Dairy Free Carrot Cake

Spring baking season is off to a fantastic start with this dairy free carrot cake!

Soft, moist, packed with carrots! Super easy to make!

Three slices of Dairy Free Carrot Cake on small white plates on a grey background.

And if you’re anything like me (i.e. completely smitten with all things carrot cake), you’re gonna want to make this baby asap.

Now, as alluded to above, carrot cake has long been my favorite flavor when it comes to cake. {Erm, well, tied with funfetti & red velvet – too hard to choose.} SO. It’s been my mission since having to ditch the dairy to recreate a version without the butter, cream cheese, etc. that tastes just as good as the original.

And after much testing, it’s finally here. Right in time for Easter, spring brunches, showers! Or really, just to make anytime of the year.

So. Let’s talk about the actual cake. The base is filled with all kinds of goodness like white whole wheat flour, warm spices, maple syrup, applesauce and olive oil. AND of course lots of freshly grated carrots that just melt right in.

It bakes up wonderfully soft, plenty moist and lightly sweet … and is also slightly dense (like all carrot cakes) but in that perfect sort of non-heavy way.

Finally, it’s topped with a crazy simple & dreamy dairy free frosting that really brings it all home.

Your carrot cake awaits! Let’s do this. 

Carrot cake batter in a large bowl with a red spatula and then spread in a springform pan.

How To Make This Dairy Free Cake

So, we start by whisking together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, we whisk together all the wet ingredients until smooth. The two get mixed together and then some grated carrots and chopped pecans get gently folded in.

The batter gets spread in a springform pan and is then baked off to golden perfection.

How To Make Dairy Free Cream Cheese Icing

Now, let’s discuss the frosting. I wanted to make a cream cheese icing substitute that didn’t require any special equipment (like a high speed blender) AND that used all everyday ingredients you could get at any mainstream grocery store (because I have a REALLY hard time finding dairy free cream cheese at my local stores and figured I can’t be alone in this).

So! What we have here today is whipped coconut cream jazzed up with a few ingredients that give it that sweetness and tang reminiscent of classic cream cheese frosting.

We start by whipping hardened coconut cream (from a can of full-fat coconut milk) until smooth and sort of fluffy. Next, we add in some honey, powdered sugar, lemon juice, vanilla extract and ground cinnamon and whip again until incorporated.

The end result is a super easy and delicious frosting. And while it’s obviously not an exact substitute, I promise you it IS darn good. Especially once it’s on the cake and has had a chance to chill – it really makes you feel like you’re enjoying a slice of classic carrot cake. Yes to the please!

Dairy Free Carrot Cake on a white cake stand with one slice cut out.

Tips & Tricks For This Dairy Free Carrot Cake

  1. First up, let’s talk about measuring out your flours. Fluff the flours in their bags / containers, then scoop into your measuring cup with a spoon and level off. If you dunk the cup directly into the flour bag, you’ll likely use too much.
  2. Additionally, I would highly encourage you to stick with the listed combination of white whole wheat flour plus some all-purpose flour. This is the only way that I’ve tested this cake and I can’t say what will happen if you make any substitutions.
  3. Be sure to measure the applesauce in a dry measuring cup. It won’t level off correctly in a liquid one and you’ll wind up using the wrong amount.
  4. You’ll need about three to four really large carrots to get the required two cups. Additionally, I like to grate my carrots in a food processor as it’s nice and quick. But you can also grate them finely by hand with a box grater. {Side note – please don’t use pre-shredded carrots from the store – they are much drier and will alter the moisture level in the final product!}
  5. I suggest using a springform pan with this cake as it rises a good bit in the oven (and it makes it really easy to remove!). You might be fine with a regular pan if it has higher sides but I can’t say for sure.
  6. And finally, while you can absolutely enjoy this cake right away after frosting, I’d recommend letting it chill out in the fridge for at least a few hours. The flavors settle (especially in the icing) and it really has that classic carrot cake feel after chilling!

How To Store

Once frosted, the cake must be stored covered in the refrigerator. It will keep like this for about four days.

If you don’t frost the cake, you can keep it covered or in an airtight container at room temperature.

A slice of Dairy Free Carrot Cake with a bite taken out and a cup of coffee on the side.

Additional Dairy Free Dessert Recipes You Might Enjoy!

Did you make this recipe? Rate and review it down below! I’d love to hear from you.

Dairy Free Carrot Cake

Dairy Free Carrot Cake

Yield: 1 (9 inch round) cake
Prep Time: 27 minutes
Cook Time: 28 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
This dreamy dairy free carrot cake is soft, moist and packed with fresh carrots and pecans! Topped with a dairy free cream cheese icing that is absolutely delicious! Perfect for spring baking or anytime of the year!

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1 ¼ cups white whole wheat flour
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce           
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup           
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups finely grated carrots
  • ½ cup finely chopped raw pecans

For the frosting:

  • 1 (13.5 ounce) can full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated for at least 24 hours*
  • 1 tablespoon honey   
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped pecans, for garnish (optional)

Instructions

For the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick spray then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the white whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, olive oil, applesauce, maple syrup and vanilla extract until well combined. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Gently fold in the grated carrots and pecans. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan (it will be a thicker batter) and spread evenly with a spatula.
  3. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean. Set the pan on a wire rack. Allow to cool completely, then carefully remove from the pan.

For the frosting:

  1. Open the can of coconut milk and scoop the hardened coconut cream into a large mixing bowl (leaving behind the liquid – save this for smoothies!). Using a hand mixer, whip the cream until fluffy. 
  2. Add in the honey, powdered sugar, lemon juice, vanilla extract and cinnamon and whip again until incorporated. Spread the frosting over the cooled cake, then garnish with the chopped pecans if using. Store the cake covered in the refrigerator (I suggest giving the cake a few hours to chill before serving!).

Notes

*I recommend placing two cans of coconut milk in the fridge for this cake. Unfortunately every so often you’ll get a dud can of coconut milk where the cream just won’t harden / separate from the liquid. This way you have a backup and won’t be left in a bind! As far as brands, I tend to use either Whole Foods 365 (my favorite), Native Forest or Thai Kitchen (I’ve had duds with all of them but the Whole Foods brand tends to be the most consistent in my experience). 

Want another frosting option? Whip the hardened coconut cream as directed then add in ¼ cup powdered sugar, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract and ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon. Whip again until incorporated. This version doesn’t have that slight tang reminiscent of cream cheese icing but is SO GOOD as well. It’s more like creamy cinnamon goodness you would find on a spice cake. 

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 397 Total Fat: 26g Saturated Fat: 10g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 15g Cholesterol: 37mg Sodium: 238mg Carbohydrates: 40g Fiber: 4g Sugar: 17g Protein: 6g
Nutrition data shown is an estimate provided by an online calculator and is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered a substitute for a medical professional’s advice.