Try This Vegan Carrot Cupcake Recipe, by the Creator of Lael Cakes
If you find yourself on the website gallery or the Instagram page of Lael Cakes, a Brooklyn-based boutique cake studio, your eyes will feast upon one extravagant tiered cake after another. Some are adorned with colorful flowers, others have juicy fruits cascading down the layers, and then some look like straight-up art pieces with their stunning, painted-on patterns.
As you take in all the gorgeous, detailed handiwork, what you might not realize is that all of these cake creations are organic and gluten-free—and perhaps more surprising than that, they’re all available as vegan options.
Emily Lael Aumiller, the visionary behind Lael Cakes, started her business to provide high-end, custom cakes to vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free clients. This idea was spun from the fact that she has struggled with food allergies of her own. Aumiller spent most of her 20’s dealing with debilitating eczema when at last she found that food could be her path toward relief.
With the guidance of a naturopath, Aumiller began an elimination diet to figure out what was at the root of her body’s reactions. Reflecting on this, she explained that it’s easy to feel down when you feel like your diet is a constant science experiment. Eventually, she discovered sensitivities that allergy tests had missed. Red meat, dairy, gluten, refined sugars, saturated fats, and artificial dyes were the culprits behind her eczema and gut flare-ups.
Aumiller found her solution in eating a mostly plant-based diet, but her food sensitivities weren’t just affecting her personal life. A graduate of the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont, Aumiller worked as a pastry cook a freelance sugar sculptor, and a cake decorator before opening Lael Cakes. During that time, she found that she couldn’t even handle cakes made with traditional ingredients, let alone eat them. So she began developing cakes that were free of everything she herself was allergic to.
She spent years testing—and making plenty messes late into the night—to create cake and icing recipes that would work structurally. For example, without any gluten or eggs, she needed to find other ways to make the cakes stable enough to stand up on tiers. The trouble with finding a butter substitute that had the distinct flavor of butter was “near impossible.”
Eventually, she found her perfect mixes and ingredients, and in 2011, she opened Lael Cakes, her cake studio devoted to vegan and gluten-free desserts. Today, Lael makes all nature of cakes: Wedding, birthdays and more.
While she has her rotation of go-to ingredients, Aumiller still leaves plenty of room for creativity. “One of my favorite aspects of baking is the constant playful experimenting it takes to create things from scratch,” she says. “I think this type of fresh playfulness shows up in the flavors and designs.”
“Our job is to create that delicate balance—whether the cake has rustic or smooth icing, decorated with intricate sugar work or fresh fruit and edible flowers from the farmer’s market—to create a scrumptious, elegant work of art.”
Those who wish to order from Lael Cakes can sample a few different cake-and-icing flavor combinations. Then, Aumiller will create unique sketches based on the special event’s aesthetic. She can begin sugar sculpture months in advance but baking takes place two to three days before the event to make sure the cake is fresh. Each cake is one-of-a-kind.
Throughout her time dreaming up cakes with innovative ingredients and unique flavors, Aumiller has catered to some celebrity clientele, like creating Penn Badgley and Domino Kirke's vegan, gluten-free wedding cake.
Aumiller loves making someone’s wedding cake dreams come true. She had a client who had been vegan for 15 years and assumed she wouldn’t get to have a traditional wedding cake. Then, this client wound up marrying someone gluten-free and thought if a traditional cake wasn’t out of the question before, it would be now. Enter Aumiller who made three flavor combinations for their vegan and gluten-free wedding—where guests teased that they were going to smuggle in “real” food in, but ended up coming back for more servings of cake.
“A great dessert should tell a story," she says. "And that's always what I try and do.”
Vegan Orange-Carrot Cupcakes
Makes 12 standard or 24 mini
I created this cake one summer for a bride who wanted to offer carrot cake to her guests but was nervous it would be too heavy on such a hot day. It was such a hit that it’s now a favorite among my clients. It still has the rich, dense texture of a traditional carrot cake, but it’s much lighter without the usual spices, brown sugar, coconut flakes, and nuts.
- 1 tablespoon golden flaxseed meal
- 3 tablespoons warm water
- 2 cups sifted flour (substitute gluten-free 1 to 1 flour)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon sifted baking soda
- 1 teaspoon sifted baking powder
- 1 teaspoon sifted arrowroot
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1¼ cups carrot juice
- ¾ cup safflower oil (substitute coconut or vegetable oil)
- 1 tablespoon orange oil or extract (substitute vanilla extract)
- ¼ teaspoon white rice vinegar
- Grated zest of 1 to 2 oranges
- 1 large carrot, finely grated
- 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Line the cupcake pan with paper liners.
- In a small bowl, combine the flaxseed meal and warm water. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the gluten-free flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, arrowroot, and salt. Mix on low speed until incorporated.
- In a separate bowl, combine the carrot juice, safflower oil, orange oil, and vinegar. Add the flaxseed meal mixture.
- With the mixer on medium speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Scrape down the sides and mix on medium-high until all the ingredients are incorporated and the batter is smooth about 2 minutes.
- Fold in the orange zest, carrot, and ginger to ensure they are evenly incorporated. (I’ve found that if you add these ingredients any sooner, they clump in balls.)
- Scoop the batter into the paper-lined cupcake wells, filling each ¾ full.
- Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into one of the cupcakes, comes out clean.
- Let the cupcakes cool completely. Eat while warm or store in an airtight container.