On Turning 25 + Vegan Carrot Pistachio Cake

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[Photo of me on the last day of me being 24 years old – AKA earlier this week]

I’m currently on vacation in the most luxurious cabin on a small lake in Wisconsin. It’s Wyatt’s aunt and uncle’s cabin and can house anywhere between 12-15 people so we are feeling like we’re living in a mansion here by ourselves. It’s been a blast with a mix of hiking in the sunshine and reflecting / reading during the rain. With my 25th birthday being this week, I’ve been thinking an awful lot lately about what getting older means to me and if I’m still as terrified of it as I was at 22. Yes, I’m horrified by the thought of having to go to the doctor every few months to keep my body from falling apart and of losing my incredible metabolism but, at the same time, I’m also excited about continuing to mature and figure out this crazy thing we call living.

I spent the long 8 hour car ride up here reflecting on how my life has changed since I first stepped into my 20s five years ago and would like to share some of the things I’ve learned along the way with you:

1. You are who you surround yourself with. This one was something that became so clear to me when I dropped my druggie high school friends for highly creative and motivational college buddies. Spending a Saturday night hosting a potluck and playing board games was so much more rewarding than playing video games and getting drunk in friends’ basements. I learned that there are people out there that do get as excited as me about trying a new vegetable and not just about their newest weed blend. Going from living with people who spend every night hosting “ragers” to living with my highly motivated musician boyfriend was also an eye opener. He spends every extra waking moment working on music which only motivated me to work on my passions as I see him dedicate his entire self to what he loves and wants to become.

2. You don’t have to like everyone. This one was hard for me – it felt like if I was going to be around someone then I really wanted to be their friend. I’ve come to realize that putting a lot of energy into trying to force a friendship is a lot of wasted time and it’s okay to find someone completely talented and work with them on a professional level without feeling the needs to go get drinks with them afterwards or on the weekends.

3. It’s not about where you are but what you do while being there. I was, like every young ‘adult’ getting ready to graduate from college, obsessed with moving to the coast. I was sure that I was meant to move to Portland or San Francisco after I received my degree and never come back to Indiana. However, when the time came to move – my mother talked me into visiting these places for a few days first to make sure I wasn’t making a mistake. She, like all parents, was nervous about me moving to a new place without a job (market) when I had already been offered a full time job in Indiana. When I actually flew out there, I realized that San Fran was much too large for me and Portland…well Portland was amazing (ha). Despite Portland being an amazing place to visit, I spent a few days with Wyatt’s inviting friends which showed us a blast of a time by taking us to some great dive bars and brunch spots. I was totally in love with Portland but was a little bit taken aback by the idea of me in Portland. Wyatt’s friends had been living there for a few years now but were working as servers and in resteraunts. Back in Indiana, we had a full fledge career already starting in the industry (music industry) of our dreams. We decided to stay in Bloomington for a year to test it out and have been here since for 3 years. I’ve watched many of my friends lose interest in their passions as they are gobbled up by large city activities and I feel lucky knowing that I’m able to put hours into VV and Driftless since I don’t have a 2 hour commute a day or rent that costs 3/4 of my salary.

4. Naive can be good. It sounds silly but I’m so greatful that I dived head first into some big adventures without realizing what they would entail. For example, if I had any idea the learning curve and constant work that went into making a magazine then Driftless would have most likely never released an issue. The truth can be daunting so just going for that big dream and you’ll figure out the rest along the way.

5. You make your own opportunities. I often time have trouble sitting still and watching TV when I know I could be working on a blog post that may be the post that gets me noticed by that oh-so-famous blogger. Or I could be shooting a new article to be featured in a print issue of one of my favorite independent magazines. It took several years for VV to get off the ground but persistence with constantly photographing and recipe developing puts me one step closer to my dreams everyday. Little victories like being interviewed for Food & Wine, being nominated by Saveur Magazine, and getting motivational emails from some of my favorite bloggers are all just the small victories that help push me towards growing this little place and I know that these little victories didn’t happen because of luck – I worked my ass off for them! This also means that hopefully more opportunities will come as I only continue to develop my skills more.

These are a handful of big picture maturaties that I’ve had to discover for myself over the last few years. Although I’ve grown immensely since turning 20, I am pretty excited to see what else I learn over the last 5 years of my twenties. I’m sure life has some pretty insightful things planned for the next 5 years but I’d really love to work on growing the following:

1. Learn to lose control. I really struggle with needing to be in control (of my daily routine, my blog, my body, my attitude) at all times and get really upset when things are out of my control (even little things like the weather not going as I hoped really bums me out).

2. Learn balance. Right now I am ALL in. I go from work to magazine to blog to bed. It’s great and I stay constantly engaged but it sure would be great for me to be able to…you know…watch some TV or something without my mind wondering to my next to-do list.

Now, as I mentioned, it’s my birthday (week) so let’s eat cake!!

Vegan Carrot Pistachio Cake recipe below:


5 from 1 vote
Vegan Carrot Pistachio Cake
adapted from Love & Lemons
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Author: Shelly Westerhausen
  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup non-dairy plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or seeds from 1 vanilla bean)
  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil , melted
For the cream cheese frosting:
  • 8 ounces vegan cream cheese
  • 8 ounces earth balance (or regular butter if you aren’t looking to make vegan)
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • ~1 Tablespoon non-dairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (or seeds from a a vanilla bean)
  • 1/2 cup shopped pistachios
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and spray or line two 8 inch round cake pans. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices, and salt in one bowl. Whisk together the yogurt, sugar, apple sauce, vanilla, and coconut oil in another. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into it. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ones until everything is combined and then fold in the grated carrots. Divide the dough between your two prepared pans and stick in the oven for 30 minutes (or until a toothpick is inserted into the center and comes out clean).
  2. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
  3. To make the frosting: Beat all the ingredients together until light and fluffy. Add more milk if it ends up stiff. Divide the frosting into 3 parts and use 1 as the center layer, one on the sides, and the remaining part for the top. Top with crusted pistachios and enjoy!



*A few notes:

– I made this cake vegan because it was my birthday and it was what I wanted. Feel free to swap out the non-dairy items with organic dairy items if you’d prefer to.

– Also, feel free to add in an extra 1/2 cup shopped pistachios into the batter (throw them in the same time you put in the grated carrots) if you’d like the added texture in your cake. I stuck with keeping mine on the outside but that is just my personal preference.





  • seosborn
    September 6, 2014

    this cake is beautiful and I hope you have a wonderful birthday! you have always been a huge inspiration to me since I started cooking, and even more so now that we’ve started to “know one another” via Instagram 🙂 keep doing what you’re doing, girl!

    • Shellywest
      September 17, 2014

      The feeling is mutual – I love following you along on instagram! : )

  • Sana Javeri Kadri
    September 6, 2014

    Thanks for the honesty, and the deep insight. As a 20 year old going out into the world, this is many of the things I most needed to hear. xo

    • Shellywest
      Sana Javeri Kadri
      September 17, 2014

      Yes! Glad to hear it and hope I was able to help…even if just a little!

  • Baking Magique
    September 6, 2014

    So beautiful! You’re posts are always so inspiring. <3 Congratz!!!

  • renee (will frolic for food)
    September 6, 2014

    although I LOVE this recipe — and I’ve been looking for a badass vegan icing recipe, in particular. so I’ll be making this for my birthday which is 1.5 weeks away — I love your insights even more. I turn 25 soon too (happy birthday fellow virgo workaholic!) and i feel like i’ve been learning all of those things, too. Do we live the same life?! keep living your beautiful life. you’ve obviously been making wonderful choices, and the blog is just so completely gorgeous. you’re going to (and are already) do great things with your life. sometimes it’s hard to remember that we’re young! we have time to build our careers and figure out life stuff. 🙂 best wishes or a beautiful 25th year!

    • Shellywest
      renee (will frolic for food)
      September 17, 2014

      Your words are always so kind, Renee!! I love hearing that we are so similar and in the same boat — glad we are friends and are able to figure this crazy blog world out together!

  • Grace
    September 6, 2014

    You constantly motivate and inspire me. You’re wise beyond your years. Beautiful and thoughtful post, lovely cake. Happiest of birthdays to you!

  • Ordinary Blogger
    September 6, 2014

    What an inspiring list of birthday lessons. Your cake looks lovely… bookmarking it to try soon! Happy birthday!

  • Millie | Add A Little
    September 7, 2014

    The cake is fantastic – looks so delicious and love the post – the photography and the meaningful words!

  • Alanna Taylor-Tobin
    September 7, 2014

    Happy happy birthday, lady! What a beauty of a cake, and the flavors sound incredible. Your post is making me want to get the heck out of San Francisco and move somewhere where making rent isn’t such a struggle. (Somewhere like Portland, haha.) I’m loving your insights as well as these beautiful, overcast watery shots. And your groovy site design!

    • Shellywest
      Alanna Taylor-Tobin
      September 17, 2014

      Maybe we should just both move to Portland and create a blog co-op or some other blog related way to make a living…eh eh?

  • luckystaranise
    September 7, 2014

    Happy birthday – and congrats on all the good decisions you took and on your wonderful blog. So inspiring!

  • Amy
    September 7, 2014

    Where is your shirt from? It’s lovely! And the cake looks so good…om nom nom!

    • Shellywest
      September 14, 2014

      It was a birthday gift from Urban Outfitters and it’s SO cozy – I highly recommend it! : )

  • Sarah | The Sugar Hit
    September 7, 2014

    Dude, I am also a Virgo, about to turn 24. And all I can say is, firstly, why are we all bloggers? And secondly, this post is awesome. You can so tell how much you put into your work and you get every damn bit of success that you get out of it. Go baby!

    • Shellywest
      Sarah | The Sugar Hit
      September 14, 2014

      For real. Virgos just must be super hard working and have food addictions or something. ha!

  • molly yeh
    September 8, 2014

    eee!!!!! happy birthday shelly!!!!!!!!! welcome to 25!! YAYAYAYY! beautiful words, beautiful cake! have so much fun at that cabin, it sounds like a DREAM!

  • Erika
    September 8, 2014

    Happy Birthday! Lovely cake to celebrate and beautiful words.

  • Kathryn
    September 9, 2014

    Happy happy birthday week! I love your perspective on 25; it’s so inspiring and so full of grace.

  • Abi Karthi
    September 9, 2014

    Oh my goodness, I’ve been looking for an eggless cake recipe. I find it so hard to make cakes without eggs that aren’t crumbly! Looking forward to trying this recipe. I’ve just posted a taco salad recipe on my blog, please check it out!


  • Katie @ 24 Carrot Life
    September 11, 2014

    Happy belated birthday!! I think I need this cake- I’ve been doing a no dairy experiment for the past two weeks and I’m going to continue for a bit more to see how it makes me feel. Meanwhile…give me all the vegan cake!

  • Renee | AFS
    September 12, 2014

    I love this post. The recipe sounds amazing and the cabin sounds great but those what-I’ve-learned things that you’re sharing really affect me. You’re so inspirational and I admire those things that you’ve gone through to be where you are right now. Hopefully I will reach a point like that too one day. Keep up this amazing work and happy birthday!

  • Sini | My Blue&White Kitchen
    September 13, 2014

    The happiest birthday to you, Shelly! Your time at the cabin sounds wonderful; enjoy every single minute in the wilderness. Also, loved your thoughts on turning 25 and what you’ve learned along the way. So much wisdom. Thanks for sharing. xoxo

  • Kylie
    September 14, 2014

    This cake sounds super amazing. I love what you wrote about what you have learned so far… if you ever come back to Portland, let me know! Happy 25th, I freaked out a little when I turned 25 this year. Quarter-life crisis vibes all too real. But cheers to another year of growing wiser!

  • Kelsey
    September 22, 2014

    Happy Birthday, Shelly. I love your field notes and found myself smiling and nodding along as I read. You are a beautiful seeker. I love that about you. Cheers to 25 and every scrape, bruise, laugh, and triumph that got you here today. Big love from CO.

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  • spicesandspatulas
    January 29, 2015

    I can’t stop reading through your blog! The photos are beautiful, the recipes look incredible, and your writing is thoughtful. So glad I came across your corner of the internet. This is a rad looking cake, I’m definitely going to try out the recipe this weekend.

  • Nina
    August 12, 2017

    Hi, thanks for the recipe. Do you think I could use canola (known as Rapeseed here in UK) instead of coconut oil.

    Also to keep the saturated fat down I was wondering about a glaze icing on the top – any ideas? I was wondering if an orange blossom water icing would work or a lemon icing. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    Also, does your cookbook contain a lot of butter/coconut oil? I have to keep my daily saturated fat down. If there are subs that would be great, however, if most of the recipes are high in fat then perhaps it’s not for me. Thanks for any reply to my questions.

    • Shellywest
      August 14, 2017

      You could definitely use canola or olive oil in this recipe! Also, orange blossom water icing sounds super lovely and would pair nicely with the earthy carrots for sure.

      I usually tend to use olive oil and butter in my cookbook but you could substitute canola oil in almost every case. I hope that helps and thanks for following along!!

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