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January 10, 2010

Fire Engine Cake: Vegan Carrot Cake with Chai "Buttercream"

Is it already January 11th? How'd that happen so fast? It feels like the month of December all but evaporated and January is just speeding by too. I know I've been a bit slug about posting and I do apologize for that. I'm going to try to get back to my normal schedule of posting at least once a week.

It's been a while since I've dragged out the fondant supplies but it was well worth the effort. I was asked to make this cake for my friend's son, Connor, to celebrate his first birthday. Stephanie asked for simple fire engine cake that would be big enough to feed about ten people, but I couldn't help but get but get a little carried away.Since little Connor's tummy isn't really ready for all the dairy and gluten that are standard fare in a traditional birthday cake, I suggested that I make a vegan cake that was also gluten free. After a little bit of discussion, Stephanie eventually picked a carrot cake with chai buttercream and I set to work. I know what you're thinking, but if you've never tried a vegan cake, you're in for something really special. I love that the ingredients aren't muddled; instead textures and flavors are celebrated boldly. When I first moved here ten years ago, I tried my first vegan apricot thumbprint cookie from The Flying Apron Bakery and I was hooked forever! So I was thrilled when I received their cookbook, "Flying Apron's Gluten-free & Vegan Baking Book" from my friend Mandy for Christmas. I was so excited I think I actually jumped up and down! I couldn't wait to try making one of Jennifer Katzinger's recipes in my kitchen.(Thanks Mandy!)As for the design of the cake, I didn't have a muse really, but made the cake just by looking at a few photos online and imagining it in my head. To make the cake, I baked one single layer half-sheet cake and cut it into three pieces that were roughly 10" x 5" (I used a tissue box measure the pieces). With the left over cake, I cut two small squares about 3" or so leaving one nice piece to snack on (or to give your lactose and egg intolerant neighbor) and stacked those on top to create the front part of the fire truck. I used the chai buttercream to fill and frost the cake, chilled it for about an hour to firm up, and finally covered and decorated it using Satin Ice fondant.And because I love this cookbook and bakery so much, I'm giving away one to one lucky reader. To enter, just leave me a comment below (no email please) and please be sure to include a link to your blog or your email address in your comment. *If you don’t provide a way for me to contact you, you will not be entered to win! Contest is only open to those that live in the United States (my apologies to my foreign readers!) All entries must be received by January, 15th. A winner will be selected at random and announced on Sunday, January 17th.Sorry - this contest is now closed.

And the winner is.... Samantha, entry 27! Congrats Samantha!

Vegan Carrot Cake with Chai "Buttercream"
Yield: The cake makes about 18 cups of batter, enough to make lots of cupcakes, 3 9" cakes, or one half-sheet cake. The buttercream makes about 6 1/2 cups of frosting.
adapted from Jennifer Katzinger

2 cups of brown rice flour
1 1/4 cups garbanzo/chickpea flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup of canola oil
2 cups water (room temperature)
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1 cup agave syrup*
1 cup frozen 100% pineapple juice concentrate that's been defrosted and at room temperature
5 medium organic carrots, grated (about 1 1/4 cups)
2 cups chopped walnuts
1 cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Spray either 3 9" cake pans or 1 half-sheet pan with plan vegetable cooking spray and then line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the rice and chickpea flours, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In very large bowl, combine the canola oil, water, vanilla, agave syrup, and juice concentrate together. Stir together until it's pretty well combined.

Add the flour mixture to the canola oil mixture and mix together until thoroughly combined. Be sure to break up and clumps.

Using the bowl that you had previously used for the flour mixture, combine the carrots, coconut, walnuts, and raisins. Mix it together as best as you can (it's okay to use your hands!) and then fold it into the canola/flour mixture until it's combined.

Pour the batter into the pan(s) and shake it a bit to even it out. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the tops of the cake is slightly golden brown. Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack before you remove it from the pan. Once it's totally cool, you can frost it.

Chai "Buttercream"
1 2-pound bag of powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
2 1/2 teaspoons ground clove
2 cups vegetable shortening (you can also use solid Palm oil but it can be hard to find)
3/4 cup really hot, strongly steeped chai tea (I like Numi's Ruby Chai)
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a little bowl combine the salt, cardamom, and ground clove. Add it to the powdered sugar and mix just until it's combined. Sift the powdered sugar mixture and set aside.

In a stand mixer, beat the vegetable oil by itself on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Slowly add the powdered sugar mixture in three batches, beating until soft and somewhat incorporated, being sure to scrape down the bowl and the beaters at least once.

Add half of the very hot chai tea and mix together by hand, doing you best to break up the sugar mixture. The hot tea should soften the sugar mixture and although it will still be thick and lumpy and probably even a bit difficult to mix, it will eventually soften up and absorb the majority of tea. Repeat the process again with the remaining tea and mix together as best as you can. Put the mixing bowl back on the stand mixer and mix on low for about 20 seconds, just to get it moving in the bowl. Gradually increase the speed to medium-high and mix for a long as five to eight minutes until the buttercream comes together and you don't see any clumps of shortening. Be sure to scrape down the bowl and the blade (yes, even if you have a Beater Blade!) When it's good and incorporated, cover it with plastic wrap and keep it at room temperature until you're ready to use it.

Would I Make This Again? I would as it was really very good and it's a great choice for those who are lactose and gluten intolerant. I think next time though I might make a maple buttercream or something a little more benign so as not to compete with the carrot cake.

* The cookbook giveaway is not sponsored by Fly Apron Bakery. I'm giving it simply because I love them!


  1. AWESOME! My husband is a firefighter and I have looked and fire truck cakes but never saw one I really liked.. THIS IS IT! I will be trying to replicate this at some point! I want to win, so enter my name! lbwiggleworm@hotmail.com

  2. wow. just wow. my son's bday is Feb 24 and I hope to try making this. I Love your pictures too! can I enter this contest? I live in Canada but have a mailing address in the states... Thanks! Congrats on a great job again by thew ay.

  3. that sounds like an awesome cookbook--and this cake is AMAZING!!



  4. I just stumbled upon your blog a couple of weeks ago, and I absolutely love it! You're so creative, and I really appreciate your emphasis on trying new things. Keep it coming! I'd love to be entered for the contest, too :)

  5. Wow cute! I love the name spelled out by the hose. Adorable

  6. That is *just* incredible....seriously...I can't even imagine making anything remotely like that! You are amazing!

  7. very impressive, as usual! i love the little details - especially the trickle of water dripping out of the end of the hose.

    so..... have you ventured into wedding cakes yet? :)

  8. super cute truck! Would love to enter the contest :) linzydoherty@gmail.com.

  9. Julia - one of your best! Love it!!

    Sonie (From your work) :)

  10. This is just absolutely fabulous! Nice work, beautiful cake.

  11. Your cake is PERFECT, and the creative touch to write out his name with the hose is pure genius!

  12. This is by far one of the cutest cakes ever. Love his name written with the "hose" too.

  13. Well, I live in Australia, so can't enter your little competition, but just wanted to say WOW! I think I have the inspiration for the next boys birthday cake in our house that's for sure!

  14. adorable!

    My favorite part is the way you spelled his name with the hose. So stinkin' creative!

  15. Super cute! Thanks for the layout of how to cut the cake. That makes it so much easier for newbies like me to have an idea of how to replicate this cake (someday when I'm more confident and have lots of time:)

  16. Julia--you're reaching new heights. Really impressive!

  17. I love this firetruck cake! The hose is adorable...I think it turned out beautiful. You always come up with the cleverest ideas! Bet that cookbook is great!

  18. LOVE that you wrote out Connor's name with the firehose! What a nice touch.

  19. Adorable! This is the cutest fire truck cake ever.

  20. How wonderful! I recently made a firetruck cake for a little boy called connor too! It wasnt anything like as wonderful as yours, I really appreciate all your useful tips for if I need to try one again.

    I'd love to win the cookbook too, I've been experimenting a lot with various vegan/gluten free cakes.

  21. Hey Jules, I would LOVE a copy of that cookbook. I have a wonderful sister-in-law who is gluten intolerant and would like to make her some special treats. Plus after we finish this little "competition" at Crossfit, I can make some things to eat for my trimmer self!


  22. Glad to see a post from you again! Love the cake...it is almost too cute to want to eat!! Please enter me in your contest.

  23. I also recently discovered your blog and love reading about your creations! I am new to vegan recipes and want to learn more about vegan baking. Please enter me in your contest!


  24. Happy Birthday to your little guy...he's just as adorable as that cake you made him!

    I can't tell you how excited I am to learn about this cookbook...my daughter is vegan and her bff is glucose intolerant...something to make them both happy!

  25. Wow that cake looks amazing!! Great job. And you make it sound so easy, too!

  26. Cute overload! The name with the hose is the best. That is an amazing cake. Great job!!

  27. Very cute, and I'd definitely like to try out that cookbook!

  28. Connnor is one lucky kid! I'm dying to try some vegan baking. I've been eating a lot of vegan food for as while now.
    Happy Birthday.

  29. Both the kid and the fire truck are adorable!You are so creative! for the first time I have everything at home to make the cake (apart from the fondant) Will surely try this out. Please enter me for the contest.

  30. Holy moly woman. That is totally adorable. It'd take me 6 years to make something like that! I've been checking out that Flying Cupcake book and trying to decide if I could make the recipes without chickpea flour. Of course, that'd be the only substitution. Being gluten, dairy, egg, soy and bean free kinda crimps my style. You suppose she's got a gf vegan laminated dough in there? lol Well, someone is going to enjoy that book. me! me! me!
    laurel vanblarcum at sbc global dot net

  31. I've looked at lots of firetruck cakes, and this is definitely one of the BEST! Love it! And the recipe sounds yummy too!I will have to try this cake for sure! skittlest@gmail.com

  32. Okay, Julia THIS is my favorite cake that you've made. It's awesome and I love that you wrote out Connor's name with the hose. The splash of water was a nice touch too.

    I really admire you're GO FOR IT attitude. Send some my way will ya? :)

    I'm definitely looking forward to more regular posts. I hope you and Jake had the Happiest New Year.

  33. I just found your blog via tastespotting and can I just say, it's about the coolest cake I've ever seen!!!!!? Just amazing. I'm forwarding it to my baker friends--and happy 1st b-day, Connor!

  34. Absolutely amazing! Thank you so much for sharing the pictures and recipe. I'd love a chance to win the cookbook, thanks!


  35. From Connor's Granny:

    This made this grannies heart soar.

  36. This is unbelievable!! I just offered to make someone a fire engine cake and your design is fabulous! I need to make a cake that serves about 20, however. Any suggestions on making this cake bigger? Also, what type of food coloring do you use? I find I have a hard time getting my red to look as vibrant as yours does. Thx in advance for your help!!

  37. The cake is wonderful and the cookbook sounds great too!

  38. Hi Lauren -- I used Satin Ice fondant in red so that I wouldn't have to try and dye it myself. Way too messy, if you ask me!

    As for scaling it up? This cake yielded about 14 servings, give or take, you you'd want to make 1 1/2 times as much cake. If you made the cake just slightly wider (each piece)so instead of cutting the entire cake from one 1/2 sheet pan, bake the 1/2 sheet pan + 1 9 x 13 cake. Use the the 1/2 sheet pan and cut 3 rectangles and use the 9x13 pan to cut the squares from for the cab section. That would give you roughly 20-25 pieces, depending on how you cut them. I hope that helps!

  39. Wow! This cake is amazing! Congratulations!

    I'm also a fan of how it is gluten, dairy and egg free! Everyone in my family has sensitivities/intolerances to these three thing, so it's nice to see that there are many options out there. How high did you cake rise?

    Thanks for sharing!

  40. That sounds awesome -- One of my best friends is allergic to wheat and dairy and we love to cook together, so I would love to win this book! Also, a longtime reader after a friend of mine trned me onto it. I love your blog and the recipes that you've posted.


  41. Just discovered your blog, and I must say I'm thrilled I did! I am inspired by this fire engine cake. I have been asked to make a pickup truck cake for a retirement party. Your cake has given me some good ideas to work with. Love your detail. And vegan to boot! Thanks for sharing your talents.

  42. This is AMAZING!!! With each and every post, you make me smile ;-)

  43. That cake is simply amazing! I know the contest is closed but I just had to comment!

  44. THat is the cutest thing ever! I love the hose and how it spells his name..you're so creative!

  45. This is the most adorable cake ever!!!

  46. Wow! I am massively impressed by your decorating skills. The best I can hope for is getting the frosting on without pulling half the cake off the top in the process. Kudos! You've got some lucky kiddies...

  47. Aunt Julia. HOLY COW!!!! thats really all i can say. I remember when you where just starting up and you really didn't think it was going any where and look at it now. This fire engine cake is amazing i have no clue how you make it so perfect. now that i have a little more time on my hands im going to be starting to cook some of your recipes! im so excited and cant wait to start :) Love you!! Crystal

  48. This is the best fire engine cake i've seen so far, and i've been searching for my son Connor's 4th birhday for a while now. Fantastic idea with the hose.

  49. WOW!!! Im going to make this for my boyfriends graduation from fire academy, how much Fondant did you need to cover the cake???

  50. Hi Kelly,

    Honestly, I don't really know. I remember buying a 5 lb bucket of red and don't remember running out. I used a lot of gum paste for the ladder, and a good pound or two of black and probably around the same amount of white. I don't keep track unfortunately. I hope that helps! Good luck!


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