Best Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Carrot Cake with Maple-Cashew Cream Cheese

I made the cake perfectly so that no one would be able to tell it was gluten-free. Bonnie Sterns recipe was great, and the flour substitutions were undetectable. But the cream cheese is where it got interesting. I had heard from raw foodists that the best way to make raw cream cheese (the only dairy-free option I know of that doesnt involve soy) was to add lemon juice to soaked, sweetened cashews. Its so simple and works out really well, but unless you have a super blender and a fair bit of coconut butter you still wont believe its cream cheese. Itll be a little gloopy. But delicious none the less, and just as rich as regular carrot cake icing. I also took the extra step Id heard of of fermenting the cashews with miso to add to the lemony-ness, but I dont think I used enough, or maybe not the right kind because the effect was lost. So stick with fresh lemon juice (not bottled, which tastes like acidic plastic). Or just use this recipe for regular carrot cake and blend together a quick cream cheese icing if your stomach allows.

Note! If youre making the icing you need to start it at least 8 hours in advance, and if you want to ferment it (though it didnt make much of a difference in my case) you need to start it 2 days in advance. But the easiest thing is the soak the cashews overnight the night before. Then drain them in the morning and reserve them until you need them later in the day and add a little extra lemon juice until it tastes cream cheese-y. You probably wont want to assemble this until shortly before supper anyway.

Because some people dont like certain things in their carrot cake and some people absolutely love them, I went with the lowest common denominator and left out pineapple chunks and nuts. I also usually like to sweeten with dates, but no, I skipped that too for a more authentic texture. Still, there are 4 eggs and this is very much NOT vegan and only low fat relative to your average carrot cake.

Best Carrot Cake Recipe Ever

Ingredients

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups brown sugar (I used a scant 1 1/2 cups xylitol, plus 1 tbsp molasses. Scant in this case just means 1 1/2 cups minus 1 tbsp, to make room for the molasses)

2/3 cups vegetable oil (I really hate using vegetable oil, but you need a mild-flavoured oil here)

2 cups gluten-free flour blend (2 cups brown rice flour, 1 cup sorghum flour, 1 cup tapioca starch, 1/2 cup potato starch, 1/4 cup sweet rice flour, 2 tsp guar gum, kept in the fridge)

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

pinch of salt

2 cups finely grated carrots (on the smallest side of your grater, or youll end up with unappealing carrot chunks in your cake. It takes forever. Let your kids do it. Kids love grating cheese for pizza, right? Tell them its like thatwell, good luck, anyway)

3/4 cup peeled, cored, roughly chopped, and blended or food processed apple (or applesauce, but the fresh apple has no preservatives or added sugars and is so easy; or drained, crushed pineapple if you prefer. You can add 1/2 cut chopped nuts if you want here too, but youre better off leaving well-enough alone. Thats the expression, right?)

Directions: Get all your ingredients out and blend the apple first while your eggs come to room temperature. Theyll be fluffier this way.

Make your gluten-free flour blend and sift it with the baking powder, soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Sifting is the key with gluten-free flour. It puts air into the dense grains and helps it rise like regular wheat flours. Sorghum also seems to be the key in baking because it rises the best. Measure 2 cups of the flour blend and place in a medium bowl.

Grate the carrots and stir them into the flour mixture. Add the blended apple (or pineapple if using. Also add the nuts if using).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line the bottom of two 8? round cake pans with parchment paper cut out to fit. Or just oil the baking dishes, but parchment is really handy.

Now beat the eggs in a large bowl with the sugar until theyre very pale in colour. I like to do this on a lower mixer speed because I think it makes the eggs more stable and makes it harder for them to deflate on you. Really this whole cake is about air and lightness, but its kind of like a magic trick; it wont taste light, so dont worry. Itll taste sinful and delicious.

Stir the flour mixture gently into the eggs and sugar, just until combined. The more you stir the denser the cake will be, so ease off.

Gently pour the batter into the two prepared cake pans (you can also use a bundt pan or tube pan, but thats just not carrot cake) and bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cakes comes out clean. You need to test both cakes in case you poured more batter into one pan than the other. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then remove them from the pans and remove the parchment paper. Let cool completely while you make the icing.

Maple-Cashew Cream Cheese Icing

You dont need to make this with maple, and you dont even need to make it with cashews, but this version is delicious and works pretty well. Some maple alternatives include agave nectar, xylitol (melted in a pot over low heat to get rid of the grainy-ness), or regular icing sugar. You can replace the cashews with soaked macademia nuts and I even did a version with hazelnuts. Skins removed, always.

Ingredients

3 cups raw cashews

6 plus 1 1/2 cups water

2 tsp miso

1 tbsp lemon juice

1/4 cup maple syrup (or agave)

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/4 salt

Directions:

2 days before you want to eat carrot cake soak the cashews in 6 cups of water for 8 hours or overnight.
Drain the cashews and blend them with 1 1/2 cups fresh water and 2 tsp miso. You can apparently also use probiotic powder but miso seems more natural to me. Use a preservative-free miso. Alcohol is not going to help the nutrition of this recipe.

Line a large sieve with a double layer of cheesecloth and place the sieve over a large bowl. Pour the cashew mixture into the sieve and cover with the sides of the cheesecloth. Leave this at room temperature for 24 hours.

The next day put the sieved cashews in a large bowl (or blender) and blend them with the lemon juice, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt. Taste and adjust as necessary. I like things puckering so I generally end up adding more lemon juice (freshly squeezed only!), but salt is the second most likely ingredient youll need more of to make this taste like cream cheese. It should be the consistency of frosting, but if its not you could add coconut butter to make it firmer or a little water to make it blend-able.

Note: Dont throw out cheesecloth! Wash it and re-use it.

To assemble cake place one layer of cake on a large plate or cake stand or serving dish of some kind. Pour 3/4 cup of the icing on top and spread it with a spatula using a circular motion, starting from the centre of the cake and moving to the edges. Add more icing to create a thicker layer if you want. Then place the top cake layer on the icing and pour more icing on top, repeating spreading process, except this time you want to get it on all the sides too, to cover the entire cake in sweetened, fermented deliciousness. You can also do fancy patterns like my friend did above. I am a bad ice-r, but she did a super job. Use some grated carrot slices for garnish or colour a little extra icing with some carrot juice or beet juice to make it into some kind of decoration. Thats a pretty vague instruction, but cake decorating takes a little imagination. Sogood luck!

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