Dedication: This recipe is dedicated to Sylvie Shirazi, the brilliant photographer and food blogger over at Gourmande in the Kitchen. Thank you for your support, Sylvie! I could not have achieved what I have (7K+ at Pinterest for Ultimate Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies) without you. xo ~Stacy
Guys, I walk it like I talk it. When I promise something, I not only strive to deliver, I aim to over deliver. I had promised you a super tasty and moist grain-free layer cake, and here it is. This IS it for grain-free carrot cake. Seriously. The cake is just as flavorful (if not more so) and just as moist and tender as traditional carrot cake. The buttercream is “the bombe”. It is soooo good, that when tasting my test batches, I much preferred the buttercream sans additional flavoring (read: without lemon juice or vanilla). The Cashew-Coconut Buttercream is pure bliss. All-natural bliss. I don’t mess with all-natural bliss. My only regret? That I didn’t get this post wrapped before the Easter holiday for you. My sincerest apologies, as it was a wicked busy week. But, how totally wicked is it that I completed it on Cheap Trick Day–when it was one of their songs (a total fave) that I was jamming to while making it? You can’t beat fate.
The first low-carb carrot cake I ever baked was back in April 2005 for Easter. The recipe came from my copy of the cookbook, The Low-Carb Gourmet, by Karen Barnaby (2004). I had used Karen’s Zucchini Cake recipe found on page 303 calling for 3 cups of almond meal (unblanched) and a pound (3 cups) of shredded zucchini which I had subbed carrots for. Yep, it was Easter and I didn’t care if there were more net carbs in carrots versus zucchini. This must be where Elana Amsterdam, of Elana’s Pantry, found her inspiration for her Carrot Cake recipe back in 2008. Of course, Elana and her baking continue to inspire me.
Back in 2005, after taste-testing the cake, The Big Lug’s response was, “Not a bad cake.” You’ve gotta love a guy who will tell you exactly like it is and not sugar coat. Translation? It was a good cake, but there was room for improvement. Plus, back then, low-carb bakers were experimenting with Splenda® as an artificial sugar replacement in their baking and this particular cake recipe called for it. Now, as an all-natural whole foods baker, I think to myself, “Ick! Splenda?” Yes, there was definite room for improvement.
When I asked The Big Lug what he would like me to bake and make paleo for this Easter, he immediately replied, “Your carrot cake.” The Big Lug is a huge fan of my carrot cake. Not to be shy (LOL!), because I will tell you straight out…my carrot cake really does rock. As I mentioned in my last post for Carrot Cake Cheesecake Cake ~ Bakery Style, I had developed the recipe when we were first married (from the recipe found in my copy of the New Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook) and prepared it for our very first Christmas gathering to view our wedding video. (Don’t laugh! I can hear you.) Everyone went wild for the carrot cake—even asking for pieces to take home. And, my sister begged me for the recipe.
What really made my carrot cake stand out was that it was made entirely with real butter (like Mrs. Fields’ version), but I melted it instead of using vegetable oil like most conventional recipes and used half light brown sugar. The crumb, texture (read: moist) and buttery flavor were unbeatable. And, I made the cake more tropical by adding shredded coconut along with the pineapple. Sometimes I would add plumped raisins or pretty golden raisins (sultanas).
As for the cream cheese buttercream frosting, I created my own version with a higher butter ratio for an even 1:1 ratio for butter to cream cheese which was an adaptation as well from my old New Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. It was not a wimpy cream cheese buttercream by any means. It was pleasantly buttery and piped borders just beautifully. And, this is what I was entirely aiming for when I developed the Cashew-Coconut Buttercream for this incredibly tasty paleo carrot cake recipe.
For special occasions, I like to encrust the sides of my carrot cakes with finely chopped walnuts or macadamia nuts (making the cake even more tropical) and embellish with freshly grated carrot for a pop of color, shredded coconut for added texture and a light dusting of freshly grated nutmeg. Bliss! Now there is a paleo version of my blissful carrot cake.
About the song… One of my all-time favorite songs popped into my head while baking this cake. Then, I had to go and find the song to play and jam along with as I iced and decorated it. Cheap Trick’s I Want You to Want Me, Live at Budokan. What a great song to jam to in the kitchen. Love. It. And, whenever I do listen, I always wonder just how they got those frenzied Japanese fans to cheer for the “American Beatles” so well…and, on cue! Truly, it is an awesome live rock music recording for the annals of time.
Check it! Link to vid (for the live song): I Want You to Want Me, Live at Budokan, by Cheap Trick.
So, yeah. Get your inner rocker goin’ on, paleo dudes and dudettes, and bake this cake while listening to Cheap Trick’s I Want You to Want Me, Live at Budokan. Like me, you just might find yourself singing the following lyrics while making this cake:I want you to want me I need you to eat me I’d love you to love me I’m beggin’ you to bake me Didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I see you cryin’? Oh, didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I see you cryin’? Feelin’ all sad without good cake, you know you feel like dyin’ Oh, didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I see you cryin’?
So, don’t cry now that you’ve gone paleo. You can still have good cake…a tasty, nutrient-rich paleo-ized cake. A Carrot Spice Layer Cake with Cashew-Coconut Buttercream that will not only rock your paleo world, but will even fool your non-paleo friends and family. Heck, even if you’ve gone primal (can’t have arrowroot starch when goin’ primal, right?), at least you won’t be totally going off the rails on a crazy train. Wait. Don’t get me started! Too late. Now, Ozzie’s soaring vocals in Crazy Train is rippin’ in my head!
Hey… Did you know?
April 1st is Cheap Trick Day! It’s true. The American rock band, hailing from Rockford, Illinois (forming in 1973), has often been referred to as the “American Beatles”. In October 2007, the Illinois Senate passed a resolution designating April 1 as Cheap Trick Day in the state. How cool is THAT? Also, Cheap Trick was ranked No. 25 in VH1’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. Love. It.
Why is our recipe for Paleo Carrot Spice Layer Cake with Cashew-Coconut Buttercream wicked good? It is 100% pure all-natural tasty goodness that is also grain-free and dairy-free. You won’t believe just how incredibly moist and delicious this carrot cake is or just how creamy and tasty the buttercream is, until you try it. It totally rocks!
Groks and Grokettes, you RAWK! Thanks to you, The Big Lug and Elana Amsterdam, over at Elana’s Pantry (probably Mrs. Fields, too?), for inspiring me to create this exceptional paleo carrot cake for all to enjoy—including me!
Why is our recipe for Paleo Carrot Cake with Cashew-Coconut Buttercream wicked good? It is 100% pure all-natural tasty goodness that is also grain-free and dairy-free. You won’t believe just how incredibly moist and delicious this carrot cake is or just how creamy and tasty the buttercream is, until you try it. It totally rocks!
- For the Grain-Free Flour Blend to Prepare Cake Pans
- 2 tablespoons (14 grams) blanched almond flour, such as Honeyville® Farms
- 1½ tablespoons (12 grams) arrowroot starch, such as Bob’s Red Mill®
- 1 teaspoon (about 2.5 grams) organic coconut flour, such as Bob’s Red Mill® or Tropical Traditions®
- For the Carrot Cake
- 1½ cups (168 grams) blanched almond flour, such as Honeyville® Farms
- 1¼ cups (160 grams) arrowroot starch, such as Bob’s Red Mill®
- 6 tablespoons (42 grams) organic coconut flour, such as Bob’s Red Mill® or Tropical Traditions®
- 1 teaspoon (4.8 grams) baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon (3.6 grams) baking soda
- 1 teaspoon (4.8 grams) kosher salt (or ¾ teaspoon sea salt or regular table salt)
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, such as McCormick®
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice, such as McCormick®
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground whole nutmeg
- 6 large eggs (mine weighed 303 grams total w/o shells)
- 1¼ cups (420 grams) organic light agave nectar
- 1 tablespoon (15 to 18 grams, mine weighed 18) unsulphured molasses, such as Grandma’s®
- 6 tablespoons (90 grams) organic ghee, melted, plus additional for greasing pans (you could also use coconut oil)
- 1 tablespoon (13 grams) pure vanilla extract, such as Nielsen-Massey®
- 3 cups (about 300 grams) grated carrot, about 4 large carrots
- ¾ cup (about 68 grams) organic unsweetened shredded coconut, such as Let’s Do Organic®
- ½ cup (about 110 grams) coarse-fine chopped fresh pineapple (you could also use plumped raisins or golden raisins)
- For the Cashew-Coconut Buttercream
- 1 cup (256 grams or 8 ounces) cashew butter, such as Artisana®
- ¾ cup (144 grams) organic palm shortening, such as Spectrum®
- ¼ cup (60 grams) organic ghee (you could also use coconut oil)
- ½ cup (128 grams) organic coconut butter, such as Artisana®, melted
- ½ cup (168 grams) organic raw honey*
- Pinch sea salt, optional
- *Do not serve raw honey to children under the age of 1 year.
- For the Optional Cake Adornments
- 1 cup (about 110 grams) finely chopped walnuts, to decorate sides of cake
- Freshly grated carrot, to decorate top of cake
- Shredded unsweetened coconut, such as Let’s Do Organic®, to decorate top of cake
- Freshly grated whole nutmeg, to dust top of cake
- Special Equipment
- Three 8-inch by 1½- to 2-inch round cake pans
- Four wire cooling racks, with the fourth being used to flip cake layers right side up
- One 9-inch cardboard cake round, helpful but not necessary
- Cake Turntable, such as Ateco ®, helpful but not necessary
- Metal Angled or Offset Icing Spatula, such as Ateco® or Wilton®, helpful but not necessary
- Metal Icing Spatula, such as Ateco® or Wilton®, helpful but not necessary
- Wax paper, for lining cake plate for icing & nut coating, helpful but not necessary
- Piping bag, coupler and no. 21 star decorating tip, not necessary if no piping is desired
Prepare the Grain-Free Flour Blend to Prepare Cake Pans: In a small bowl, whisk together almond flour, arrowroot starch and coconut flour; set aside.
Prepare the Carrot Cake: Arrange oven rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 325º F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans. Line bottoms with wax paper circles. (When baking delicate cakes, it is best to use wax paper as it is gentle when peeling away after baking versus parchment paper.) Grease paper linings and dust lined pans with prepared grain-free flour blend, tapping out the excess. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices; set aside.
Using an electric stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or handheld mixer and large bowl, beat eggs until blended and bubbly. Add agave nectar, molasses, melted ghee and vanilla; beat on medium speed for approximately 2 minutes. Mixture should be bubbly on top. Reduce speed to low (stir) and add flour mixture blending until well combined. Allow mixture to stand for a full 5 minutes. This will allow the flours to absorb the liquids.
With a rubber spatula, fold in carrots, coconut and pineapple. Scrape and pour batter into prepared pans, dividing evenly (about 2 cups per pan). Smooth tops evenly with rubber spatula. Bake in center of preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Run thin metal spatula around edges of each cake to loosen, then invert onto wire rack (I like to grease my nonstick wire racks with coconut oil to prevent sticking) and carefully peel away wax paper. If necessary (since this cake batter is very sticky), use a paring knife to help loosen the paper around the edges before peeling. Turn right side up onto wire racks (using an additional rack to flip); cool completely.
Prepare the Cashew-Coconut Buttercream: Using an electric stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or handheld mixer (if powerful enough) and large bowl, beat cashew butter until smooth. Add shortening and ghee. Beat on high speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of bowl as necessary with rubber spatula. Add melted coconut butter and honey and, if using, salt. Mix on low (stir) until incorporated; then increase mixer speed to high and beat until thickened, light and fluffy. Place bowl in refrigerator and chill for 30 minutes. Stir; then chill an additional 30 minutes. Stir and check for spreading consistency. Stir vigorously until smooth and of spreading consistency.
Assemble & Ice the Cake: Place one cake layer onto serving plate, platter or cake pedestal or stand in the center. With icing spatula, spread enough frosting evenly over top of cake to cover. Place second cake layer on top of the first cake layer. Spread enough frosting evenly over top of cake to cover. Place third cake layer on top. Spread frosting over top and sides of cake neatly and evenly. You may do a crumb coat and then chill the cake for 30 minutes before completing the icing, if desired. However, if decorating the sides of the cake with nuts, you can skip the crumb coat because the nuts will hide any crumbs showing.
To Decorate the Cake: If decorating the cake, gently press finely chopped walnuts onto sides of cake. This is easy to do if the cake layers are assembled onto a cardboard cake round. Simply hold and balance the cake on the cake round in one hand and use free hand to press the nuts into the sides of the cake. Use a sheet of parchment or wax paper, or even a sheet pan, to catch the excess.
If not using a cardboard cake round to hold the cake and press nuts into sides of cake, it is still easy to do. Simply line your cake plate or pedestal with four 4- to 5-inch wide strips of wax paper and use hand to press nuts onto sides of cake. The wax paper strips will catch the nuts that fall away. Turn the cake as you work (a cake turntable is helpful, but not necessary) all the way around. Once finished, scoop away the fallen nuts with spoon and pull the wax paper sheets away leaving a clean cake plate or pedestal.
Sprinkle freshly grated carrot in a circle on top edge of the cake. Then follow with shredded unsweetened coconut on top. Dust the top of the cake with freshly grated whole nutmeg.
To Store the Cake: Keep cake covered and stored in refrigerator until ready to slice and serve.
To Slice & Serve the Cake: Slice the chilled cake with a thin knife that has been dipped in hot water. Wipe knife clean after each cut. Use a cake server to transfer slices of cake to dessert plates. Serve immediately.
Tips:Cake layers may be baked one day in advance. Keep covered in plastic food wrap at room temperature until ready to assemble. If not using immediately, the buttercream can be refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to use. Before using, remove from refrigerator to soften to spreading consistency. Beat smooth. If serving the cake outdoors during warm months, use coconut flour to thicken frosting adding it by the teaspoon until a thicker spreading consistency is reached. This will prevent the frosting from becoming too soft and melting.