April is birthday month for the grownups in our house. I love baking and my celiac diagnosis of three years ago doesn’t slow me down. The spouse’s favourite birthday cake is carrot cake. Last year I made the version in Gluten-Free Baking with The Culinary Institute of America. That was good but this year I did not feel like faffing around beating egg whites.
Thank goodness my celiac diagnosis came in the Internet age. A little searching later, and Gluten-free Girl came up. She made a GF carrot cake adapted from the Barefoot Contessa’s gluten-y version. I have had a soft spot for the Barefoot Contessa ever since I realized that her Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe contained at least twice as many chocolate chips as anyone else’s.
This wouldn’t be a gluten-free baking recipe without a long exegesis about flour. Gluten-free Girl has a proprietary flour blend which of course does not ship to Canada. I used my new favourite flour mix, which I make myself according to the recipe in Gluten-free Bread in Five Minutes a Day, a recent Christmas present. Since this is a flour made for breadmaking, it’s a “harder” flour than most of the mixes I have tried and contains sorghum. I was finding a lot of my baking with mainly rice-based flours was ending up very biscuity. The harder flour makes a more familiar texture for me. I remember reading years ago in Regan Daley’s In the Sweet Kitchen that Canadian wheat flour was naturally harder than American and that one had to allow for that when using American recipes. I just kept on using all that hard Canadian flour for everything and my palate has obviously been trained to prefer that texture. That’s my major GF revelation of the day.
So, the recipe! It serves 8-10.
This is my adaptation of GF Girl’s adaptation. She uses coconut sugar and coconut oil, which I don’t have in my pantry, so I used brown and granulated white sugar. I don’t have a stand mixer either so this was mixed up using an electric hand mixer and a Danish dough whisk for adding nuts and raisins.
2 cups gluten-free flour blend of your choice (add 1/4 tsp of xanthan gum per cup if yours does not contain it already)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs (I use free-range because of the poor hens)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large carrots, grated
1 cup raisins of any kind
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup softish cream cheese
1/2 cup softish butter
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups icing sugar
Heat the oven to 400° F (200° C). Grease 2 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, then grease again. I have not yet had the nerve to cut silicone mats to fit my baking pans, but go for it.
Mix together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
Mix together sugars and oil in a big bowl. When well-mixed, add the eggs, one at a time and mix well. Add the vanilla.
Add the flour mixture and mix, in about three equal parts. Then add the grated carrots, raisins, and walnuts. This is the point at which a dough whisk or the good old wooden spoon comes in handy. Mix thoroughly.
Dump the very gloppy cake batter into the two pans, dividing as evenly as you can. Bake for 10 minutes, lower the heat to 350° F (180° C), and bake the cakes until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, another 30 to 35 minutes.
Cool the cakes in the pans for 15 minutes, then remove them from the pans onto a cooling rack. Let them cool completely before attempting to ice them. (I baked mine the day before icing them). Do not let your teenager touch them.
Make icing: beat cream cheese and butter together until well-blended. Add vanilla and mix. Add icing sugar in about three equal parts. If the icing is too runny, add a bit more icing sugar. If it’s too thick, add milk by the quarter-teaspoonful.
Spread one third of the cream cheese icing on the bottom layer, then bung the second cake on top and glop the rest of the icing on the top. Spread it over the top and sides. My sister the totally amazing cake-icer would probably do a crumb coat (apply thin layer, allow to dry, add thicker second coat) but I was a bit pressed for time.
It was incredibly yummy and when our backs were turned the teenager made serious inroads into the leftovers.