I’ve been baking my favourite spicy carrot and orange “sunshine cake” for years now, but it always tastes best around this time of year in January and February, when the green grocer’s is overflowing with Spanish and Italian blood oranges.
When I shared my old tried-and-tested recipe again on Instagram recently, my lovely friend Annabelle of @aheartfullofhope created a vegan version and shared it in her IG Stories. I don’t know why it had never occurred to me to try making a vegan version of this cake—my sister can’t eat cow’s dairy or eggs because it makes her skin flare up, and I’m always looking out for new and easy recipes for tasty treats she can enjoy.
After successfully testing out Annabelle’s vegan sunshine cake this week for my sister to enjoy, I thought I’d share the recipe again, alongside its vegan alternative for anyone who can’t eat eggs or dairy. There’s something so lovely about baking this cake in particular for a loved one—perhaps I’m just romanticising it, but I feel like it’s such a happy tasting cake, and it’s a beautiful thing to be able to make it for someone with a different dietary requirement. So, I really hope you and your loved ones enjoy it, and let me know how it goes down!
– 8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
– 2 teaspoons baking powder
– 5 oz (140g) light muscovado sugar, sifted
– 4 oz (110g) carrots, peeled and finely grated
– the peel of 2 oranges, finely grated (also the juice of these oranges, squeezed with pips removed)
– 2 eggs, or 2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds*
– 5 fl oz (150ml) sunflower oil
– a very generous dash of ginger
– a little dash of cinnamon
– a tiny dash of nutmeg
*To prepare the flax seeds, either buy pre-ground flax seeds and then add five tablespoons of water, stir, and let the mixture sit for about five minutes before you use it as you would use the eggs. Or, if you can’t find pre-ground flax seeds, add six tablespoons of water to two tablespoons of flax seeds, and then blend this well with a hand blender. Keep blending and stirring until it’s a gooey egg-like consistency, and add a little extra water if you think it needs to be a little bit looser.
For the non-vegan icing:
– 6 oz (170g) cream cheese
– 2 oz (50g) soft margarine or softened room temp. butter
– 4 oz (110g) icing sugar, sifted
Vegan icing alternatives:
You can either make a simple margarine buttercream using the ingredients above, but without the cream cheese and with a little squeeze of lemon juice or a dash of juice from one of your oranges to soften it a little.
Or, you can try Annabelle’s special vegan icing recipe, blending ground cashews, water, maple syrup, and grated lemon zest. (I have to admit, I went for the easy option with margarine and icing sugar, but Annabelle says her version tasted delicious, and I can well believe it!)
Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, then add the eggs (or wet flax seed mixture if you’re making the vegan version) and sunflower oil. Stir well, add the carrot and orange peel and juice, then add the spices. I usually go heavy on the ginger, and then add cinnamon and all spice or a dash of nutmeg—but do it to suit your own tastes. Give it a sniff and once you’re happy with the spice level by smell, it should be good to go.
Spread the mixture into two greased sandwich cake tins and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for around 25 minutes, until slightly golden on top and springy to the touch. Leave the two halves to cool down completely before icing them.
Whichever icing version you choose, blend it all well and put it in the fridge for 10 minutes or so to firm up before you use it. Stick the two halves of the cooled cake together with your icing, and spread generous amounts of it on top, sprinkling a little grated orange zest over it as a finishing touch.