There is never a bad time for carrot cake, as far as I’m concerned, but something about the gentle sunshine, fresh air, and renewed hints of warmth particularly call for this earthy sweet treat. Cream cheese frosting, slathered with abandon in thick, creamy flourishes is the topping de rigueur, but for the tender beginnings of spring, the more delicate, if no less rich, finishing touch on this carrot crumb cake makes for a more contemporary approach.
Incorporating the very best part of another garden party favorite, the venerable coffee cake, a nutty almond-infused topping crowns this tender orange-hued carrot crumb cake. Five-spice powder lends a unique warmth to each bite, instantly erasing thoughts of any chill that may remain from a lingering winter breeze. As a complete package, it’s an ideal balance of elements to bridge the seasonal gap.
And although each moist slice manages to pack in a generous serving of shredded carrots and the recipe “just happens” to be vegan, there’s certainly no mistaking this satisfying carrot crumb cake dessert for rabbit food.
Special Diet Notes: Carrot Crumb Cake
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, peanut-free, optionally soy-free, vegan / plant-based, and vegetarian.
For nut-free carrot crumb cake, omit the slivered almonds and substitute coarsely ground oats for the almond meal.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour or white-wheat flour
- 2½ teaspoons five-spice powder
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 cups shredded carrots
- ½ cup slivered, toasted almonds
- ½ cup pitted, chopped dates or raisins
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup unsweetened dairy-free milk beverage (almond milk or your choice of type)
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- For the carrot cake, preheat your oven to 325ºF and lightly grease and flour the interior of a tube pan (approximately 10 inches in diameter).
- In a large bowl, sift the flour, five-spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to thoroughly combine. Add the shredded carrots, almonds, and dates, tossing to thoroughly coat and incorporate.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, milk beverage, oil, applesauce, vinegar, and vanilla. Once the liquid mixture is fairly smooth, pour it into the bowl of dry ingredients. Use a wide spatula to bring the batter together with as few strokes as possible, being careful not to over-mix. Just stir until only a few lumps remain.
- Transfer the cake batter into your prepared pan, spooning it evenly around the ring. Smooth out the top with your spatula so that it rests in one even layer.
- For the crumb topping, simply combine the flour, almond meal, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Slowly drizzle in the oil while stirring with a fork, just until the mixture comes together into big clumpy crumbs. Go slowly so as not to fully saturate the dry ingredients; a little bit of oil goes a long way.
- Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over your unbaked batter before gently sliding the pan into your preheated oven. Bake for 60 - 75 minutes, until golden brown on top and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake pulls out cleanly, with just a few moist crumbs clinging to the sides at most.
- Let cool completely before removing from the pan, slicing, and serving.