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.
What’s the texture like?
This vegan carrot cake recipe is not fluffy the way a regular carrot cake is.
It turns out dense, somewhat similar to a cookie bar (yet softer than a cookie bar). In essence, the texture is difficult to describe, but the flavor is on point with regular carrot cake.
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 paleo. 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.
Vegan Carrot Cake Recipe Highlights:
- 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 internet, 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, make my Paleo Carrot Cake or my Low-Carb Carrot Cake (for a keto version).
- 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.
Also try my Paleo Strawberry Crumble, Paleo Cranberry Orange Vegan Scones, or my Paleo Apple Pie Bars, all of which are both grain-free and vegan!
Grain-Free Vegan Carrot Cake
Grain-Free Vegan Carrot Cake is perfect for grain-free, dairy-free, egg-free eaters!
Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 2 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight
- 1/3 cup pure maple syrup*
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice**
- Pinch sea salt
- Pinch ground cinnamon, optional
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 avocado oil, see note*
- ½ cup pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, or lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
- 1 vanilla bean, scraped (or 1 tsp 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 Fahrenheit and lightly oil a 9-inch spring form 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.
*Use almond oil, coconut oil, or grapeseed oil in place of avocado oil
If using a smaller cake pan, you'll need to bake the cake longer until it is set up. Try baking it at 350 degrees F for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the cake tests clean.
Nutrition InformationYield 1 Serving Size 1 of 10
Amount Per Serving Calories 512Total Fat 34gUnsaturated Fat 0gCarbohydrates 40gFiber 4gSugar 22gProtein 14g
Thursday 29th of December 2022
All I can say is WOW! My friend is grain free and I'm vegan and I made this for her and was so shocked at how good it was! I added yellow raisins, nuts and coconut but stuck to the rest of the recipe. I will definitely make this again! It held together beautifully!
Thursday 29th of December 2022
Great success! I'm so thrilled to hear you and your friend enjoyed the cake! Love the addition of yellow raisins, nuts and coconut! Sounds magnificent! Thanks so much for swinging back around to let me know! xo
Thursday 13th of January 2022
Thank you thank you!! This amazing recipe helped make our Christmas so magical. As I added all the spices and the abundant amount of fresh ginger and carrots I thought, “the kids probably won’t touch this, but hopefully my husband and I enjoy it.“ Well, my kids devoured it! We all did! I’m just amazed at this recipe. I love the abundance of the spices and fresh ingredients and how it comes together to make for a true culinary experience. It’s a joy to make! I remember despising carrot cake in the past because it was so dry and had a strange spicy flavor, but not this one. It’s perfection. We served it with dairy free whipped cream. Muah! I’m making it again tonight and my kids jumped for joy! :)
Monday 17th of January 2022
I'm so thrilled to hear you and your family enjoy the cake, Jenn! Thanks so much for the thoughtful note and the sweet words. I love the recipe as well - it's just one of those feel-good treats! Much love to you and your family! :D xoxoxo
Monday 8th of November 2021
This carrot cake is delicious! I have made it several times. One time I added about 3/4 cup of unsweetened coconut and it was delicious. My favorite additions are raisins and nuts - so good! However, I do not top it with frosting, but I may do that during the holidays.
Tuesday 9th of November 2021
That's so great to hear, Brenda! I find the cake to be so inviting without frosting too, so I'm thrilled you're enjoying it. Thanks so much for the sweet note! xoxo
Thursday 5th of November 2020
I've been vegan for more than 16 years and let me tell you, this is the best cake ever. For me there are two types of cake: chocolate cake and carrot/pumpkin cake. I am notoriously bad at baking and when I am feeling adventurous enough to try a new recipe I mostly fail. I've never eaten a cake with no grains but this one looked delicious, so I wanted to give it a try (without putting in jeopardy my cashews, therefore no frosting). I made some variations to lower the calories and increasing the proteins... and it turned out brilliantly! I love its flavour and texture. I can't thank you enough for this recipe!
Thursday 5th of November 2020
This is such an encouraging and sweet comment, Anna, thank you! I'm so happy you like the cake and were able to make some changes to make it better fit your nutrient profile :) Many thanks for the lovely comment! Hope you're staying well! xoxo
Friday 22nd of November 2019
Any substitute for the tapioca?
Sunday 24th of November 2019
Hi Jennifer! You can do arrowroot, potato flour, or more almond flour. xo