I wanted to make a carrot cake inspired by Indian carrot halva for Easter this year. I wanted it to have coconut instead of walnuts and feature cardamom and rosewater. We are spending Easter with my mum on Maui, where I grew up and she still lives. I knew that my mother likes cardamom and I was pleased to discover that she had never had rosewater before and she LOVES it. The smell of roses remind her of her own mother. For the photo shoot, my mother provided Lokelani Roses (Maui’s official flower) from her back yard, and her adorable orange tabby cat Dewey (named for the Dewey Decimal system, because my mother is a librarian).
I started with a carrot cake recipe from The The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam. I used coconut instead of walnuts and switched the cinnamon and nutmeg out for cardemom. I made it in muffin tins because my mother does not own any cake tins (she is a very healthy sort of lady). The carrot muffins were delicious in a VERY healthy sort of way. They were more salty than sweet and quite dense. We took them on a hike in the Waikamoi cloud forest and they were totally fortifying. Side note, if you are ever visiting Maui, arrange for a guided hike through the Waikamoi cloud forest. It is free and the area is not open to the public without a guide. I cannot believe how much I learned about Hawaiian plants, geology and history in three hours…and I grew up on the island! There is a portion of the forest which has been managed so that it is only growing the trees and plants that were on the island before human contact. It is beautiful and totally different from what grows on the islands now. Many of the plants and birds there are totally unique to the island and very close to extinction. Here is a photo of some young Koa trees happily co-exisitng with some lichen.
Okay, so back to carrot cake. As much as I had appreciated the healthy carrot muffins on the hike, I am, in general not a healthy muffin lover, so, I tweaked the carrot muffin recipe A LOT. I threw in some coconut flour for fluffiness, used less salt, increased the eggs and agave and soaked the raisins in rosewater. These turned out very well indeed, especially when topped with a thick slathering of coconut rosewater icing. For the icing, I tried the creamy coconut icing (also from The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam) and about half way through the process I remembered that I had tried this recipe years ago when I was searching for a vegan icing for our wedding grooms cake. The grooms cake is the extra little cake on the side. We have enough family and friends who are allergic to dairy (including my mother) that it was important that the grooms cake be totally vegan. This coconut icing recipe had not gone well the first time I tried it, but this time I persevered and made it work. Wow is it ever good with some rosewater added in. Even Dewey liked it.
COCONUT ROSEWATER ICING
Adapted from The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 cup agave nectar
- a pinch of sea salt
- 4 tablespoons arrowroot powder
- 1 Tablespoon water
- 1 and 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted over low heat
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup of rosewater (depending on how floral you want it)
- In a medium saucepan, bring the coconut milk, agave nectar and salt to a boil, whisking occasionally.
- Decrease the heat and simmer for 10 to 10 minutes, whisking occasionally.
- In a small bowl dissolve the arrowroot powder in the water. It will make a fun paste (like cornstarch).
- Raise the heat on the saucepan to medium high and add the arrowroot paste to the hot mixture whisking constantly until the sauce thickens (this happens fast!).
- Remove the pan from the heat and use a hand mixer to gradually mix the coconut oil in. It is supposed to emulsify and get smooth. To be honest it does not like to do this for me. I always have some oil that refuses to mix in.
- Put the mixture in the freezer for 30-35 minutes until it begins to solidify and turns opaque (but is not frozen into a solid block).
- Use a handheld mixer to whip the mixture until it is thick and fluffy. Gradually add the rosewater and continue whipping. If your icing curdles do not panic! Just gently reheat until it is all melted and combined, freeze it for another 30 minutes and try whipping it again.
- Store in a sealed container in your fridge until you are ready to use the icing.
CARROT CARDAMOM MUFFINS ( GLUTEN-FREE)
- 1 and 1/2 cups almond flour
- 2 Tablespoons coconut flour
- 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 Tablespoons cardamom
- 2 Tb cup coconut oil
- 1/3 cup agave nectar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 and 1/2 cups grated carrot
- 3 tablespoons rosewater
- 1/2 cup raisins
- ½ cup shredded coconut
- 1 recipe of coconut rosewater icing (above)
- preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line 9 muffin tins with paper baking cups.
- In a small bowl soak the raisins in the rosewater.
- In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, coconut flour, salt, baking soda and cardamom.
- In a medium bowl whisk together the coconut oil, agave nectar and eggs.
- Stir the oil, agave and egg mixture into the dry ingredients until just combined.
- Fold in the grated carrots, rosewater, raisins and coconut.
- Divide the batter evenly between the 9 muffin tins and bake them until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in to the center of the muffin comes out clean (25-30 minutes).
- Let the muffins cool completely before icing them.