I am SO in love with this oil-free vegan carrot cake recipe. It's everything I want in a carrot cake. Moist (you know I love that word), lightly-sweetened, fragrantly spiced, flecked with sweet, juicy raisins, and made with oat flour. Oh, and it happens to be gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, whole grain, and full of whole food plant-based goodness.
I swear, it's the best vegan carrot cake I've ever had. Okay, that's a lie. It's actually the best carrot cake I've ever had, period. And, bonus, I feel good about eating it!
It's full of healthy ingredients like carrots (duh), raisins, oat flour, applesauce, walnuts, shredded coconut, and pineapple.
Wait, wait, wait. Pineapple?
Well, shit. I was hoping I could sneak that by you. Yeah, I was skeptical, too. But when the magical Somer McCowan suggests something, you listen!
Carrot cake is THE BEST kind of cake and I make one for my birthday every year. A few days before my birthday last year, I asked Somer if she had a good, not-terribly-unhealthy carrot cake recipe. She sent me this recipe from the NY Times and told me she veganizes it. I made some smart ass comment about being a carrot cake purist and said I was super opposed to pineapple in my carrot cake. But you know what? I don't think I had ever even had carrot cake with pineapple in it (I'm just an asshole), and I trust any recommendation from Somer, so I decided to go for it.
It was... incredible. Over the next couple months, I made the carrot cake six more times, each time tweaking and adjusting and adding and removing things, until I came to this version I'm giving you today. It has a pretty long list of ingredients, and it's not a quick recipe, but it is SO worth the effort. I hope you love it as much as I do.
(THANK YOU, SOMER!)
This recipe was originally posted in April 2021. After another year of making and improving the recipe, it was updated in April 2022 to add ingredient and process photos, improve the recipe measurements and instructions, and to remove the cream cheese frosting recipe and add it to its own new post. I hope this helps!
Let's talk about the recipe!
- This gluten-free vegan carrot cake recipe contains no eggs, no dairy, no wheat, and no oil or vegan butter.
- Oat flour makes it whole grain and it's packed full of fruits, veggies, and nuts. This is probably the most nutritious carrot cake you'll ever eat. Healthy vegan carrot cake for everyone! 🥳
- The unfrosted cake freezes well, so it's an easy make-ahead dessert. Just thaw and frost.
The full recipe is in the recipe card at the end of this post, but here's a quick look at the ingredients you'll need to make your very own oil-free vegan carrot cake with oat flour.
- oat flour (make sure yours is certified gluten free if you have a sensitivity)
- coconut sugar (date sugar or brown sugar would also work)
- ground cinnamon
- ground ginger
- baking soda
- ground flax seeds mixed with water to make a flax "egg"
- your favorite plant milk mixed with apple cider vinegar to make vegan "buttermilk"
- canned crushed pineapple
- chopped walnuts
- unsweetened shredded coconut
- unsweetened applesauce
- vanilla extract
Gather your ingredients, preheat your oven and prepare your cake pans. To get the right size of parchment to line the bottom of your round pans, place one pan on a sheet of parchment paper and trace around it. Then cut out the shape, cutting slightly inside the line you drew so you’re not transferring the ink or pencil lead to your cake.
Next, measure the circumference (the length around your pan) and height of your pan.
Cut a long strip of parchment (or multiple shorter strips) as wide as the height of your pan and an inch or two longer than the circumference so there is a slight overlap when you place the strip(s) inside the pan.
Repeat these steps for the second pan, obviously. 😉
Now grate your carrots (fine or coarse, it's up to you!) and chop your walnuts.
Put them in a big bowl with the rest of your add-ins.
Make your flax "egg" and vegan "buttermilk".
Next, you'll combine your dry ingredients.
Then combine your wet ingredients and pour them into the dry ingredients.
Once it's mixed, fold in the grated carrots, pineapple, walnuts, coconut, and raisins.
Pour the batter into your cake pans. If you're not using oil to hold your parchment paper in place, place a parchment circle in the bottom of the pan, then pour in half of the cake batter (about 3 cups) without spreading it. Add the parchment strips to the edges, one section at a time, and hold each strip in place with one hand while you use the other hand to spread the batter to the edge.
Put the cake in the preheated oven and enjoy the heavenly fragrance while it bakes. While the cake is baking, make the frosting.
When the cake is out of the oven, let it cool on a wire rack.
When it's completely cooled, cover the layers of carrot cake in creamy, dreamy vegan cream cheese frosting. I like the rustic carrot cake look, so I leave the edges unfrosted.
- Make sure you use canned crushed pineapple in 100% pineapple juice. The texture and juice both play a part in the recipe, so make sure you get the right stuff!
- Save time by using a food processor to grate your carrots and chop your walnuts. I use the large grater for the carrots, but if you don't want big carrot pieces, you can use the fine grater.
- Make sure the cake is completely cooled before you frost it or the frosting will make a melty mess. You can even split the process into two days by wrapping the room-temperature cake in plastic wrap and refrigerating it overnight before you frost it. The cake can be frosted straight out of the fridge.
FAQs & Substitutions
How do I make carrot cake cupcakes instead of cake?
As written, this recipe will make 18 cupcakes. Make the batter as directed and scoop a rounded ¼ cup (or about 75g) into each cupcake paper. Bake cupcakes for 30 minutes and cool them completely before frosting.
Can I make nut-free carrot cake? Or raisin-free carrot cake?
The walnuts can be left out and this carrot cake is nut-free. Some people with tree nut allergies have problems with coconut, so you can omit the shredded coconut, if needed.
The raisins add sweetness, so if you leave them out, I suggest adding an additional ¼ cup (52g) of coconut sugar to the recipe.
Why is there pineapple in carrot cake?
Pineapple adds moisture and sweetness to carrot cake. This is especially helpful since we're not using oil or a bunch of refined cane sugar in this recipe.
If you make this oil-free vegan carrot cake recipe and become the healthy carrot cake champion amongst your friends and family, please come back and tell me all about it in the comments (while you're down there... how 'bout rating the recipe?). And since I'm already sitting here barking orders at you, share a photo of your cake and tag me on Instagram, too! 🤓
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