Grain-Free Carrot Cake with Dairy-Free “Cream Cheese” Icing

I am proudly part of a multi-cultural, inter-faith, and very diverse family. In my own clan, I have Irish and Jewish ancestry, and I married into a family that is a mix of Vietnamese and British. My husband and I celebrate a number of Jewish and Christian-based holidays, and we are constantly enjoying the beautiful (and delicious) cultural delights of my father-in-law’s Asian heritage. One of the many wonderful results, as you’ve probably noticed, is a very diverse and eclectic array of recipes in rotation in the Whole happy kitchen. Whether it’s gluten-free hamantaschen for Purim, or paleo ginger-molasses cookies for Christmas, I’m always trying to take inspiration from traditional favourites and make them approachable for a variety of dietary considerations.

Enter the following carrot cake recipe…

As I write this, it’s both Easter and Passover. During Passover, Jewish people avoid foods that naturally “leaven” such as grains and legumes. And then there’s the association of Easter and springtime with rabbits and carrots. Plus a family member who is avoiding eggs and dairy, and then my own personal goal to stay away from refined products in my cooking such as white sugar, while keeping it minimally blood sugar disruptive and as clean and natural as possible.

Seems like an impossible checklist right?

Well, I welcome with open arms any culinary challenge, and decided to construct a carrot cake that (hopefully) makes everyone in my extended family happy. I know, a ridiculous wish, but it’s worth a shot…

Even better, like so any of my recipes, this one is incredibly versatile and forgiving. If you also have nut-free folks on your list, sub the walnuts for some pumpkin or sunflower seeds or extra dried fruit, and then stick with coconut, golden flax meal, cassava, or tapioca for the flour combo. And if you’re cool with eggs, you can easily whisk one or two into the batter with the other wet ingredients and you’ll end up with a slightly fluffier base. Like everything, I always encourage experimentation to meet your specific tastes and dietary needs.

Most importantly, share it with your loved ones! Whether its for Easter, Passover, a birthday party, or just a fun gathering with friends, this kind of cake is meant to be enjoyed in the company of others!

*Note: The photos show a 4-layer cake, but the recipe is for 2-layers. If you’ve like to make a 4-layer, just make two separate batched of the following, or simply double-up if you have the capacity for it (i.e. a big enough food processor or mixing bowl).  

Grain-Free Carrot Cake with Dairy-Free “Cream Cheese” Icing (grain-free, dairy-free, vegan-friendly, paleo-friendly)

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Setting time: 10 minutes

Assembly time: 5-10 minutes

Totally time: about 1 hour 15 minutes

Makes about 8 generous slices of cake

Ingredients:

For the base…

  • 1 cup pureed apple (about 2 medium-large apples) *I like Fiji for this recipe
  • 3 cups peeled and grated carrot (about 4 medium-large carrots)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted (plus extra for greasing the cake pans)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped pineapple
  • 1 cup grain-free flour *I like to do 1/3 cup almond flour, 1/3 cup coconut flour, 1/3 cup golden flax meal. You can also try cassava and tapioca
  • 2 tblsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup goji berries
  • 1/2 cup walnuts *Or seeds (pumpkin, sunflower etc.) or more dried fruit if you’re nut-free

For the icing…

  • 2 cup coconut manna, melted
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 4 large lemons)
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk (almond, coconut etc.)
  • 2-3 tblsp pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of sea salt

Optional toppings:

  • Unsweetened shredded coconut
  • Additional goji berries and walnuts
  • Bee pollen (as shown in the photos)

Directions:

For the base…

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F.
  2. Grease two circular cake pans with coconut oil, and place two strips of parchment paper in a crisscross, so that the ends are hanging over the edges of the cake pans. Set aside.
  3. In a food processor gently pulse together the grated carrot, apple puree, chopped pineapple, coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. *If you don’t have a food processor, you can also do this by hand in a mixing bowl
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour mix, baking soda, sea salt, and spices.
  5. Slowly pulse in (or mix in my hand) the dry ingredients to the wet.
  6. Gently mix in the walnuts and goji berries, and fill both cake dishes with even amounts of the batter, making sure to hold down the parchment strips so that they don’t move from their crisscross position.
  7. Evenly flatten down the batter so that the top is smooth.
  8. Bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown on top. *Note that if you do decide to add eggs, as mentioned above, the baking time will be less.
  9. Remove from the oven, let side for about 10 minutes, and then gently transfer the cake bases out of the pans and onto a cooling rack to cool completely before icing.

For the icing…

  1. Combine all ingredients in an electric mixer and mix on high until smooth and creamy (like icing normally looks).
  2. Note that the icing will harden slightly as it cools so it’s best to ice the cake shortly after mixing before it hardens too much.
  3. If you’re noticing that it is too hard, add small amounts of additional dairy-free milk until you’ve reached your desired texture for icing.
  4. If it seems too soft or fluffy, as more coconut manna until you’ve reach your desired texture for icing.

To assemble the cake…

  1. Line a plate or cake dish with four strips of parchment paper, and gently place the bottom layer of your cake in the centre. *Note: the best way to transfer cake layers so that they don’t break is to use cutting boards and/or flat plates whereby you very gently sandwich the cake layer between them (without squishing it), and then carefully flip the cake from one flat surface to another.
  2. Spread some icing evenly on the top of the bottom layer (about 1/8 to a 1/4–inch thick), and then carefully place the second layer on top of it, using the transferring method mentioned above.
  3. Use the remaining icing to ice the top of the second later and all around the sides as evenly and smoothly as you can, using an icing tool or even a dull knife.
  4. Option here to gently press shredded unsweetened coconut flakes into the sides, and top with coconut flakes, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, or even some bee pollen for a bright and colourful decorative addition!
  5. Carefully remove the parchment strips and clean up any lingering mess around the edges.
  6. Store in a cool place until ready to serve and keep leftovers in the fridge, or even the freezer to enjoy another day.