When I discovered my gluten intolerance five years ago, baking was a big, foreign challenge. All the new to me flours, getting things to rise, not crumble into pieces or be dense and gummy, and most importantly – to taste identical to their glutenful partners.
But whoa. Nothing could prepare me for what I was going to experience while trying to make an AIP carrot cake, not even my dabbles in paleo baking because that relies heavily on eggs. No flours from grains/seeds/nuts, dairy, eggs (which also means flax or chia eggs were out), gums for binding or refined sugar.
Although I don’t find myself craving sweets, I have missed the pleasure of a special treat. I wanted to change that, for myself and you, especially with Easter coming up.
So six fails and a few choice words later, the Carrot Cake that I had envisioned finally came out of the oven. I hate the word moist, but truly it is. And just sweet enough from maple syrup, spring carrots and plump golden raisins. The smell of cinnamon, ginger and cloves float through the air while it bakes, and bring classic flavors to each forkful.
Topped with airy Whipped Coconut Milk Frosting and toasted coconut flakes, it was the best bite I’ve taken in a long time. For a combination of reasons, as healing through the autoimmune protocol is more emotional than I expected, and because I haven’t had anything dessert-like other than these little coconut gems in a month.
Without the chemistry of regular baking ingredients, there were a lot of components that were going to have to work just right to get this AIP/Paleo cake to work and be utterly delicious.
My flour arsenal was arrowroot starch (or tapioca starch), coconut flour and tigernut flour. Tigernuts are actually a root vegetable, not a nut even though they kind of act and look like them. I’ve been enjoying them raw as a snack, mostly savory but kind of sweet like the profile of cashews.
I figured the flour combination I mentioned would be a good balance of weight, absorbency and starch to help the cake stick together. From there I tackled the wet ingredients:
– maple syrup (sweetener)
– applesauce (to act as a binder and mimic eggs)
– coconut milk (soft texture and fat)
– coconut oil (soft texture and fat)
– date puree (sweetener + act as a binder and mimic eggs)
It looked pretty and tasted really good, but I couldn’t get it to bake through. Too much liquid compared to flour, and it didn’t rise much. It kind of held together, but it was dense, not fluffy like a cake should be.
I started with a large amount of tigernut flour to little arrowroot & coconut, but found that less tigernut flour made for the best balance. The skin on a tigernut is quite tough, similar to the other outer bran of brown rice so it’s best for it to blend into the softer flours instead of dominate.
I took out the dates, which made it too sweet, and from there I worked on the egg replacement. I really struggled with that piece, but making “eggs” from grassfed gelatin was the winning answer.
They have mighty binding power, but do not result in rise. That becomes the job of baking soda in this recipe. And figuring that out ended up in another fail – too much of it with no acid to counteract meant a beautiful cake, but a terrible metallic taste. And then I finally hit the jackpot on this luscious Carrot Cake that looked good, tasted good, and felt so good to eat.
I’ve been excited to share this recipe with you because I want all of us experiencing autoimmune conditions or food sensitivities to feel normal, especially on holidays when food is at the center of family and friends. I’d have to say that beyond the flares I’m experiencing about once a week, social settings have been difficult.
But for now let’s all make carrot cake, and embrace the sunshine of spring. It’s the arrival of a new season, new again fruits and vegetables, and opportunities to embrace the beautiful life around us.
- 110 grams tigernut flour
- 70 grams arrowroot starch or tapioca starch (1/2 cup)
- 30 grams coconut flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
- 1/4 cup applesauce
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 1/3 cup melted & cooled coconut oil
- 1 cup raw shredded carrots (75 grams)
- 1/3 cup golden raisins
- 2 gelatin eggs made by using these simple instructions
- 1 can very cold full fat coconut milk (should be refrigerated overnight)
- 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
- 1/2 cup unsweetened toasted coconut flakes
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 8x8 inch baking pan with a thin layer of coconut oil on the bottom and up the sides, in the corners.
- In a medium bowl whisk together the tigernut flour, arrowroot/tapioca starch, coconut flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. Set aside.
- In another bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, coconut milk, applesauce, maple syrup and cooled coconut oil.
- Add 1/2 of the wet ingredients to the dry, stir until combined. Then add the remaining half of wet ingredients and stir until no streaks remain. Fold in the carrots and raisins. At this time make your gelatin eggs, and stir them fully into the mixture. From here you will need to work quickly because the mixture gets very sticky. Spread into the pan, pressing down with a piece of wax paper to make smooth as needed.
- Bake for 18 minutes then set a piece of aluminum foil on top (not securing it, just covering it) and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove and test with a toothpick. When it comes out clean and not gooey, the cake is done. If not done, continue baking in 2 minute increments until it is. Let cool completely.
- For frosting: Open the refrigerated coconut milk, being careful to keep it level. Scoop out all the hard cream that has come to the surface, until you hit the liquid. Leave the liquid in the can, do not add. Put the coconut cream in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Using a mixer or handheld mixer on high speed – whip the coconut cream for 3 to 5 minutes until it becomes fluffy and light, with soft peaks. Stir in the honey and frost cake. Best stored in refrigerator, then let it come to room temperature before serving
I highly, highly recommend using a scale and measuring for weight for any type of AIP/paleo/gluten-free baking because the weight of the flour is adjusted just perfectly for the amount of liquid. If you decide to use a measuring cup, don't pack the flour in. Take a spoon and add the flour to the cup, then level off.
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