Healthy Carrot Cake (Oil-free, WFPB, Vegan)
Anytime of year is a good time for carrot cake in my opinion, but it’s especially in-season in the spring. Light, sweet, fresh and healthy, just like a 70 degree day after a long, heavy winter.
This cake is particularly healthy and particularly does not taste like it! It is moist and full of carrot cake flavor–cinnamon, ginger, walnuts, raisins, carrots, pineapple, coconut. YUM!
I recently made it for my husband’s grandmother’s 81st birthday. She can’t have dairy and was beyond thrilled to be able to enjoy a dairy-free cake. The whole family loved it and didn’t even seem to suspect it was “healthy.”
I wanted to make a white frosting for beauty’s sake, but most healthy sweeteners are brown. I used coconut sugar for the frosting, which gives it a darker color, but it is SO GOOD it’s worth it. You could, of course, compromise and use your favorite cream cheese frosting, but this frosting is much healthier and still delicious! The vinegar even adds a little tang like cream cheese.
This recipe makes two 8-inch round cakes, or 12 cupcakes/muffins. You could also easily double the recipe for an elegant 4-layer cake, since the layers are not very tall.
Use strips of wax paper under the cake while you frost it to keep the plate clean.
As for those cute carrot rosettes on top, just use a peeler to make some ribbons. Then roll them up and crowd them together in a small bowl of ice water. After about 10 minutes they will hold their shape pretty well, and the frosting of the cake also holds them in place.
Cupcakes are just as delicious and so cute! I recommend this for an Easter dessert (or breakfast or brunch—it’s healthy enough!), Mother’s Day for those health-conscious mothers in your life, or a regular Monday night. Good luck not eating it all in one sitting!
I’m a big fan of carrot cake things. If you are, too, check these out:
Overnight Carrot Cake Steel Cut Oats
What I did when my husband brought home 25 pounds of carrots
The perfectly moist and sweet carrot cake that is conveniently also full of carrots, pineapple, applesauce, walnuts, coconut and raisins.
- 1.5 cups grated carrot
- 1 cup crushed pineapple, undrained (or 1 cup finely chopped mango + 3/4 cup fruit juice such as apple juice)
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup applesauce
- 1/4 cup raisins (optional)
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or sunflower seeds (optional)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1.5 cups whole wheat flour
- 3/4 cup coconut sugar, maple syrup, or date sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1 cup cashews, soaked for 30 minutes in hot water
- 1/3 cup coconut cream (thick part at the top of can of full-fat coconut milk)
- 1.5 tsp apple cider vinegar (adds tanginess like cream cheese)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 4 tbsp powdered sugar, powered coconut sugar, honey, or maple syrup (You can make powdered coconut sugar by blending up regular coconut sugar)
- 1/8 tsp salt
If making the frosting, start soaking the cashews.
Trace two 8-inch cake pans onto parchment paper and cut out. Line bottoms of pans with parchment and grease the sides. To make 12 cupcakes instead, grease a muffin pan. Set pans aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Stir wet ingredients together.
In a separate bowl, whisk dry ingredients together. Add wet ingredients, and stir until well-combined. Do not over-stir.
Pour batter evenly into the two cake pans. Bake at 350 for 28-30 minutes, until middle bounces back if you press on it with your finger.
Let cool completely and remove from pans. Frost with your favorite cream cheese frosting, or the frosting listed below.
Decorate with chopped walnuts or pumpkin seeds, flaked coconut, grated carrots, or carrot curls.
While cake is baking, combine all the ingredients in a high-speed blender or small bullet/twister jar and blend until very smooth. Let chill for 30 minutes, then blend again. The longer it chills, the less runny it will be. This frosting is slightly runny in nature, not ideal for piping, but delicious! Using coconut sugar or maple syrup will make the frosting a light brown color. Honey or regular powdered sugar makes it more white.
Had this tonight for Mother’s Day and was blown away! Soooo tasty. This is definitely going to become a Mother’s Day tradition! Just for fun, as we were eating it, we looked up a generic recipe for your typical carrot cake. It was loaded with so much sugar, butter, oil, eggs, and non-whole-wheat flour.
This recipe is whole wheat, no oil/butter, no junk plus a whole lot of goodies. It was perfectly sweet and spiced to perfection. Would highly recommend! The frosting was fabulous as well. I used the maple syrup option. Thank you, Faith!
This is the sweetest comment! Thank you so much! Yes, most recipes (even vegan recipes) are so full of oil and sugar—-it’s hard to compete with them but I’m so happy to have done it with this one.Thanks again!
Hi Faith. I don’t like coconut can it be substituted for anything else?
You can look up other plant based frostings to use, such as a cashew frosting. You can just leave the coconut out of the cake.
This was super good! I made it with gluten-free flour and it still turned out fantastic!
Good to know! So glad you liked it. Thank you, Jill!
I am allergic to pineapple. If I omit that, would I need to add additional liquid? What would you suggest?
I think you could just skip it, but it might not be as moist. If you have some fresh or frozen mango you could finely chop, that would be a great replacement!
Thanks! I may try the mango. Sounds great!
Hi! I am about to make this cake, but I wonder if I get it right that you put the two cake layers on top of each other and then decorate? It’s not that you will make 2 separate cakes right?
That’s right—it makes one two-layer cake. I’d say it serves about 4-6 people. Let me know how it turns out!
Fantastic! This may be my favorite new WFPB cake. Since I love mangoes, I went with the suggestion to switch the pineapples for chopped mango pieces, and since there wasn’t the juice that the undrained can of pineapples would have had, I added 3/4 cup of apple juice to give it moisture. Next time, I’ll use maple syrup for the sugar, instead of the dry sugar. The cake is a great texture, rich, moist and flavorful. Thanks for a great recipe!
Mango version also due to daughters sensitivity to pineapple. Wish I had read your adjustments as my cake was dry. It needed more moisture. Flavor was good just very dry.
I updated the recipe to add some fruit juice if using mango. Thank you for the feedback to help me perfect the recipe and accommodate sensitivities/allergies!
I recently switched to WFPB and was craving something sweet, but didn’t want to cave and eat something unhealthy. I found this recipe and I’m SO glad I did! I did some modifications based on what I had. I had a fresh pineapple so I pulsed it in a blender and measured out the amount since I didn’t have canned. I also had a pouch of baby food fruit puree that I subbed for the applesauce, as well as whole grain spelt flour for the whole wheat flour. Even with these substitutions it came out very moist and satisfying. It was delicious! Thank you so much!
So good to hear! I almost always seem to make modifications based on what I have, too.
Do you think this would work without the shredded coconut?
Yep! You can usually omit the coconut in my recipes, I just try to add as much flavor and texture when I’m developing a recipe so they’re appealing to those who are used to full-fat desserts. If you’re used to low-fat baking, you’ll still love it. I often leave it out when I don’t have any.
AMAZING recipe! Swapped the coconut sugar with date sugar (basically dried and grounded dates) to be fully WFPB, and wheat flour by 2/3 buckwheat and 1/3 kamut. Amazing result!
So good to hear! Thank you for letting us know those swaps worked well!
Hi there Faith! Quick question for you – would using whole wheat pastry flour be okay??
So excited to try this recipe 😀
Totally! I’ve used it before. Probably the best choice!
Brand new to baking, so I have a bit of a newbie question! Could I use this amazing recipe, but cook it in a bundt pan? I don’t know if ingredients and/or proportions tend to need to change based on pan type! I love the ingredient list of this recipe and cannot wait to make this my very first made from scratch cake- thank you!
I don’t think it would fill up a budnt pan, and it’s also not super light and fluffy for that type of pan. It’s a little bit weighed down by the carrots and pineapple. Delicious flavor, but probably not a perfect budnt cake recipe. Let me know what you try, though!
Faith! This recipe is incredible! I don’t know how you are able to healthify all my favorite foods. This is officially my new go to birthday cake. Thank you for sharing your delicious creations! I’m your biggest fan 🙂
I’m so glad you liked it! Yay! You are so sweet, thank you for being a fan! 🙂
Quick question. May I substitute wheat flour for almond flour or other type of gluten free flour? Thanks for the recipe, I cant wait to try it out.
Yep, I think almond flour, buckhweat flour or oat flour would work well. Might not be quite as fluffy, but still yummy!
Planning on cooking this soon but I was thinking of a 9 x 13 pan instead of the 2 rounds. Faith have you tried it in a 9×13 or have any of your followers? Would love a tip on the timing and if it changed the baking time?
I think that should work well, just bake maybe 5 minutes longer, and check to see if it’s firm in the middle? Should be good!
Hello! Thanks for this great recipe. I’m looking forward to making it for Thanksgiving. Is it best the same day, or could I safely make it ahead this week and store it in the fridge? Thanks for your advice!
I think it would store well in the fridge for 3-4 days!
Hi Faith! My son requested carrot cake for his birthday today, and I was happy to find your recipe. It wasn’t sure it was going to work, because the wet ingredients looked like a salad, not really wet and gooey like you would think it should. But when I stired the wet with the dry, some kind of magic happened and it made cake! The finished cake was super yummy, everyone gave it two thumbs up. I love that it has so much shredded carrots. Just any FYI, I used my 9-inch round cake pans, and increased the recipe by 50%. It came out great! This recipe is definitely a keeper. I can tell that it would be pretty forgiving for switching out ingredients. I usually use dates for sweetening, but I am out of then, so I used the coconut sugar. Next time I will try it with dates, I’m sure it will be just as delicious.
Hi! I am going to make this for Mother’s Day, but only have 9 inch cake pans. Would you recommend doubling the recipe, or just using the 9 inch pans and making slightly smaller cakes? Thanks!
I think it’s fine to use 9-inch, they will just be a little less tall. If you are serving a large crowd, you could double it and make some extra cupcakes on the side.