A Gluten-Free Carrot Cake That Tastes Like the Real Deal

A recipe for gluten-free carrot cake, excerpted from the cookbook Plant Magic by Desiree Nielsen

Before there was tiramisu, carrot cake occupied the top spot in my dessert hall of fame. And of course, I have opinions about it. The cake should be moist, with a very tender crumb, and packed with carrots. I don’t love nuts and raisins, but I can respect them, so you’ve got the option to add them here. And always cream cheese icing. Since the flavour of store-bought vegan cream cheese varies widely, I have created a cream cheese–inspired cashew frosting.

Carrot Cake with Cashew Frosting

Makes one 2-layer round cake


Cashew Frosting

  • 1 cup (250 mL) cashews, soaked in boiling water for 30 minutes and drained
  • ½ cup (125 mL) canned full-fat coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • teaspoon (0.5 mL) salt

Carrot Cake

  • 1½ cups (375 mL) almond flour
  • 1½ cups (375 mL) gluten-free flour blend
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon (2 mL) salt
  • 2 cups (500 mL) firmly packed grated carrots (about 2 large carrots)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) unsweetened applesauce
  • ½ cup (125 mL) extra-virgin olive or avocado oil
  • ¾ cup (175 mL) cane sugar
  • ½ cup (125 mL) unsweetened oat milk
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) ground flaxseed
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) grated peeled fresh ginger
  • ½ cup (125 mL) raw pecans or walnuts, chopped (optional)
  • ½ cup (125 mL) raisins (any type; optional)


  1. Make the cashew frosting: In a high-speed blender, com- bine the drained cashews, coconut milk, maple syrup, lemon juice, coconut oil, vanilla, and salt. Blend on low speed, then slowly increase to medium-high until smooth, 1 minute. Scrape the frosting into an airtight container and transfer to the fridge to firm up for at least 1 hour before using. The frosting can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days.
  2. Meanwhile, make the carrot cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly grease two 8-inch (1.2 L) round cake pans with butter or coconut oil and line with rounds of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pans for easier removal.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the almond flour, gluten- free flour blend, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together the carrots, applesauce, olive oil, sugar, oat milk, flaxseed, apple cider vinegar, vanilla, and ginger. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Fold in the nuts and raisins, if using.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake until the tops are firm and dry to the touch, the cakes are golden brown around the edges, and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean, 33 to 37 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then carefully (the cakes will be soft) invert the cakes onto a rack and cool completely. Unfrosted cake layers can be stored, tightly wrapped, on the counter for up to 2 days.
  6. Assemble the cake: Remove the cashew frosting from the fridge.
  7. Place 1 cake layer top side up on a cake plate. Using an offset spatula, spread one third of the frosting over the cake layer to the edge.
  8. Carefully set the second cake layer bottom side up on top of the frosted layer and spread one third of the frosting over it. Use the remaining frosting to frost the sides. Store the frosted cake, covered, in the fridge for up to 4 days. (Once the cake is iced, it must be kept refrigerated until ready to serve or the frosting will melt.)

Plant Magic Cover Image

Excerpted from Plant Magic by Desiree Nielsen. Copyright © 2024 Desiree Nielsen. Published by Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

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Originally Published in Best Health Canada