Vegan, Gluten-Free Carrot Cake

Vegan, Gluten-Free Carrot Cake​

With Easter coming up next weekend, I’ve got carrot cake on my mind. To be more specific, I’ve got this moist, flavorful and incredibly simple Vegan, Gluten-Free Carrot Cake front and center in my brain. It’s everything I love about the classic cake—the texture, the spices, the frosting—just made a little more accessible. I totally love it!

Vegan, Gluten-Free Carrot Cake

To make this sweet little cake, I began with my go-to vegan, gluten-free cake formula and then slowly, but surely, figured it out. I toyed with all sorts of different ratios of pumpkin to grated carrots, and adjusted the spices until they were just right. Ten practice cakes and two scrapped photoshoots later, I think I’ve finally nailed it.

Vegan, Gluten-Free Carrot Cake

My Vegan, Gluten-Free Carrot Cake is tender, fragrant, and packed with carrots, raisins and walnuts, though you can leave out those last two ingredients if you’re not a nuts-and-fruit-in-your-cake kind of human. Paired with my go-to Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting, it’s so good, even the non-gluten-free, non-vegans (like me!) will go back for seconds.

Vegan, Gluten-Free Carrot Cake​

This recipe is written for a single layer of cake and a corresponding amount of frosting. I kept it simple because making layer cakes has seemed exhausting lately and it’s no fun to make something that exhausts you. If you’d like to make this recipe into a layer cake, I’d double the batter for two 9-inch round cake pans and triple the frosting. You could even quadruple it—nobody worth knowing has ever been unhappy about extra cream cheese frosting, especially when piped into little carrots.

Vegan, Gluten-Free Carrot Cake​
Vegan, Gluten-Free Carrot Cake
makes a single layer 9-inch round cake

1/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
~1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
2 tablespoons pure pumpkin purée or unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup potato starch
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
1 cup grated carrots
1/3 cup raisins (optional)

If you would like a layer cake, double the recipe for two 9-inch pans. Triple the frosting recipe that follows.

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch round or square cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment and grease again. Set aside.

Place chopped nuts of choice (if using) on a dry rimmed sheet pan. Roast in the oven for 5-7 minutes or until fragrant. Remove and set aside to cool while you prepare the cake batter.

Pour apple cider vinegar into a liquid measuring cup. Add non-dairy milk until liquid reaches the 1 cup mark. Stir and let sit for 5-10 minutes, until curdled. Stir in pumpkin (or applesauce) and vanilla. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together brown sugar, granulated sugar, potato starch, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, almond flour, and salt. Stir in grated carrots, raisins and toasted nuts (if using).

Add liquid ingredients in two installments, stirring until combined. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl to ensure thorough mixing.

Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth to the edges with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon. Tap pan on the counter 5 times to release any large air bubbles. Transfer to the oven and bake 32-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few crumbs (not wet batter).

Let cake cool completely in its pan on a cooling rack. Run a thin knife along the edges of the pan before inverting to release.

Place cake on desired platter. Frost as desired with Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below).

Frosted cake will keep at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Unfrosted cake may be triple-wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before frosting.

Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting
makes enough for the top of one sheet cake

2 ounces (1/4 cup) vegan butter, room temperature (I like Miyoko’s)
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) shortening, room temperature (I like Nutiva)
1 ounce (2 tablespoons, 1/8 of an 8 ounce tub) vegan cream cheese, slightly softened
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
green food coloring, for piped carrots (optional)
orange food coloring, for piped carrots (optional)

Frosting may get very soft at room temperature depending which vegan cream cheese you use. Plain Miyoko’s brand vegan cream cheese is my gold standard for flavor and holding up well at room temperature.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat vegan butter, shortening, and vegan cream cheese until light and fluffy. Mix in confectioners sugar in two installments, mixing until combined and fluffy. Mix in salt, followed by vanilla.

If piping carrots, dye 2 tablespoons of frosting green and 2 tablespoons orange.

Use plain frosting to frost the top of the cake as desired. If piping carrots, put colored frostings in separate piping bags, snip small corners and pipe as desired. I make carrots by following the method on this video.

Nutella Sandwich Cookies

Nutella Sandwich Cookies​

I promised you new Nutella recipes almost two months ago, and I am finally delivering in the form of the cutest, tiniest, most delicious Nutella Sandwich Cookies you ever did see.

Made with a buttery hazelnut sugar cookie dough and filled with a spoonful of Nutella, these are completely irresistible. Their texture isn’t crunchy or hard, so Nutella won’t squidge out the sides when you take a bite, but they are still sturdy enough to stack—it’s a little difficult to explain, but it’s so good.

I suppose the best endorsement I can give these Nutella Sandwich Cookies is that I have not shared even one with any of my friends or acquaintances, which is remarkable when you consider that the batch size falls around 8 dozen!

Nutella Sandwich Cookies​

I’ll be the first to admit it: 8 dozen is a lot of cookies. But hear me out. Making sandwich cookies is a whole production, so you might as well make a ton at once to get your energy’s worth, right?! Also, they’re teeny tiny—1 1/2 inches in diameter, smaller than an Oreo. I can easily put away three or four at a time. If you’re still concerned, know that Nutella Sandwich Cookies keep for a while—longer than a week—so you don’t have to worry about them spoiling.

Honestly though, I don’t think you’ll have a whole lot of trouble putting these away. I mean, I’m over here by my lonesome and I’m managing just fine.

Nutella Sandwich Cookies​
Nutella Sandwich Cookies
makes about 8 dozen small cookies

Cookie Dough:
2/3 cup whole raw hazelnuts
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Assembly:
~1 cup Nutella

Preheat oven to 350F. Scatter hazelnuts on a dry rimmed sheet pan. Let toast for 5-7 minutes. Remove pan to a rack and turn off oven. Let hazelnuts cool to room temperature; no need to peel.

When hazelnuts are room temperature, add them to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until a fine meal forms—do not over process or you’ll have hazelnut butter.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, hazelnut meal, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in egg and vanilla. Add dry ingredients in 3 installments, combining completely after each. Divide dough into quarters, wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate for 3 hours or up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Set aside.

Lightly flour a surface and a rolling pin. Take one quarter of chilled dough at a time, roll it to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut cookies with a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter. Place cut cookies an 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake cookies 6-7 minutes, until no longer raw-looking. Let cookies cool on the pans for five minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat rolling, cutting, and baking with any remaining dough.

If not sandwiching immediately, store cookies in an airtight container for up to a couple of days.

To assemble sandwich cookies, place half the baked cookies on a surface bottom-side-up. Spoon or pipe about 1/2 teaspoon of Nutella on each cookie before gently topping with another cookie, bottom-side-down. Repeat until all cookies have been filled.

Cookies may be eaten immediately, but I like to let them sit in a single layer for a bit so that the cookies soften slightly against the Nutella; this way the cookie stays intact when you bite in.

Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for at least a week.

Red Velvet Blondies

Red Velvet Blondies​

When someone asks my favorite holiday, I usually say something expected like Christmas or Thanksgiving, but honestly? It’s Oscar Night. It’s always been Oscar Night. Lucky for me, it’s this weekend.

Half of you are probably clicking away or rolling your eyes (or both), but hear me out. People like what they like, and no matter how ABC or the Academy try to screw them up, I like the Oscars. I like the dresses, the pageantry, and the movies, and I especially like that I can’t remember ever missing a ceremony.

Red Velvet Blondies​

One of my absolute best friends and I are bonded over our love of Oscar, spending the entire calendar year discussing how things may or may not go, and then watching every film in every category before the big night (at the time of publishing, I have exactly three left). Technology has many drawbacks, but one of the great things it’s done for us is connecting with a whole community of people who are just as into awards season as we are—it’s the best.

While with other holidays there are prescribed ways to celebrate, Oscar Night is more of a “choose your own adventure” sort of occasion. You have to watch the show, of course, but any other traditions are completely up to you. Some have parties, some order Chinese food, some have no rituals and allow chaos to reign supreme. I stay home all day if possible, watch all the red carpet coverage, finalize my predictions, and make a Pesto-Mozzarella Grilled Cheese. Oh, and there has to be a red velvet dessert—red like the red carpet, obviously.

Red Velvet Blondies​

Last year’s offering was a Vegan, Gluten-Free Red Velvet Sheet Cake, but I’ve also done the traditional layer cake, a cookie cake, thumbprints, sandwich cookies, and cut-out cookies shaped like Oscars. This year, I’m going very simple—I’m taking an old recipe out of my archives and simplifying it just a tiny bit. Yep, you’ve seen these Red Velvet Blondies before, but they were covered in cheesecake! Today they’re just by their lonesome (+ white chocolate chips), but no less delicious. The first time I made these was for my 27th birthday picnic, and I’m turning 37 this year, so you know this recipe is tried and true!

Red Velvet Blondies​

Red Velvet Blondies come together in under an hour and don’t require a mixer. They absolutely hit all the red velvet marks, too. Aside from being a vibrant red, these bars are perfectly chewy, have the vanilla-chocolate flavor we know and love, and are stuffed to the gills with white chocolate chips! And yeah, I know Red Velvet Blondies with white chocolate chips don’t hit quite the same notes as Red Velvet Cake with cream cheese frosting, but they’re also less than half the work of a layer cake. As far as I’m concerned , that’s always a hit.

Red Velvet Blondies​
Red Velvet Blondies
makes one 8- or 9-inch pan, about 16 blondies

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons liquid red food coloring (or 1/4-1/2 teaspoon gel)
1 1/4 cup white chocolate chips + more for decorating

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 8- or 9-inch square pan. Line with parchment, leaving overhang on two sides for removal. Grease again. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter and sugar. Whisk in egg and yolk, followed by white vinegar, vanilla, and food coloring. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to stir in flour mixture. Fold in white chocolate chips.

Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake 25-28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs (no wet batter). If desired, dot the top with more white chocolate chips while bars are still warm.

Allow bars to cool in the pan on a rack until they reach room temperature. Use parchment overhang to lift the bars onto a cutting board. Discard parchment. Use a large, sharp chef's knife to slice them into bars. Serve.

Red Velvet Blondies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days.

Homemade Cheese Crackers

Homemade Cheese Crackers​

Step aside, Cheez-Its! There are new cheese crackers in town! Oh yes, these Homemade Cheese Crackers have it all: they’re crispy, flaky, buttery, tangy, salty, and oh-so cheesy, just like the store bought version I love so much.

Homemade Cheese Crackers​

To that end, why should you go through the (minimal) effort to make Homemade Cheese Crackers when you can just go get a box of Cheez-Its? Well, for one, because it’s fun to DIY sometimes. And for two, because this recipe has seven ingredients, all of which are familiar and which include real cheddar cheese! No weird powders or preservatives here.

Besides the brick of cheddar, you’ll find butter, flour, salt, water, and dijon mustard for that signature cheese cracker tang. “But Liz, that’s only six ingredients!” Well, yes, that’s true. The seventh is the flaky finishing salt of your choice, which goes on right before baking for extra salty crunch!

This dough is a dream. It comes together in under five minutes in the food processor, doesn’t require a chill, and rolls and re-rolls flawlessly. I like to roll these crackers very thin (1/8”) and cut them in 1” squares. After being tiled out on a piece of parchment, I give each one a poke with the small end of a mixer attachment because I want each to have a visible hole, like Cheez-Its. You can also use a toothpick or prick each one with a fork—no matter what though, make sure these have some sort of vent so steam doesn’t build up during baking. We want crispy crackers, not soggy ones!

As for quantity, I don’t know the exact number of crackers this recipe makes, but it’s a lot. I’d guess at least the amount in a box of Cheez-Its, if not more. They also keep for up to a week, but I doubt they’ll last that long. They certainly don’t when I’m around.

Homemade Cheese Crackers
makes lots

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated by hand (not pre-shredded!)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons prepared dijon mustard
1/3 cup cold water
flaky salt, for finishing

Place oven racks in the central positions. Preheat oven to 400F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.

In a food processor, combine flour, salt, grated cheddar, butter and mustard. Process until combined, with no large pieces of cheese or butter. Add water and process until dough starts to gather into a ball.

Flour your hands, a surface, and a rolling pin. Turn the dough onto the surface and give it a couple of kneads to combine. If you do not want to make crackers immediately, wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate it for up to 3 days. When you’re ready to bake, you may roll it out cold or at room temperature.

Divide it in half. Loosely cover one half with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel. Roll the remaining half of the dough out to 1/8-inch thickness. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife (or bench scraper) to cut it into 1-inch squares. Carefully transfer squares to the baking sheets. Poke each square with a toothpick or other object to let steam out. Sprinkle with flaky salt.

Bake crackers 15-16 minutes, rotating the pans at the 10 minute mark for even browning. Let crackers cool on the pans. They will fully crisp up as they cool. Repeat rolling and baking with remaining dough and scraps.

Crackers will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a week.

Fudge-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Fudge-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars​

Nothing is better than homemade chocolate chip cookies, but these Fudge-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars might give them a run for their money. I mean, what’s not to love about two thin layers of chewy chocolate chip cookie sandwiched together with a layer of chocolate fudge?! It goes without saying that these are sublime.

Fudge-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars​

This recipe is remarkably easy to make (and even easier to eat). The chocolate chip cookie portion is simply my go-to cookie cake recipe. I made 1.5x the amount to fill a 9×13” pan and just used regular melted butter instead of browning it, but otherwise it’s the same one bowl, no-mixer recipe I’ve used for years.

The fudge is even easier than the cookie dough! Simply melt some dark chocolate in the microwave and then stir in a can of sweetened condensed milk. The mixture will be very thick and fudgy (because it’s fudge, duh). If you were to spread it in a square pan and let it cool, you could slice it into pieces and eat it as is, but today it’s going between two layers of cookie dough and being baked to chewy, chocolaty perfection.

Fudge-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars​

Fudge-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars only need 30 minutes in the oven—it’s the cooling step that takes a while! It will be worth it though because you’ll get chewy cookie, soft fudge and perfectly clean edges. Who can resist these layers?! Not me. That’s for damn sure.

Fudge-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars​
Fudge-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
makes one 9x13-inch pan, 24-30 bars

Cookie Dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
18 tablespoons (2 sticks + 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups light or dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Fudge:
12 ounces chopped dark chocolate
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9x13-inch pan. Line with parchment, leaving overhang on the long sides for removal, and grease again. Set aside.

Make the cookie dough. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter and brown sugar. Mix in eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla. Add dry ingredients in two installments, stirring to combine. Fold in chocolate chips.

Transfer half the dough to prepared pan and spread/press into one even layer.

Make the fudge. Place dark chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between, until melted and smooth. Whisk in sweetened condensed milk. Mixture will be thick.

Use an offset icing spatula or the back of a spoon to spread fudge over the layer of cookie dough, making sure to go all the way to the edges. Use your hands to press the remaining dough into an even layer over the top of the fudge; this is easiest if you work with a little bit at a time and patch it together.

Bake 25-30 minutes, until the top no longer appears shiny.

Let cookie bars cool completely in the pan on a rack. Use the parchment overhang to remove to a cutting board. Discard parchment. Use a large sharp chef’s knife to slice bars. Serve.

Decorated cake will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days.