Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Vegan Experiment

The words "eggless" and "dairy-free" are two that can become a baker's worst nightmare. My friend Laynard, a devoted vegan, just recently celebrated his birthday, and was ecstatic when I offered my baking services. Yet after hours of surfing my favorite sites (while watching outdated episodes of SNL on Hulu), I discovered the innate challenges vegan baking can present. From egg replacers to soy yogurts, I had to fully familiarize myself with a vocabulary of foreign terms and ingredients. It was Whole Foods (go figure) that came to the rescue with a gorgeous cake PERFECT for fall weather - Triple-Layer Vegan Carrot Cake with Soy Cream Cheese Frosting
 Knowing full well that Whole Foods carries all the necessary ingredients, I endeavored to restock my baking staples with vegan-friendly items. This included Ener-G Egg Replacer, Earth Balance “Butter” Sticks, and Tofutti Cream Cheese. Despite the guarantee that these supplements would work “just like the real thing,” you can imagine my apprehension as a first-time vegan baker.

To make a long story short, this cake was amazing! There obviously was an altered look to the cakes, and they were quite fragile as well. So long as you handle the layers carefully, the shape of the cake will be maintained. The frosting, while not as rich as your traditional cream frosting, provided a delicious alternative. The cake had a lush texture with a moist crumb – so for those looking to experiment with the terms “eggless” and “dairy,” this cake receives my stamp of approval! One minor confession (but don’t all of my posts have these?): I used canola oil rather than safflower, but the substitution was by no means a game-changer. I also omitted the raisins, but I can blame Whole Foods for not having any in stock (and for some reason the convenience store down the block was just too far away to bother). Enjoy!

Triple-Layer Vegan Carrot Cake with Soy Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted via Whole Foods
Serves 14 - 16

Carrot Cake:  

   - 2 1/2 cups flour
   - 1 teaspoon salt
   - 2 teaspoons baking soda
   - 4 teaspoons baking powder
   - 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
   - 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
   - 1 teaspoon ground ginger
   - 3 tablespoons egg replacer
   - 2 cups light brown sugar
   - 1 cup safflower oil (I used canola)
   - 1 cup almond milk (unsweetened, original)
   - 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
   - 3/4 pound carrots, finely grated (about 3 cups)
   - 1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
   - 1 cup seedless raisins

   - 12 tablespoons non-hydrogenated margarine, chilled and cut into pieces
   - 1 1/2 pounds soy cream cheese, cold
   - 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
   - 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For Cake: Preheat oven to 350°F and lightly grease three (9-inch) round cake pans; set aside. Put flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and egg replacer into a mixing bowl and whisk together to blend. Put sugar in a separate large mixing bowl and whisk in safflower oil, almond milk and applesauce. When fully combined, add almond milk mixture to flour mixture and mix just until smooth. Stir in carrots, walnuts and raisins, then divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the center springs back gently when pressed. Remove from oven and transfer to racks to let cool completely.

For Frosting: Beat margarine in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed for 3 minutes. Add cream cheese in pieces and mix until thoroughly blended. Slowly add sugar and vanilla and mix until blended. Increase mixer speed slightly and continue mixing for 2 to 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Cover and set aside until ready to use (I would recommend chilling this for about 20 minutes, just to allow it to stiffen)

For Assembly: Place a cake layer, bottom side up, on a cake plate or pedestal. Spoon one-quarter of the frosting onto the top and spread it evenly. Place a second cake layer, bottom side down, on top of the first, and spread with an equal amount of frosting. Place the final cake layer, bottom side down, on top of the others and frost the top and sides with remaining frosting. Cover and chill until ready to serve or set aside to let set for 30 minutes, then cut into slices and serve.

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