If you can’t have dairy or simply don’t have it in the house right now but need cake, this dairy-free carrot cake is for you. With simple ingredients (see ingredient substitutions below) and classic spices, it’s a delicious cake for any time of year.
While carrot cake is typically made in springtime, carrots are available virtually year round in different forms, and I generally prefer to use autumn carrots for cake. The spices used here are also more autumnal and go well with cooler weather.
If you want a vegan option, you can try our vegan carrot cake over at Baked. Every test I did for this recipe without eggs was claggy and awful (this is due to using lower gluten spelt flour).
Why You Should Try This Recipe
With loads of flavour from warm spices, caramel coconut sugar, and sweet carrots, it’s a dreamy cake – especially topped with cream cheese frosting.
- It’s a flexible recipe: add walnuts or another nut, raisins, change the spices, switch up the frosting. It’s a good base recipe to add a bit of your own flair to.
- No beating required: since this isn’t a butter base, you don’t need to beat sugar and butter before adding other ingredients. A quick whisk is enough.
- It has great texture: carrot cake can err to the side of heavy and doughy, but eggs and homemade buttermilk add plenty of lift here for a good crumb.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Spelt flour: sub white flour or whole wheat pastry flour if preferred. I think other low-gluten flours like einkorn would work but haven’t tested. I haven’t tried making this cake gluten free.
- Coconut sugar: while it adds a nice caramel note to the cake, you can sub cane sugar or another sugar type. I don’t recommend date or maple sugar.
- Spices: change up the spices based on your personal preference. Cardamom is nice.
- Milk: any kind of pourable milk (not canned coconut milk). I always use oat milk.
- Coconut oil: I tested with liquid oil and the texture wasn’t as good, so I don’t recommend subbing this out. I imagine a dairy-free butter would work but haven’t tried.
- Icing: use store bought cream cheese or something like whipped cream if you don’t want to make your own.
Step by Step
1. Make the buttermilk: add vinegar to the non-dairy milk and set aside.
2. Mix dry ingredients: in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, and sugar.
3. Mix wet ingredients: add the oil and carrots to the buttermilk mixture.
4. Mix the batter: add the carrot mixture to the large bowl and gently mix to combine.
5. Transfer: spoon the batter into a prepared baking pan and smooth into an even layer.
6. Bake: bake the cake on the centre rack for about 40 minutes, until golden.
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By adding the vinegar to your milk, you’re making your own buttermilk. It should sit for a couple of minutes to sour, and that’s why it’s the first step in the recipe. You can use lemon juice in place of vinegar.
Use refined coconut oil if you want to avoid any slight coconut taste. I don’t think it’s noticeable but if you hate coconut this is a good option.
The cake can be baked in a 20cm (8-inch) square tin with no change to the baking time. For a larger tin, reduce the time slightly. Be sure to do a skewer test if changing the container size/shape.
There are slightly crisp edges on this cake from greasing the tin with coconut oil, which we really like. It softens after the first day.
You can make a layer cake if preferred, if you like to have more frosting. Simply cut the cake into two layers after cooling and frost both the middle layer and the top. You’ll need a double batch of frosting in this case.
How to Store
Storage: keep at room temperature (if not frosted) for 2-3 days in a sealed container. Otherwise refrigerate for 3-4 days.
Freezing: if you plan to freeze the cake, it’s best not to frost it. Cool fully, then place in an airtight container and freeze for up to three months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
- Cool fully: give yourself plenty of time to ensure the cake has time to cool completely before frosting and serving – at least four hours.
- Don’t over mix: spelt is a lower-gluten flour and more prone to toughness if over-mixed. Stir until just mixed and no longer to avoid a tough cake.
- Use room temperature eggs: I sometimes forget to specify this because I don’t refrigerate eggs to begin with, but both the eggs and milk should be at room temperature to prevent curdling.
More Dairy Free Cakes
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Dairy Free Carrot Cake
Dairy Free Carrot Cake
- 200 ml oat milk at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 350 grams light spelt flour
- 150 grams coconut sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 80 grams softened coconut oil
- 200 grams shredded carrots 2 medium carrots
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 200 grams vegan cream cheese*
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Make the buttermilk. Add the milk to a mixing bowl and stir in the apple cider vinegar. Set aside.200 ml oat milk, 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and grease one 20 cm (8-inch) round spring form tin with coconut oil.
- Place the flour, coconut sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and ginger into a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine.350 grams light spelt flour, 150 grams coconut sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- Add the eggs to the buttermilk mixture and whisk to combine. Whisk in the coconut oil, then stir in the shredded carrots and vanilla.2 large eggs, 80 grams softened coconut oil, 200 grams shredded carrots, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Add the carrot mixture to the flour mixture and gently stir, using a wooden spoon or spatula, until just mixed. It will be a thick batter.
- Transfer the batter to the prepared tin and smooth the top into an even layer. Bake the cake on the centre rack of your oven for 40-45 minutes, or until golden. A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean when baked.
- Cool the cake for ten minutes in the tin before carefully removing the sides and cooling fully on a wire rack.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Add the cream cheese, maple syrup, and vanilla to a bowl. Use a whisk or electric mixer to whip until smooth and fluffy.
- Top the cooled cake with the frosting and serve. If frosted, the cake should be stored in the refrigerator.