Grain-Free Vegan Carrot Cake (Paleo)

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.

Grain-Free Vegan Carrot Cake - made with almond flour, flax eggs, and naturally sweetened with pure maple syrup | #glutenfree #healthy #dessert #brunch


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.

Grain-Free Vegan Carrot Cake - made with almond flour, flax eggs, and naturally sweetened with pure maple syrup | #glutenfree #healthy #dessert #brunch

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

Grain-Free Vegan Carrot Cake - made with almond flour, flax eggs, and naturally sweetened with pure maple syrup | #glutenfree #healthy #dessert #brunch

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.

Grain-Free Vegan Carrot Cake made with almond flour and flax eggs. Refined sugar-free, paleo, and healthy

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.
Relish un-chaperoned.

Grain-Free Vegan Carrot Cake - made with almond flour, flax eggs, and naturally sweetened with pure maple syrup | #glutenfree #healthy #dessert #brunch

Grain-Free Vegan Carrot Cake

Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 1 carrot cake
Author: Julia


Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting:

Grain-Free Vegan Carrot Cake


Prepare the Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting:

  1. Soak the cashews in water overnight (or for at least 2 hours). Drain and transfer to a high-powered blender
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Transfer to a container and refrigerate until ready to use.

Prepare the flax eggs:

  1. 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:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and lightly oil a 6-inch to 7-inch spring form pan (or cake pan).

  2. 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).
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. Transfer the cake batter to the prepared pan, and smooth it out to create an even layer.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Recipe Notes

*Use almond oil or grapeseed oil in place of avocado oil

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  1. Kelli H (Made in Sonoma)

    This is perfect timing. I’m hosting Easter on Sunday for 14 people and really wanted to make a carrot cake. I’m supposed to be GF and DF for the next couple months so I was sad I was having a hard time finding a recipe that will work but this fits the bill! Thanks so much for sharing. Can’t wait to try it out!

  2. Sarah @ Making Thyme for Health

    I couldn’t agree more- carrot cake is the dopest of all cakes and this one looks un-freaking-believable. I thought grain-free and vegan cake only happened in my dreams but then you went and proved me wrong, you sneaky little grain-free magician, you. I want a whole one to all to maself!!

  3. Joanne

    Totally agree with your carrot cake perspective! It’s by far my favorite of all the cakes. Love that this is not only grain free but VEGAN. Way to appeal to all the dietary restrictions and THEN SOME.

  4. Stephanie

    I made this this past weekend and LOVED it! The only problem I had was that it didn’t bake all the way through, but was crispy on the top, so I’m wondering if I should maybe try a 9 inch pan next time? It might just be my oven. 🙁 Also, it caved in in the middle while cooling. Any tips on how to make sure this doesn’t happen? Bottom line though: while it didn’t look pretty, is WAS delicious! 🙂

      1. Julia Post author

        Hi Sonja,

        You could try baking it at a lower temperature for a longer period of time. I haven’t had that issue myself, so I can get back to you after I have tried to recreate it. Generally lower and longer can help with the sinkage, and possibly adding more almond flour. Hope this helps!

  5. David Summerbell

    I just want to let you know that I tried this today and absolutely loved it. I have been a vegan for almost 2 months and never knew this stuff could taste so good. While I still have cravings for a good steak once in a while, recipes like this keep me fro cheating so thanks so much :).

    1. Julia Post author

      You got it, David! I’m so happy you enjoyed the carrot cake! It’s definitely one of my favorite desserts. Thanks so much for the feedback! xo

  6. Melissa

    Hi Julia,
    Do you think I could replace the flax eggs with applesauce? I believe it would be 3/4 cup applesauce to replace the 3 flax eggs.

  7. Amy

    Hi, the link goes to a 9 inch springform pan so I just wanted to confirm what size pan to use. Is it 6 inch or 9 inch?

    1. Julia Post author

      Hi Amy! Sorry about the confusion! You can use anywhere between a 6-inch to 9-inch spring form pie pan (I used a 9-inch, but I think the cake looks prettier when it’s smaller. 😉 A 6, 7, or 8-inch would look great!) Let me know if you have any other questions! xo

  8. Jennie

    Hi! This is exactly what I’m looking for….except the almond flour. My babe has many aleried including almonds. Wanwa. Any reccomendations for a substitute?

    1. Julia Post author

      Hi Jennie, can he/she have hazelnut flour? If so, it’s a 1:1 replacement. If not, you may consider using coconut flour, although you’ll want to use about 1/5 to 1/4 of the amount, as coconut flour absorbs a great deal of liquid 😉 xo

  9. Kaitlyn

    Do you think adding pineapple and walnuts would be fine or then the recipe would require more flour? Also do you think this cake would do well as a 2 tier?

    1. Julia Post author

      Hi Kaitlyn,

      Adding pineapple will necessitate more flour, but adding walnuts will not. For instance, if you add 1/3 cup crushed pineapple (drained), I would decrease the oil to 1/4 cup instead of 1/2, and I would add more tapioca flour – I’d start with an additional 3 Tbsp and work up from there. You can add up to 1/2 cup chopped walnuts without needing to change other components in the recipe.

      I love the idea of turning this into a layer cake! Because the cake itself does not fluff up, you won’t be able to easily slice it in half if you use a 6-inch or 7-inch cake pan. So what I would recommend is using two smaller cake pans (say 4 to 5 inches) and splitting the cake batter between the two so that you end up with two cakes to layer together if that makes sense. I hope this helps! Have a great weekend and a happy Easter! xo

  10. Brandy

    What if you’re not vegan but you are grain free, dairy free, sugar free? Can eggs be used? How would that change it? Also, given that cashews are high in lectins, which can create a gastro response in some of us, is there another frosting option? Thanks for all that you do Julia!!

  11. Anna

    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!

    1. Julia Post author

      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


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