This past summer I had the pleasure of photographing a wedding in Canada's cottage country for Nathan and Nicole. This wedding was actually the couples second wedding event, and was intended as a celebration for those who couldn't attend their first wedding in Whistler, BC previously that year. I also had the privilege of shooting their Whistler wedding, so participating in their cottage version was pretty special for me.
Following an incredible meal of smoked pork sandwiches with crackling and 'all the sides', the couple was presented with a quaint little cake to slice into together (they hadn't opted for a cake in Whistler). I was fortunate enough to snatch a piece before it was spoken for; carrot with cream cheese icing. And by far the best carrot cake I have tasted. I demanded Nicole seek out the recipe and send it to me (which she was successful in). Turns out to be one of Emeril's recipes - go figure. It is now a part of my collection of cake recipes.
Though I will certainly reserve Emeril's recipe for special occasions, I wanted to create a carrot cake that was more appropriate for 'everyday' enjoyment. For me, that means cutting down on gluten and refined sugars and flours. This is a prime example of how you can adapt recipes and substitute ingredients for more healthy choices, and not feel compromised on flavour or texture. Experimenting with ingredients like this can be a bit nerve-racking, and you will have some disasters and failures (I definitely have: nut pulp waffles. Not pretty). To try and make things slightly more fail-proof, I recommend finding some base recipes using alternate ingredients and flours, and making subtle changes from there. For this recipe I used a base recipe from Sara Forte of Sprouted Kitchen that I combined with Emeril's, and ended up with great results.
This cake doesn't win points in the 'fluffy' category necessarily, as it is more of a dense, moist cake variety. But having said that, it still has a lightness to it and is not too sweet. It is wheat free, using almond meal and spelt, and I swapped out sugar for agave for sweetness (plus the bananas add a lot of sweet, also). This cake could be gluten free by swapping spelt for any gluten-free baking mix, and could also be vegan by using egg substitute and omitting the cream cheese topping.
Some final additions finish things off. Coconut adds a tropical feel, and fresh grated ginger keeps the cake fresh tasting. I highly recommend the brandy and currant combination, as it adds such an amazing rich flavour to the cake that isn't too boozy. Finally, some classics like cinnamon, nutmeg, walnuts, and of course carrots maintain the traditional carrot cake name.
Wheat Free Carrot Cake
- 1 Cup Almond Meal
- 1/2 Cup Spelt Flour
- 1/2 Cup Unsweetened, Shredded Coconut
- 1 tsp. Baking Powder
- 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
- 1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
- 1/3 Agave or maple syrup
- 2 tsp Cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
- 2 Large, Extra Ripe Bananas
- 1/3 Cup Butter, browned OR Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, warmed to a liquid
- 2 Eggs
- 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely grated
- 1/2 cup dried currants
- 1/4 cup brandy
- 2 cups grated carrot
Start by combining currants with brandy in a bowl. Set aside to allow currants to absorb some of the liquid.
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl (excluding walnuts) and whisk to combine.
In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients, along with carrots, ginger, and currant/brandy mixture. Stir to combine.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Fold in walnuts,
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Cake should be just set, with a wood skewer inserted coming out moist but with no bits on it. The cake will spring back when gently pressed.
Once removed from oven, cover cake with a towel and allow to sit for 1+ hours to allow some of the moisture to reabsorb.
Cream Cheese Topping
- 6 oz cream cheese at room temperature
- 3-4 tbsp agave or maple syrup
- a few splashes of almond or cows milk
Combine all ingredients, whisking or using an electric beater to combine until smooth. Spoon on to cake or frost entirely if desired. If the mixture is too thick, add a few more splashes of milk to thin it out.