I waited until December to officially post anything holiday-related! You're welcome! (Though I couldn't resist Instagramming this last week.) While I love any excuse for an elaborate, calories-be-damned baking project, this month we'll be focusing on nourishing rather than indulging (though I'm sure I'll cave and post SOMETHING rich this season). And here's why:
There are SO MANY BLOGS that have cornered the market on fancy and indulgent holiday treats. And let's face it: Toddlers who are off schedule and also on a sugar crash are not fun to be around. So we're limiting the sweeteners and focusing on the natural variety while also adding in veggies and proteins wherever possible.
I love this recipe so much, mostly because I love any form of gingerbread and nothing says "Welcome to the holiday season" as much as this warm, spicy combination of molasses, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. We've boosted the nutrition by using a combination of spelt flour and whole wheat flour. The spelt flour has more protein and fiber than regular flour, but mimics white flour in flavor and texture. And whole wheat flour is great because, whole wheat.
The molasses and spice flavor is also strong, but not overwhelming, so both adults and toddlers can enjoy these bad boys. The maple syrup, carrots, and whole cranberries also add more sweetness and moisture while keeping these vegan. And while the ingredient list isn't exactly short, this recipe is less fussy than some vegan ones because it doesn't require a flax egg or anything exotic. An added bonus to this treat is that it checks a lot of allergy boxes: There are no nuts, dairy, or eggs. And while I haven't tried this with any gluten-free flours, I would assume that any tried-and-true gluten-free mix would work here.
This recipe baked up perfectly in two 5' x 2' cake pans as well as small bundt pans.
And did I mention that you only need one bowl?
For the topping: I think these are fantastic plain or with a light dusting of powdered sugar. Depending on your needs, I also topped these with a maple cream cheese frosting that was amazing with the cake, but slightly overpowered the gingerbread flavor. I would recommend doing this if you want to bring these to a party and dairy isn't an issue. I haven't personally tried these with the cake, but there are some great coconut whipped toppings on the market and coconut cream whips up into an easy easy dairy-free whipped cream for a vegan option.
For the decorations here, I made these super easy candied cranberries and used this technique for brushstroke ivy. I've tried making these brushstrokes with chocolate and carob, but I haven't found anything that works as well as regular old candy melts, which unfortunately aren't vegan. Let me know if you find anything else!
Vegan carrot and cranberry gingerbread cakes
½ cup olive oil
½ cup + 2 Tbsp maple syrup
½ cup molasses
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
2 cups grated carrots
1 ½ cups whole fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup + ¼ cup spelt flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 350.
In a large bowl, combine the wet ingredients. Add the shredded carrots and cranberries and mix well.
Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Let sit while you grease your baking tins with olive oil.
If using mini bundt pans, fill all the way to the top. These don’t get a huge amount of rise, so the bundts will stay pretty flat. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.
If making mini cakes, fill about ¾ of the pan and bake for 40-45 minutes.
Yield: 12 mini bundt cakes or 5’ x 2’ cakes