Last September, the Spanish-Welsh artist Rafael Pérez Evans dumped about 29 tonnes of carrots on the doorstep of Goldsmiths university as an art piece called Grounding. The installation kickstarted local conversations about waste, including a protest that involved cooking with the carrots and, seeing as the university is just down the road from me, I wandered down to see the work and claim a few carrots for myself.
Old and wonky or bendy carrots make great carrot cake. I’ve adapted today’s recipe, which was created by my friend and fellow chef Richard Makin, AKA the School Night Vegan, to include wholefoods and notably wonky carrots. Richard’s motto is “Anything you can cook, I can cook vegan”, and he’s not wrong – you’d never guess that his scrumptious recipes are vegan. He says: “I’ve never had a bouncier sponge than when using psyllium husks. It’s so high in fibre and a true wonder ingredient.”
This plant-based carrot cake is a great twist on a familiar cake. It’s made using psyllium husks and olive oil instead of eggs and butter, but you can’t tell the difference – it is, quite simply, one of the best carrot cakes I’ve ever tried. Psyllium husks create a wonderful sponge and are cheaper than eggs, too. If your carrots are bendy and very much past their best, carrot cake is a great way to upcycle them into a real treat.
This is my adaptation of a recipe by Richard that includes wholegrain flour, dark muscovado sugar and a rich, plant-based icing made from walnuts. If you want, Richard says, give the cake a deliciously smoky, adult taste by adding a teaspoon of toasted, crushed coriander seeds to the batter mixture. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
130ml extra-virgin olive oil
280g dark muscovado sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
Zest from ½ orange
2 tsp psyllium husks
350g wholegrain flour (spelt, for preference, but wheat will do)
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp sea salt
350g carrots, grated with their skins on
300ml oat milk
2 tsp cider vinegar
Heat oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4. In a large bowl, whisk the oil, 180g of the muscovado sugar, the vanilla extract and orange zest. In a small bowl, cover the psyllium husks with three tablespoons of water, leave to rest for 30 seconds, then whisk into the oil and sugar mixture until everything’s well combined.
Add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, ground cinnamon, allspice, ginger and sea salt, then stir in 100g roughly chopped walnuts, all the grated carrots, the oat milk and cider vinegar. Mix until well combined, then transfer to a greased and lined 20cm cake tin. Bake for 45 minutes, or until cooked through, then leave to cool in the tin.
Meanwhile, make the icing. In a bowl, cover 200g of the remaining walnuts with boiling water and leave to soak for 30 minutes. Drain, keeping the liquid, then blend with the remaining 100g muscovado sugar and enough of the soaking liquor to create a cream cheese consistency. Spread this over the cooled cake, then decorate with the remaining 100g whole walnuts.