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vegan carrot cake

All Photos: Ryan Hughley

Vegan Carrot Cake


Vegan treats can still be sweet when you're baking carrot cake

This year, in honor of Lent, we're going to be tackling some of our hardest eating (and drinking) habits to give up. Whether you're abstaining from meat, sweets or alcoholic treats — we've got you covered.

There is something about spring that awakens my sweet tooth. Typically I can resist the urge to bake non-stop even through the holiday season. But as soon as tulips start popping up, the weather consistently hits the 70s and I see Easter baskets on display in grocery stores, I want to pull out bags of flour and bake my tail off. The only snag this year is that I've given up animal products and refined sugar for Lent (call me crazy!) and that limits what I'm able to bake — or so I thought.

I am a massive fan of carrot cake. It's spicy, sweet and I'm able to convince myself that it's healthy — after all, it does contain shredded vegetables. But really, one of the absolute best things about this type of cake — besides the cream cheese frosting — is its deep richness and moisture from an almost unconscionable amount of butter.

So, transforming my favorite cake into a refined sugar-free, vegan treat would be a challenge. While these types of dessert are usually delicious, flavor-wise, they're also really dry. 

I began testing out different recipes that would both satisfy my cravings and keep me on track. Along the way there were some disasters. Cakes that were too dry, not sweet enough or tasted like cinnamon-spiced cardboard. Thankfully after tinkering around and taking bits of inspiration from recipes that were almost perfect, I came up with the most delicious moist carrot cake that is both refined sugar-free and completely vegan. 

This entire cake can be whipped up in a matter of minutes and baked long enough for your house to smell like heaven. And since it's "healthy," don't feel bad if you eat the whole dessert by yourself. 

Vegan Carrot Cake
Note: If you're extra-hungry for dessert, serve up two skinny slices of cake per person. If you're not (who are you?) this cake will serve 12. If you're allergic to nuts, you can substitute oat milk in the cake and skip the frosting. You will need to soak the nuts for the frosting the night before baking. 

Serves: 6 to 12

1 1/4 cups coconut flour 
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder 
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground allspice 
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup almond milk
1 cup organic coconut sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup melted coconut oil or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups grated carrots

1/2 cup raw macadamia nuts, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup almond milk, plus more if needed
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt

To make the cake: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 4- by 8-inch loaf pan with nonstick oil spray or coconut oil.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice, ginger powder and salt. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the applesauce, almond milk, coconut sugar, maple syrup, oil and vanilla. 

Add the applesauce mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in grated carrots until evenly combined. Transfer to the prepared loaf pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 1/2 hours. Let the cake cool completely in the pan, then transfer to a platter or cake stand.

While the cake is cooling, make the frosting: In a high-speed blender, combine all of the ingredients and blend until very smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender as needed. If the frosting isn't coming together, add additional almond milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.

Top the cooled cake with the chilled frosting and serve. Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Author image

Ryan Shepard is the editor-in-chief at Southern Kitchen. Though originally from Los Angeles, she has lived in Atlanta since early 2017 and cannot imagine calling any other city home (except maybe New Orleans). Before joining Southern Kitchen's staff, Ryan worked on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on public policy issues. When she's not at work, she enjoys hunting down the best Mexican food in the city and drinking whiskey, obviously.