Thursday, May 20, 2010

Veggie Might: Neglected Cookbook Library—Super-free Carrot Cake

Written by the fabulous Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about all things Vegetarian.

A couple weeks ago, I was waiting for CB at Cowsheds & Stately before seeing a movie at the nearby cinemall. I tried to resist the magnetic pull of the New Cookbooks table, but its power was too strong. I drooled over one in particular: Terry Hope Romero’s Viva Vegan, an animal-free tribute to Latin food (and what I’ve been craving mucho lately).

The book was gorgeous, and it took all my strength to leave it there on the table. But I did (though I’m still thinking about it two weeks later) because I have too many cookbooks I never use.

You would never know that I have over 30 cookbooks. My weekly cooking repertoire revolves around a few well-honed favorites, Internet inspirations, and whatever Mark Bittman or Madhur Jaffrey tell me to make by closing my eyes, letting one their books fall open, and putting my finger down on a recipe.

Among the cookbooks on my kitchen shelf, at least a dozen of which I have never used, are odes to nutrition I purchased with hopes of eating healthier or adding some variety to my cooking. A couple of prettier books (and their novelty cousins) were presented to me as gifts. But much of my collection was left behind by former roommates, and a smattering are pamphlet-length tracts or user manuals with recipes.

However, I can’t bear to let them go, no matter how ridiculous or out-dated. What if lurking inside the Matoon (Illinois) United Methodist Women cookbook is a glowing gem of a casserole that will change my life? What if I can revamp a Mrs. Fields cookie recipe into something healthy and delicious? But that’s just silly; my kitchen square-footage is at a premium.

Over the next few months, I plan to plumb my Neglected Cookbook Library for its hidden jewels. Along the way, I will feature recipes from my quarry. You’ll still hear from Mark Bittman and Madhur Jaffrey; you’ll just get a taste of other visionaries too, like Isa Chandra Moskowitz, the Moosewood Collective, and George Foreman.

If a book doesn’t earn its shelf-space, I will cast it off to the thrifty to make room for others more worthy… like Viva Vegan. Let’s get it on.

Title: Babycakes: Vegan, Gluten-Free and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York’s Most Talked-About Bakery by Erin McKenna
Acquisition Info: Received as birthday gift, 2009 from the lovely Miss T
Recipe: Carrot Cupcakes and Vanilla Frosting/Vanilla Sauce
Reason for neglect: Specialty ingredients
Treasure Rating: 3 out of 4 Fistsful of Jewels

Babycakes’ reputation preceded my experience with this book. I have several friends with various dairy, gluten, and sugar sensitivities who all sing the praises of Ms. McKenna’s downtown bakery. My expectations were high and met.

Since first trying the vegan, gluten-free, and sugar-free carrot cake recipe about a month ago, I’ve made it twice more for potlucks, and it’s been met with wild accolades—rare for “alternative” baked goods. Seriously, this is one of the best things I’ve ever shoved in my mouth.

A caveat at the beginning of Babycakes instructs against ingredient substitutions, and for the most part, the warning should be heeded. Ingredients like coconut oil and xanthan gum are often crucial to gluten-free baking. But of course, I am me.

Take one: I replaced the (expensive!) coconut oil with canola oil in the cake recipe, upped some of the spice amounts, and made my own vegan (but not sugar-free) frosting. It was phenomenal. The cake was moist and light, and hardly needed frosting. (I ate it without for breakfast a couple of times.) CB, the roommate, and I could not get enough. I had to make it again.

Take two: Emboldened, I made the carrot cake with canola oil again and attempted the book’s vanilla frosting recipe with the same substitution. Oh Nell Carter, no! After leaving it overnight in the fridge to set, I had vanilla soymilk—oily vanilla soymilk. The frosting recipe must have coconut oil.

I slapped together my own agave-based frosting for that evening’s potluck, and everyone was nice enough to say it was good. The cupcakes were delicious, but my sugar-free frosting was a drippy, gritty, sticky mess. I have the best friends.

Take three: Another potluck on the calendar, and I finally went by the book. I plunked down the cash for the coconut oil (on sale!) and it was worth it. The carrot cake was just good as before, but the frosting was SO much better. It’s smooth and creamy—definitely more like a cream than a traditional frosting, but delicious and sweet without being cloying. Every single person went back for a second slice.

Babycakes stays.

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If you dug this article, you may dig
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Super-free Carrot Cake
Adapted from Babycakes by Erin McKenna
Yields 24 pieces


3 cups gluten-free baking flour (Note: I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour per cookbook recommendation.)
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp cinnamon, grated
3 tbsp ginger, powdered
1/2 tsp nutmeg, grated
2/3 cup canola oil or coconut oil (melted)
1 cup agave nectar
1 cup almond milk
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 cup hot water
3 cups carrots, shredded

1) Preheat oven to 325°. Grease 9” × 13” baking pan with oil or cooking spray.

2) Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

3) Mix in oil, agave nectar, almond milk, and vanilla. You will have a thick batter. Gently stir in hot water. Fold in carrots.

4) Pour batter into 9” × 13” baking pan or fill cupcake cups with 1/3 cup of batter. Bake cake for 35–45 minutes or until a toothpick comes clean. Bake cupcakes for 20–30 minutes. Depending on your oven, you may want to turn the pan and/or cover with foil halfway through baking. The former prevents uneven cooking; the latter keeps the top from burning before the insides are good and done.

5) Allow cake to cool before frosting with Agave Vanilla Frosting or Vegan Buttercream.

6) Serve to the adoration of all who encounter your genius.

Agave Vanilla Frosting
Adapted from Babycakes by Erin McKenna
Yield: 3/4 recipe will frost 9”x13” cake; whole recipe will frost 24 cupcakes

1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
3/4 cup dry soy milk powder
1 tbsp almond flour
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups coconut oil (melted)
2 tbsp lemon juice (Note: Use exact measurement rather than a whole lemon, which is likely too much.)

1) In the blender or food processor, combine almond milk, soy milk powder, almond flour, agave nectar, and vanilla extract. Zap it for two minutes.

2) Drizzle in coconut oil and lemon, alternately, until fully incorporated into mixture.

3) Pour into sealable container and chill for at least 6 hours to achieve a spreadable consistency.

4) Your cake should be cool by then too: frost, eat, enjoy the rapture.

Alternate frosting—vegan and gluten-free, but not sugar-free

Vegan Vanilla Buttercream
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/3 cup (5 tbsp) nonhydrogenated vegan margarine or shortening (softened)
2 tbsp almond milk
1 tbsp vanilla

1) Combine sugar and shortening in medium mixing bowl.

2) Cream together with spatula, adding almond milk to help it along. Add vanilla and continue to mix until smooth. Add another splash of almond milk if necessary.

3) Spread on cooled cake and serve to adoring throng.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price per Serving
Carrot cake with canola oil: 148.5 calories, 6.8g fat, 1.7g fiber, 1.6g protein, $.34
Carrot cake with coconut oil: 145.7 calories, 6.6g fat, 1.7g fiber, 1.6g protein, $.39
Agave frosting: 109 calories, 11g fat, .6g fiber, .9g protein, $.27
Buttercream frosting: 83 calories, 2.7g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $.10

Calculations

Super-free Carrot Cake
3 cups gluten-free baking flour: 1200 calories, 12g fat, 36g fiber, 36g protein, $2.15
1 tbsp baking powder: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.04
1 tbsp baking soda: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.04
1 tsp xanthan gum: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.04
1 1/2 tsp salt: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.02
2 tbsp cinnamon: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.04
3 tbsp ginger: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.04
1/2 tsp nutmeg: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.02
2/3 cup canola oil: 1320 calories, 149g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $1.28
[or 2/3 cup coconut oil: 1253 calories, 145g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $2.52]
1 cup agave nectar: 960 cal, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $2.56
1 cup almond milk: 40 calories, 3g fat, 1g fiber, 1g protein, $.50
1 tbsp vanilla extract: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $1.00
3 cups carrots: 45 calories, 0g fat, 3g fiber, 1g protein, $.33
TOTALS WITH CANOLA OIL: 3565 calories, 164g fat, 40g fiber, 38g protein, $8.06
PER SERVING (TOTALS/24) with canola oil: 148.5 calories, 6.8g fat, 1.7g fiber, 1.6g protein, $.34
TOTALS WITH COCONUT OIL: 3498 calories, 160g fat, 40g fiber, 38g protein, $9.30
PER SERVING (TOTALS/24) with coconut oil: 145.7 calories, 6.6g fat, 1.7g fiber, 1.6g protein, $.39

Agave Vanilla Frosting
1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk: 60 calories, 4.5g fat, 1.5g fiber, 1.5g protein, $.75
3/4 cup soy milk powder: 330 calories, 15g fat, 18g fiber, 27g protein, $.48
1 tbsp almond flour: 40 calories, 3.5g fat, .75g fiber, 1.5g protein, $.00
1/4 cup agave nectar: 240 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $.64
1 tbsp vanilla extract: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $1.00
1 1/2 cups coconut oil: 2818. 5 calories, 327g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $5.68
2 tbsp lemon juice: 10 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $.20
Totals: 3498.5 calories, 350g fat, 20.25g fiber, 30g protein, $8.75
PER SERVING (TOTALS/24): 145 calories, 14.6g fat, .8g fiber, 1.25g protein, $.36
PER SERVING (TOTALS/32): 109 calories, 11g fat, .6g fiber, .9g protein, $.27

Vegan Vanilla Buttercream
3 cups confectioner’s sugar: 1440 cal, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $.96
1/3 cup (5 tbsp) nonhydrogenated vegan margarine or shortening: 550 cal, 65g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $.39
2 tbsp almond milk: 5 calories, .4g fat, .13g fiber, .13g protein, $.13
1 tbsp vanilla extract: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $1.00
TOTALS: 1995 calories, 65.4g fat, .13g fiber, .13g protein, $2.48
PER SERVING (TOTALS/24): 83 calories, 2.7g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $.10

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3 comments:

Levinson Axelrod said...

Thanks for the great carrot cake recipe.

Jaime said...

Lactard that I am, I love Babycakes and all tasty vegan bakeries, but I think it's misleading that they call agave-sweetened things "sugar-free." No sugar means no sugar. Agave is sweet because it contains sugar. "No refined sugar" is a little more clumsy, but has the benefit of actually being true!

Anna N said...

Cowsheds and Stately, ha!