Grain-free, paleo carrot cake made with almond flour and sweetened with pure maple syrup. Top it with cashew-based vegan cream cheese frosting for a healthier take on the classic dessert.
By my calculations, there are two types of cake: carrot cake, and all the other cakes. This is not to say I’m not partial to all the other cakes…I totally dig them. But carrot cake? It’s an entirely different species of baked good in my mind. It is, in a word, the dopest of all the cakes.
For this reason, I rarely bake carrot cake without close supervision. For when I do so un-chaperoned, I eat half the cake in one standing (because the feeding is too aggressive to complete while peacefully seated). Anyone know what 1-½ cups of almond flour + ¼ cup of pure maple syrup feels like in your stomach organ? Bliss. Heavy, heavy bliss.
I’ve been paying close attention to all the healthy carrot cake recipes out there, and I’ve observed a couple of things: 1.) When grain-free and paleo, the recipe usually includes eggs (which is totally fine for non-vegan folks such as myself), and 2.) Most of the vegan carrot cake recipes I’ve found usually incorporate all-purpose flour or gluten-free all-purpose flour (which is totally fine for folks who eat grains). I haven’t come across a recipe that is grain-free, vegan, naturally sweetened, and primal or Whole30-friendly. Which is how this cake was born.
There’s so much going on with this cake, I’m going to break the whole thing down. It is…
- Gluten-free and grain-free
- Made with almond flour
- Good source of protein and omega 3s
- Refined sugar-free and naturally sweetened with pure maple syrup
- Topped with non-dairy, refined sugar-free vegan cream cheese frosting made with raw cashews and pure maple syrup
- A healthful alternative to your standard cake
The cashew-based vegan cream cheese frosting…this is nuts.
Get it? Because it’s made with nuts? I know, it’s a riot.
There’s no shortage of vegan cream cheese frosting recipes on the interweb, but most of them use vegan cream cheese (which is typically soy-based) and powdered sugar. To ramp up the health benefits of the recipe, a cashew-based “cream cheese” frosting sweetened with pure maple syrup keeps it ultra clean. Do note, some paleo people object to cashews, so if you have allergies or are following a strict diet, you can omit the frosting or use a whipped coconut milk topping instead.
To make the cake vegan, I used flax “eggs,” but you can also use your egg replacer of choice. Chia eggs, and/or applesauce will work marvelously. If you aren’t vegan, you can replace the ground flax seed and water in the recipe with three regular eggs. This will result in a fluffier cake. You can also use honey to replace the pure maple syrup in both the cake and the frosting if you’re fine with the recipe being non-vegan.
Grain-Free Vegan Carrot Cake
Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting:
Grain-Free Vegan Carrot Cake
- 3 tablespoons ground flax seed
- 9 tablespoons water
- 3 cups almond flour
- ¼ cup tapioca flour
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ cup pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar or lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh ginger grated
- 1 tablespoon vanilla bean scraped (or 1 vanilla extract)
- 1 cup shredded carrot
Prepare the Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting:
Soak the cashews in water overnight (or for at least 2 hours). Drain and transfer to a high-powered blender
Turn the blender on to break up the nuts and form a paste. You’ll need to stop the blender, scrape the sides and bottom, and re-start several times.
Leaving the blender on, slowly pour the pure maple syrup and lemon juice through the hole in the top of the blender cover (Note: if there’s no hole in the cover, you can simply pour the maple syrup and lemon juice into the blender when it’s stopped). Continue running the blender, stopping to scrape the sides, until a thick frosting results. I used a Blendtec Blender and let it run on the whisk setting for the full duration 6 times, scraping the sides between each time.
Transfer to a container and refrigerate until ready to use.
Prepare the flax eggs:
To make the flax eggs, combine 3 tablespoons of ground flax seed and 9 tablespoons of lukewarm water in a small bowl. Allow mixture to sit for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until very thick and egg-like.
Prepare the Grain-Free Carrot Cake:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and lightly oil a 6-inch springform pan (or cake pan).
Add the almond flour, tapioca flour, baking soda, sea salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom to a large mixing bowl. Stir together until well-combined (dry mixture).
In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, pure maple syrup, cider vinegar, grated ginger, vanilla bean scrapings (or vanilla extract), and shredded carrot (wet mixture).
Transfer the flax eggs and the wet mixture to the bowl with the dry mixture and stir well to combine. The batter should be very thick and pasty.
Transfer the cake batter to the prepared pan, and smooth it out to create an even layer.
Bake on the center rack of the oven for 32 to 36 minutes, or until cake tests clean. Allow cake to cool for 30 minutes.
Release the mold from the springform pan and gently transfer cake to a cutting board. Spread the vegan cream cheese frosting over the surface and sides of the cake and decorate with chopped pistachios. Cut slices and serve.