Thanksgiving Carrot Cake

*Let’s play a fun game where we pretend Colleen didn’t forget to publish this post she had drafted weeks earlier! Yeah, I know, I love that game too, try to contain your excitement.* 
We’re heading into the pre-holiday, pre-finals season, and I can sense everyone’s energy waning. And lately, all I’ve been wanting to do is sleep, and I fall asleep on the bus and skytrain just like that. Usually I try to stay productive, but most of the time really, I’m just staring blankly at my notes. Although maybe that’s just my body trying to master the art of sleeping with your eyes open. Good job body, keep it up.
Even though it’s been a while since I last wrote, not much has happened. Like actually, not a lot. I mean, school/work/commute life is the same as it has always been.

But then Thanksgiving comes around seemingly out of the blue, and everyone’s just like oh hey it’s Thanksgiving #sothankful #blessed #turkeytime or whatever Instagram hashtags are popular these days (social media influence is real). For us, Thanksgiving was never a big deal like how it’s portrayed on TV (or how I imagine other families celebrate it), and we never started “celebrating” it until maybe two years ago. And by celebrate we mean find the highest rated recipe for roasting turkey and follow it. Yeah, basically everything turns into a food challenge in my family.
And it’s always nice to have a reason to celebrate something. It’s so rare. I feel like we should celebrate the every day, but it’s also sad that most of us don’t realize, don’t have the time, don’t appreciate, or just don’t value the act of celebrating…I know for me, besides me and my brother’s birthdays, celebration is pretty rare in our family. I mean, my parents don’t make a big deal out of their birthdays. Celebrating accomplishments wasn’t really a thing. Maybe it’s a culture thing? I have no idea.
But then again, it does seem sort of superficial, like you’re obligated to feel/show that you’re happy, thankful, grateful, whatever. Celebration should come naturally, not because an arbitrary date comes around.
OK what am I even rambling on about, this was supposed to be about cake.
So what I did on Thanksgiving was go to Whole Foods and buy rosemary and turkey. And my dad seasoned/herbed it up, and roasted it without a recipe, and not surprisingly, it comes out perfect. My dad just has an intuition with these things.
And then there’s me, who made this cake. It’s more labour intensive than normal since ya gotta shred through some carrots, but that’s okay… anything for your health, right?
But actually, this cake wasn’t all that unhealthy! You can take a look for yourself, but I feel like it’s a keeper in my book. I grated the carrots on the coarse side of my box grater because I wanted some texture, but it makes this cake more muffiny than cakey. So it’s up to you.
I also used quinoa flour for the first time, and I think that’s what gave it a slightly bitter aftertaste… was not expecting that. Apparently toasting the flour takes away the bitterness, but I have yet to give that a go.
The rest of the culprits are here– non-fat greek yogurt, avocado oil, spelt flour, bananas… it’s all good. So enjoy, and let me know how thankful you are on a day-to-day basis!

Carrot Cake with Chestnut Maple Cream Cheese

  • Servings: 12-14
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
Adapted from Rasa Malaysia
For the cake:
  • 2 cups AP flour (I used 0.5 cups quinoa flour, 1.5 cups spelt and it worked wonderfully… see my note above about quinoa flour!)
  • 2 tsps baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • generous 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • generous 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • generous 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/2 cup avocado oil
  • 1/3 cup greek yogurt
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 8-ounce can of pineapples, drained
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups grated peel carrots (I used 5 large carrots)
  • 2 inches fresh (but old) ginger, finely grated
  • 1 cup walnuts (optional, but actually necessary)
  • 1/2 cup raisins (also integral. your cake might explode if this is not included)
  • Bee pollen (nature’s sprinkles!) and berries for garnish
For the (chestnut) maple cream cheese frosting:
  • 2 (8-ounce/226-gram) packages cream cheese, softened at room temperature. Sure, low fat’s fine. Vegan cream cheese made with soaked cashews is fine as well. Silken tofu is also fine. Stinky tofu especially.
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup chestnut paste (optional variation)
  • 2 cups icing sugar, SIFTED
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
    1/4 cup pure maple syrup


Make the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Butter two 9-inch-diameter or three 8-inch-diameter cake pans. Line bottom of pans with parchment, butter and flour paper; tap out excess flour.
  3. If using walnuts, lightly roast them on a baking tray or a frying pan, about 4-5 minutes. Leave to cool before processing them finely.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk flour(s), baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ground ginger in medium bowl to blend. Set aside. Place the pineapple slices in a blender and add some of the juices from the can. Discard excess liquid. Puree in the two bananas, until mixture is smooth. Set aside.
  5. In a separate large bowl, whisk coconut sugar, pineapple-banana puree and oil until well blended. Whisk in eggs, one at a time. Add in the flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in the vanilla, carrots and fresh ginger. Add in the walnuts and raisins, to prevent unwanted cake explosion.
  6. Divide the batter equally between the prepared pans. If you want to be really anal, I mean precise, about this, I suggest you get out your scale, zero the pans, and weight your batters so they’re the same. Bake the layers for about 30 minutes each for 8-inch cakes or about 40 minutes each for 9-inch cakes; or until a tester inserted into center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans for about 15 minutes. Turn out onto cooling racks. Peel off parchment; cool cakes completely before icing.

Make the icing:

  1. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat all the ingredients on medium speed until fluffy. Chill the frosting for about 20 to 30 minutes or until it has set up enough to spread smoothly and hold its shape.
  2. To assemble a layered cake, with an offset spatula, frost the top of one cake and place the other cake on top. Repeat for a three-layered cake. You can go all out and do the crumb coat thing, chill it, then frost all the sides, but I just left mine as is.
  3. Garnish as your heart desires, and dig in!

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