you go). Roast the carrots in a saute pan, lightly coated in oil, over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the carrots are beginning to caramelize and are very soft.

Carrots ready to pan roast
If you're under time constraints* or your carrots just don't seem to be getting soft, you can add a little water to the pan and cover it for a few minutes to steam them after they've begun to brown. Let the carrots cool a little and then mash them until you've got very few chunks. You will want about 1 1/2 cups of mashed carrots total.
Carrots, almost ready to mash--get them a little browner than this
While the carrots are roasting, in a medium bowl, mix flours, guar gum, baking soda, baking powder, spices, and salt.

In a large bowl, mix sugar and egg replacer until creamy (use an electric mixer if you can get your hands on one--it makes life so much easier). Add the vanilla and combine, then add the vegetable oil and mix well. Mix wet and dry ingredients together, combining well (one of the great things about gluten-free foods is that it's a bit harder to over mix). Stir in the carrots, pineapple, and coconut. Add nuts and/or raisins, if using.

Grease a pan (9" x  9" pan for a thicker cake--I promise it won't fit into an 8" x 8"--or 9" x 13" for a thinner cake) and smooth the batter into the prepared pan. Bake 40-45 minutes (for a thicker cake--reduce time if you're using a 9" x 13"), or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cake cool entirely before frosting.

Above and Below: Roasted Carrot Carrot Cake Muffins
(1/2 of which turn into cupcakes because E requested  it)
For the frosting:

Beat together the cream cheese and margarine in a medium-large bowl until smooth. Add the vanilla and incorporate well. 1/2 cup a a time, beat in the powdered sugar. Beat in the powdered sugar until smooth before adding more. The frosting should be very thick. On a humid day, you might have to add more powdered sugar.

Frosted Cupcake
*For my carrots to get soft enough to mash, it took about 45 minutes of pan roasting in a medium-large saute pan over medium to medium-high heat and I did add about 1/4 of water and let them steam for about 10 minutes at the end to make sure all the carrot coins would mash pretty well.


  1. Yum! One day we'll make our raw carrot cake... :)

  2. Yes! Yes we will! I actually had an opportunity to have a raw, vegan carrot cake in August. Delicious!