Fluffy yet moist and delicious, this 1-Bowl Vegan Gluten-Free Carrot Cake is a DELICIOUS dessert that's perfect for spring, Easter, or any time of the year! This amazing, HEALTHY cake is free of refined sugars and flour, and is a showstopper at any gathering. Make it for any occasion since it only takes 45 minutes from start to finish.
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Hey Internet, first of all, I feel it necessary to give you a disclaimer. I am not a pro at cake decorating. My most common way to decorate cakes is to cover them up with nuts or shredded coconut.
But with this cake, I decided it was time to step out of my comfort zone. And my opinion, it flopped a little. I am not super proud of the decorations.
However, I am SUPER proud with the flavor and texture of this cake, which is the only reason I'm sharing it with you all today.
Developing this Recipe
Carrot cake has been MY FAVORITE since I was a kid. I always joke that i have my dad's palate (with the exception of meat and alcohol, lol).
I grew up loving the desserts he did: carrot cake, coffee cake (my next venture), flaky pastries, or even just sometimes half a grapefruit.
So since I started baking about a year ago, and I failed a lot at that at first, I've been itching to try a carrot cake. And it worked.
I was most nervous about the oil. Most recipes I've seen online use oil, so I challenged myself to replace it.
My most common oil replacement is coconut cream, but I was still anxious about it turning out. I was thrilled when it did. Ran around the house like a mad scientist, screaming "It works, it works!"
Upset the dog, too (she doesn't like joy or any other expostulations).
I try to make gluten-free when I can. It can be a little challenging. I made this gluten-free by using oat flour. It will work with regular flour too (see the substitutions section).
Finally, this cake is only not nut-free because I put pecans in the batter and on top, but they are not necessary so feel free to leave out if avoiding nuts.
Alright let's get into this thing.
What Do I Need to Make Vegan Gluten-Free Carrot Cake?
Do NOT be scared off by the amount of ingredients you see here. Everything is just separated for clarity. It's actually a super easy recipe, I swear.
Of course you will need carrots. I used about a pound and a half and coarsely grated them using my food processor. You can certainly use a box or hand grater if you don't have a food processor with a grating blade.
You can also finely grate them, but I liked the texture of a light crunch in my cake. They will cook, so it won't be like chomping on raw veggies for dessert, LOL.
Instead of refined flour, I chose to use oats. I ground rolled oats in my Vitamix blender. High powered blenders should be able to grind oats finely, no problem.
But average blenders probably won't be able to get the oats fine enough. Even if you start with smaller quick cook oats, it is unlikely you'll end up with a fine powder which is what we are looking for here.
You can try it in your food processor if you have a decent one. I have a Breville (that I love and use almost daily) but most brands should be able to do it, I would think (but I have not tested this theory).
However, you can absolutely buy pre-ground oat flour. I recommend the finely ground variety.
How the Ingredients Work
To get the oat flour to rise properly, we're using a combination of both baking soda and baking powder. And to activate the baking soda, I included apple cider vinegar, which also adds a nice flavor to the batter.
Speaking of flavor, I used several things to flavor this batter: cinnamon, vanilla extract, raisins (optional), and the sweetener. Yes, the sweeteners were chosen with both health and flavor in mind.
Both coconut sugar and maple syrup are unrefined sugars and still have some nutrition in tact. They are still sugar, but this is cake so…
This is not a super sweet cake. It's not unsweet either… honestly it's right in the middle, pleasing a large variety of palates.
That said, please adjust the sugar to your liking, but maintain the 1:1 ratio. So if there's a cup of each coconut sugar and maple syrup in the recipe and you'd like it less sweet, reduce it by 1/4 cup of each (so use 3/4 cup each). Similarly, if you'd like it sweeter, add 1/4 cup of each to the recipe.
I bound everything using a few flax eggs. You could use chia eggs too or another vegan egg replacer.
For texture, I used a little xanthan gum to get that gluten-y texture that gluten-free flour often lacks. I also added raisins and chopped pecans into the recipe. The latter two items are optional, but I feel they add a lot to it.
What Substitutions Can I Make?
If you HATE raisins but do want a texture to the cake, try adding chopped dates or other dried fruit.
Similarly on a texture note, you can use regular flour or regular gluten-free flour with this recipe. If using regular GLUTEN flour, omit the xanthan gum. If using gluten-free flour, adjust the xanthan gum levels according to the amount in your gluten-free flour blend.
I have not tested this recipe with any other gluten-free flours like extra fine almond flour. I would expect it to work well with a half oat flour and half almond flour (I've made banana bread this way) but I can't verify it.
The coconut cream is an oil replacement. There are many other options that may work, such as unsweetened apple sauce (I'd recommend this one if coconut cream isn't what you're looking for), mashed banana, canned pumpkin (might be very tasty with the carrot, but it does have a flavor), and if you're fine with oil, that will work.
For sugar, if you don't care about refined sugar and want a sweet cake, I would absolutely recommend subbing the coconut sugar for organic cane sugar. You should still use another liquid sweetener otherwise you will have to mess with the wet to dry ratio.
Finally, feel free to play around with the spices! I didn't add any others besides cinnamon because I wanted the carrot to shine through, but this would also taste good with spices like allspice, cloves, etc.
Tips for Making Vegan Gluten-Free Carrot Cake
Sift your flour and sugar beforehand to remove lumps
Use only one bowl
Mix your wet ingredients in the bottom of a large bowl. Then add the dry ingredients, then the add-in
Sprinkle on the flour so that it covers the surface and sprinkle the rest of the dry ingredients (except the carrots, raisins, and pecans). Using your spatula, mix from the walls in, gently folding the batter until only SOME powder remains. Then fold in the carrots, raisins and pecans--the remaining powder will get mixed when you do it.
Lining the pan:
I highly recommend tracing the bottom of your cake pan on a piece of parchment paper, cutting it out (you may need to trim a little--I cut on the inside of the line to mitigate this issue), and placing it at the bottom of each pan.
Worried the cake won't come out of the pan?
Three things to help you get a cake out of a pan: Grease it beforehand (you can use coconut cream as the grease instead of oil); use a spring-form pan (which is easier to release); and run a butter knife around the perimeter between the pan wall and the cake should separate easier when you invert it onto a plate and then again onto a cooling rack.
Cool the cake before frosting
After baking, let the cakes rest 15-20 minutes in their pans on the stove top. Then carefully release them and invert them first onto plates (and take off the parchment paper!) and then again onto cooling racks right side up.
Want to make a sheet cake?
Use this same recipe in a deep 9 x 13 cake pan.
Want to make a single layer round cake?
Halve the recipe.
Useful Tools and Equipment for Making a Healthy Vegan Carrot Cake
For oil-free baking, there are a few tools I HIGHLY recommend, including:
- Spring-form cake pans (MUCH easier to release the cake when baking without oil)
- Parchment paper (to line the pans)
- Hand mixer to cream the sugar and coconut cream, then mix the rest of the wet ingredients (can also use a stand mixer or a strong whisk)
- Cooling racks to cool your cake entirely before frosting
I also recommend an angled icing spatula for applying the frosting (much easier than trying to use a butter knife or a spatula).
For decorating, if you're intimidated just sprinkle some nuts on top if you like, or use fresh flours or something. I kinda wish I would have done that, haha.
If you're great at decorating and you make this recipe, PLEASE tag me on social media, I would love to see your creations and I might just publish them on this post (giving you credit of course) (with your permission)!
For topping, I HIGHLY recommend my creamy protein-packed cream cheese frosting, but you can use any you like!
As always, I hope you love this recipe--I know I do. This cake is
- Subtly sweet
- Secretly health
- SUPER DELISH
Let me know in the comments below if you make it, tag me @Zardyplants on Instagram so I can see your beautiful recreations! If you tag me on IG, I will share your post in my stories :)
Also, one quick request: if you love how this recipe looks or tastes, please leave me a 5-star rating and a nice comment–ratings help more people find my recipes which helps me keep providing them! Thank you!