The weather was sit-out-on-the-deck-in-the-cool-evening-breeze perfection. Friends gathered from all around the city with chips and salsa and salads and popcorn and laughter and stories to share. The fire pit was aflame. The candles were lit on this (gluten free and vegan) carrot cake.
And a very special birthday girl turned the big 3-0.
I have no idea how I got so lucky in life to cross paths with someone as cool as this birthday girl, but somehow it happened. And I am totally grateful to know her. And even more grateful to be able to call her a friend.
Because Stacey’s just great.
Can I tell you why?
Well, she’s clearly beautiful. She is warm and friendly and goes out of her way to make people feel included. She’s super smart and perceptive, and pays thoughtful attention to the world and people around her. She’s an incredible single mom to the most charming, spunky, creative 5-year-old daughter. She has one of my favorite Instagram feeds ever (with some of the best moments captured of said daughter). She’s strong and brave and stands up for things and people she believes in. She has an incredible heart for service and selflessly gives to so many around her. And quite simply, she’s one of those friends who quite simply has a way of bringing out the best in those around her.
Like I said, pretty great.
Oh. And you see that heart banner in the background? It’s worth noting that Stacey also just had last-minute minor heart surgery a few days before her 30th b-day (um, whoa), but she was still game to gear up the energy to spend an evening surrounded by friends. And of course, leave them all feeling extra loved and inspired and awesome in the process. Per usual.
Anyway, I feel like I don’t tell my friends often enough how amazing they are. So today on the world wide webosphere, I thought it would be fun to raise a glass to to this friendship and people like Stacey who make this world a more meaningful, awesome place.
Actually, I should raise a slice of this cake I brought for the party that was rumored (and then confirmed) to be her favorite — carrot cake!
Yes, yes, I know I just posted a carrot cake recipe on the blog last month that looks strikingly similar to this one. But Stacey and a few friends at the party are all gluten-free, and another friend is vegan. So I attempted my first vegan and gluten-free cake for the party.
I have long been a fan of ATK, and have given away probably 50 copies of The New Best Recipe as wedding presents over the years. (It is my top recommendation for friends who want to learn how to cook!) So when I heard that there was a new version explaining their process creating and testing out all sorts of gluten-free techniques, I immediately picked up a copy. And sure enough, it’s great! I have experimented with my fair share of GF cooking over the past few years — more for friends, than here on the blog — but I feel like this cookbook is finally giving some concrete answers to some of the science behind the ingredient combos. Especially about how different flours work together with different main ingredients.
So anyway, if you’re looking for a basic gluten-free cookbook to check out, I highly recommend picking up a copy. (This is not a paid endorsement — just my recommendation!)
I made a few tweaks to the recipe to adjust the spices and salt to the levels I prefer for carrot cake. But then to make it vegan, I also substituted flax eggs for traditional eggs (although chia eggs work too and are more flavor-less).
If you’ve never done this before, it’s a super easy substitution. Just whisk together 1 tablespoon of (ideally) freshly-ground flax seeds with 3 tablespoons of water until combined. Then pop them in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. And once you pull them back out, the mixture should be thick and sticky, which will help bind your batter together just like regular eggs.
(This recipe called for 4 eggs, so I used 1/4 cup ground flaxseeds and 3/4 cup water.)
I also whipped up a vegan “cream cheese” frosting — minus the cream cheese. (No, not even that fake soy vegan cream cheese stuff.) I just made a simple vegan buttercream, and added in a little apple cider vinegar and lemon juice. And voila. I don’t know how, but somehow it tastes just like cream cheese. My friends agreed.
The other main ingredient that’s a non-negotiable in my carrot cakes is fresh carrots. Yes, the recipe calls for an entire pound of carrots, which you can grate by hand. Or, if you have a food processor, I highly recommend trying out the grating attachment and letting that little motor do all of the work. Seriously, mine grated this whole batch in less than 20 seconds. Brrrrrrrilliant.
I was in a hurry making this cake and forgot to take step-by-step process photos. But I did make a few little carrot toppers for decor.
Well, I should admit the cake started out simply…
…and then got a little out of control with this carrot patch. ;)
(I apparently love cake toppers, what can I say?)
As pretty as it was on the outside, though, it tasted 100x better on the inside.
I have to admit, I was a little apprehensive about how the gluten-free substitutions would work, especially since the ATK recipe called for half the usual amount of oil for a carrot cake. But friends, the cake turned out so moist. And flavorful. And oh my goodness, that cream cheese knockoff was the perfect icing on the cake.
Thankfully, the birthday girl loved it, which in turn made me extra happy since cooking for friends is kind of my favorite things ever. Especially when they’re amazing friends like Stacey. :)
So now I pass on the recipe to you. I hope you enjoy it just as much as we did.
3 Tablespoons non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
pinch of salt
Adjust oven rack to the middle position, and preheat to 350 degrees F. Use cooking spray or butter to thoroughly grease the inside of either:
-1 13×19-inch baking pan, or
-2 9-inch round cake pans, or
-3 8-inch round cake pans
Then dust the inside of each pan with gluten-free flour until the grease is completely covered and no spots of the pan are visible.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the gluten-free flour blend, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, cloves and ginger together until combined.
In a food processor fitted with the large shredding disk, shred carrots. Then transfer them to the mixing bowl with the flour. Wipe clean the food processor bowl, and fit with the metal blade (in place of the shredding disk). Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar and flax eggs and process until frothy and throughly combined, about 20 seconds. With processor running, add oil in a steady stream. Process until egg mixture is light in color and well emulsified, about 20 more seconds.
Transfer egg mixture to the large bowl with the carrots and flour. Using a rubber spatula, stir the mixture until thoroughly combined. If using nuts, stir them in until combined.
Pour batter evenly into the prepared pan(s). Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about:
-30-35 minutes for the 9×13-inch baking pan
-25-30 minutes for the two 9-inch round cake pans, or
-18-23 minutes for the three 8-inch round cake pans
Let cake cool completely in the pan(s) on a wire rack, about 1 hour. Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen. Remove cake, if transferring to a different serving platter, and frost as desired.
How To Make Vegan Gluten-Free “Cream Cheese” Frosting:
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer or food processor, and mix until smooth and combined. If the frosting is too thick, add in some extra milk to thin. If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar to thicken.
**To make the flax eggs, simply stir together 1 Tbsp. flaxmeal (freshly-ground) and 3 Tbsp. of water until combined PER EGG.
(This recipe called for 4 eggs, so you would times those amounts by 4.)
Then refrigerate the mixture for at least 15 minutes, remove and whisk again, and the mixture should be thick and sticky.
*Cake recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen.
Be sure to also check out these other carrot cake recipes on the blog:
Oh gosh! I just made this cake today, and I think it must be the best carrot cake I have ever tasted. I have made a few vegan cakes before, but with no luck – they all had bad consistency or just came out raw on the inside and burnt on the outside! So when making this cake (also my first gluten free cake!) I was really crossing my fingers for it to work. And it did! I absolutely love it. As my cake wasn’t going to be served to that many people, I halved the recipe. I also used vegan cream cheese, powdered sugar and lemon juice for icing. I don’t really have words.. Thank you so much – this will definitely be my new go-to carrot cake recipe! I’m in love with it. Virtual hugs from Norway!!
Thank you, Helena, we’re so happy you enjoyed it, and we appreciate you taking the time to leave such a sweet comment!
A-M-A-Z-I-N-G cake! Best carrot cake I’ve ever made/had. My dad is a big carrot cake fan (I never new about it, but if he says so, right?!) and he had seconds and left with a piece and had it for breakfast the next day (he never eats breakfast!).
Now about the frosting. I simply have no words. “How can there be no cheese in your cream cheese frosting” everybody asked me. The taste is exactly the same, if not better! I can still barely believe it! Thanks a mega bunch for sharing this recipe. I made it for my youngest’s first Bday and he devoured it (as did everybody else!) Cheers!
Thank you so much, Patricia, we’re thrilled that you and your family enjoyed this! :)
Whoa! These look incredible! How far in advance do you think I could get away with making this?! Hoping to make this today (Friday) and serving it on Sunday. Should I hold out longer, or am I in the clear? I’m having a massive Easter celebration and want to save as much time as possible, and keep my oven free up for other treats haha!
Hi Hannah! We’re so sorry we didn’t get to your comment in time! This can be made a few days in advance though, and kept in the fridge.
Hi! I cant’s wait to try this GF Carrot Cake Recipe, Question could I add pineapple chunks to it? and instead of using vegetable oil could I use coconut oil? and instead of Granulated sugar could I use coconut sugar? I know crazy questions but unfortunately food allergies are bad sometimes! Thank you
Hi Dulce! These aren’t crazy questions at all! :) Yes, you can add pineapple chunks (just make sure they’re well-drained), you could use coconut oil instead of vegetable oil, and you could try coconut sugar in place of the sugar (though we’d recommend just doing half and half, since we haven’t tried this). We hope you enjoy the cake!
WOW! I made this recipe for Easter and I was so impressed with how well it came out! I’ve been gluten and dairy free for the past 3 months. I’ve always had a sweet tooth and loved desserts, so I came into this very skeptical. I figured there was no way a GF dairy free cake could taste good. Well, I was wrong because this cake was awesome.
The cake itself was super moist, unlike other GF cakes I’ve had. I added in extra cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves to make it extra flavorful, which I definitely recommend. I was too lazy to make flax eggs, so I used 4 regular eggs instead. The frosting was delicious. Cream cheese frosting is my favorite part of carrot cake, and I was a little nervous about how a non-dairy frosting would taste. This frosting tasted exactly like the real thing. I only used about 5 cups of powdered sugar and added extra lemon juice because I found it to be a little too sweet, but I also used sweetened almond milk so that could’ve affected the sweetness.
Overall, this cake was amazing and my family and friends all loved it. Will DEFINITELY make it again. Thank you for this awesome recipe!!!
Thanks for sharing, Laura, and thank you for your sweet words — we’re so happy this was a hit! :D
I’m SO glad I found this recipe, and just in the nick of time! My baby girl just had her 1st birthday yesterday and I’d been trying out a couple gluten free vegan cake recipes since I found out she’s allergic to wheat, eggs, dairy, and nuts. This was an absolute winner and by far the best thing I’ve tried yet! She loved it, as did my husband and I, and we were really surprised/impressed and how much the icing tasted like your typical cream cheese icing.
I cut the recipe in half and made 12 cupcakes that baked for about 18 minutes and everything worked out very well.
Thank you, Eileen, we’re so happy this was a big hit, and we’re glad you were able to make the recipe work well with cupcakes! Also, happy belated to your sweet little one! :)
Hi, I made a boo boo. I was in a rush to make this at midnight the night before my daughter’s first birthday and I didn’t blend the ‘egg mixture’ before adding it. I just dumped it all in and stirred. It probably would have paid to read through the recipe again…will this affect the cake terribly?
Hi Kristie! We think it should probably still be okay — how did it turn out for you?
Looks awesome -can you sub applesauce for the oil ?
Thanks, Leigh, we hope you enjoy it! And hmmmm, we haven’t tried that, so it’s honestly hard to say. We think it could probably work (it’s worth a try) — if you give it a shot, definitely let us know how it turns out! :)
Fantastic recipe!!! Made this cake for my mom’s birthday (she’s gluten free and I’m vegan). My whole family loved it and went in for seconds.
I used olive oil instead of vegetable oil and it turned out great. And I only made half the recipe of the frosting and still had leftover. It really does taste like cream cheese frosting with the lemon and apple cider vinegar! Thanks for such a great recipe!
Thank you for sharing with us, Deborah, we’re so happy to hear it was a hit! :)
Yummy! I’ve hunted far and wide for a gluten free and vegan carrot cake. I’ve made it twice and it was great both times. Thanks for the recipe. :):)
Awesome, we’re so glad you loved the recipe!
Hi! I’m making this cake for my graduation party, and I’m wondering how you got your cake to 3 layers. Did you make 3 different cakes or cut the cake in 3 different pieces?
And if any of you who have made this cake befour sees this, please be free to answer! :)
Hi Nea! The layring/pan size options are listed at the top of the recipe, as part of the yield — we used three 8-inch pans. We hope you enjoy!
I don’t see ‘carrots’ included in this carrot cake recipe
The recipe calls for 1 lb of carrots, peeled (it’s listed right after ginger, and before sugar).
Love love LOVED this cake! Made it for my non- vegan mothers group and it was a hit. Thank you! X
Yay, so happy to hear it!
I didn’t get a chance to make this yet and haven’t been able to read all comments, but wondering what might be a good substitute for the vegetable oil? I did read someone had tried extra virgin olive oil? Any thoughts on organic shortening or avocado oil? Can’t wait to try – thanks for sharing!
Hi Heather! We haven’t experimented with other oils in this, but we think you could try olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil in place of the vegetable oil. We hope you enjoy!
if we don’t care about the gluten free part, can we just sue AP flour? all the other leavening agents seem to be there that would make it ok to just use normal flour…
Hi Alex! Yes, we think that should be fine. We hope you enjoy!
The cake turned out delicious, but I had a lot of leftover frosting. How long can you store the leftover vegan gluten-free “cream-cheese” frosting?
Thanks for sharing, Swanee — we’re happy you enjoyed it! And for the leftover frosting, we’d recommend storing it in the fridge. We hope that helps!
Amazing!!!! Thank you!!!!
I was given the most important (in my opinion ;) the cake for my grandsons first birthday. His mom insisted that it be vegan. I tried 4 recipes before finding this one and it is the best cake ever, nobody believed it was vegan. Very moist and delicious! It was the talk of the party and a girl even came up to me after and asked if I could do her wedding cake. I made a 3 tier cake to make sure had enough for everyone.
Thanks, Sara, we’re so happy this was a hit — thanks for sharing with us, and for your kind review! :D
This recipe looks amazing! Could I sub the sugar in the cake for coconut sugar? Would that be 2 cups coconut sugar or less?
Thanks in advance!
Thanks, My My, we hope you e enjoy it! And we haven’t tried coconut sugar in this cake, but we think that should be okay. It can definitely be used instead of the brown sugar, but we’re not sure how two cups would affect the flavor, so we would probably start by using 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 cup of coconut sugar. Depending on how the cake turns out, you could try experimenting with all coconut sugar next time? We hope this is helpful — let us know how it turns out!
I tripled this recipe to make a 12″ x 18″ sheet cake for an event. It was a big hit. Thanks for sharing this!
We’re so glad to hear that, Pamela! Thanks for your kind rating! :)
Hi! Quick question: do you shred or grate the carrots? In the narrative it says grate but in the instructions it says shred.
Thanks in advance!
Just made cupcakes using your recipe!!! They were so good! None of the bitter taste most my free from cakes have. A dessert for everyone, people didn’t realise it was an allergy cake. They were so moist.
Made 30 cupcakes baked for 18 minutes.
Thanks for this xxx
Awesome, so happy to hear it!
We’re so happy to have found this recipe! We’ve tried other gluten free vegan cakes that we couldn’t get to come out well. We’ve made this cake about 10 times and it’s great every time! Thanks so much!!
Thank you, Robin, we’re so happy you love it! :D
This is one of the best desserts I’ve seen lately. I will definitely try to cook this for my girlfriend, she will be so happy if I pull this off :) she is a vegan and this carrot cake will put a big smile on her face. Thank you for sharing this amazing recipe with us.
Thank you, Boyan, we hope you and your girlfriend enjoy! :)
So much yes! I wanted a vegan cake for hubs birthday and this was perfect. I followed the directions exactly as written except for using all-purpose flour instead of GF, and used a simple “buttercream style” frosting as cream cheese flavor is not my thing. We all loved it! Thank you for an amazing recipe that will definitely be used again.
Thank you, Jules, we’re so happy you enjoyed this!
LOVE LOVE LOVE I made these into cupcakes and they were amazing. better than any regular Carrot cake I have ever tried. used chia seeds and they were really well… Thank you SO much for sharing.. xo
Absolutely LOVED this recipe! We made it for our wedding anniversary (had non-GF or Vegan carrot cake on our wedding day) and couldn’t believe how delicious it was! We substituted ⅓ of the oil for a small ?4oz can of crushed pineapple which I highly recommend. Can’t wait to make it again! Already sharing the recipe! Thank you
This is absolutely AMAZING! My husband who is not even vegetarian, and a carrot cake lover, loved it! Thank you for sharing :)
This was delicious! I made this for my gluten free boss. Icing was superb! Cake was a touch oily, but I’m sure this could easily be fixed by reducing the oil portion. Regardless, this cake is amazing :)
This looks incredible!! So excited to try it! If I were to make cupcakes instead of a full cake, would there be any modifications?
Could I use bananas instead of chia/flax seeds? If so, how much bananas will I need?
Can you substitute the flax egg for apple sauce?
Carrot cake has always been one of my favorites and I have a recipe I’ve used for years, only this week I had a vegan friend visiting and wanted to find a variation. I came across yours, wow! I think it might now become my standard recipe :)
Can the carrot cake be frozen? I would like to make it well in advance of a large celebration we are hosting.
I made this and it was excellent
Let me first just say, not only are the cake and icing absolutely delicious, but I can testify that anyone can do it! I am dairy-free, and my mom is dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, and it is HARD to find good desserts that meet all those requirements AND taste good. I am over 30, and I had never baked a caked from scratch (funny, I know), but my daughter was turning one, so I wanted something special, so I thought I would give this a try. And, it turned out WONDERFUL! I would highly recommend this cake and the icing (the icing is heavenly – I plan to make stuffed strawberries with the leftovers) to anyone for any occasion! It is THE BEST!!
Can I make this with the real eggs?
Hello ? This cake looks absolutely amazing! I am out of brown sugar though. Can I substitute it for an extra cup of granulated sugar?
As carrot cakes go, this one will be on top of the list of any carrot cake collection. Thanks for sharing a terrific, working recipe. I prefer to use weights in baking, more reliable than generic cups etc. Happy Baking
Oh my gosh! Where do I even begin? I just made this for Easter lunch for our family gathering. My brother’s favorite cake is carrot cake and I can’t remember the last time carrot cake was on the table in our parents house. Because of that, I really wanted to make him one and Easter was our next family get together. My sister, brother in law and niece are vegan/gluten free, and my mom can’t have dairy. I’ve been really testing my skills trying to find yummy, varying diet friendly recipes for the entire family and came across this recipe. Y’all, do yourself and your loved ones a favor and make this cake for them. Zero exaggeration, best carrot cake I’ve had and in no way could you tell it was vegan and gluten free. It tasted gourmet and was so moist and had the perfect balance between flavors. The cake was devoured and is happily and peacefully resting in the stomachs of my entire family.
I followed a suggestion left by another commenter about replacing part of the oil with pineapple and it worked perfectly.
It was so easy to make too, which being a mom of three little ones, that’s an extra major bonus for me in my book.
I am wheat intolerant but not vegan. I made this last week, following the cake recipe exactly and it turned out beautifully on the inside, but kind of rubbery around the edges. It may be the GF flour mix that I used, possibly absorbed too much of the liquid. So I added 2 eggs and a 400g can of crushed pineapple second time around and WOW amazing cake! Will keep this one on board, thanks for the great recipe.
Swapped out the flour for 1.5 cups of almond flour and 1 cup of coconut flour. Additional baking powder 2 teaspoons. Made a moist cake, really yummy. Had to cook for about 1 hour.
Made this cake for my lil sis’ birthday ? it really came out great. Wish it had less oil. Do you think applesauce will work as replacement?
Also, this has soooo much sugar. The cake has 2 cups and the icing has 8??? ? Have you tried this with less sugar?
Quick note, recipe references a 13 x 19 pan and later it lists it as 13 x 9. Error? I used the latter.
Thanks for sharing the recipe. First carrot cake recipe I can enjoy ? as our household is: Gluten free, Dairy free, egg free, Soy free and almond free, and it is sooo hard to find delicious and nutritious desserts!
Simply. Thank you!
Nobody believed it was vegan. The icing tasted like cream cheese, without all the fat and calories.
It was moist and had a medium/heavy texture. :)
Omg the carrot cake looks amazing! I’m going to make it but could I use self raising gluten free flour instead?
I used apple sauce in place of the oil for the cake. Got rave reviews!!
(3/4 cup apple sauce in place of 3/4 cup oil)
I’ve made this cake several times now. It always turns out perfect. I don’t like really sweet things so I substituted coconut sugar for the granulated sugar and only used a half cup of blended oil, avocado, safflower and coconut. Perfection! No one can believe it’s vegan. Thanks.
I’ll start by saying this recipe is fantastic! My niece has Celiac disease and both she and her mom also can’t have dairy, so whenever we have plans to get together, I always searching for recipes to try that are safe for them to eat. Because I didn’t need it to be vegan, I used 4 real eggs instead of making flax eggs. I always use Fleischmann’s Unsalted Margarine when I need dairy-free “butter” and easy to find. I didn’t tell my sister-in-law what I was bringing to their house, and she was so excited because she hadn’t had carrot cake in a very long time. She was even more excited (and so was I) after we started eating it because it was so good, and you truly couldn’t tell it was gluten-free and dairy-free. The frosting doesn’t taste exactly like cream cheese frosting, but it’s pretty darn close and is really tasty. Everyone loved it. My niece had never had carrot cake before and she thought it was really good. This was definitely a winner that I will be keeping on rotation! Thank you so much for sharing this fantastic recipe!
My husband is vegan so I am always looking for something he can eat and like. This recipe is great–the cake us really moist and delicious, but I have to believe there is a typo in the frosting measurements…8 CUPS of powdered sugar????? 3 sticks of margarine??? I halved both and it was still really sweet (and I have a sweet tooth). I can’t believe no one has mentioned this. 8 cups of powdered sugar–I just can’t believe that is right.
So moist and delicious! Thank you for an amazing recipe
Utter perefection. My sister was the first of the two of us to go fully vegan and I was thrilled I could support her decision and show to the rest of the family how easy and YUMMY vegan foods can be. This was the most amazing cake and everyone loved it, the perfect cake for the perfect sweet 16 birthday party:)
I definitely recommend it.
I combined my paleo flours: 2 c. Almond, 2/3 c. Cassava, 2/3 c. Coconut, and 1/3 c Tapioca flours. Out of this I removed 2 and 1/2 c. to follow the recipe. I add chopped pecans and chopped figs. I added also 1/4 tsp. crushed Cardamon seeds. I also used the flax eggs in place of farm eggs for longer shelf life for travelling this Easter. I also baked this in 2 small (5-6 inch) cake pans for one hour at 325°F. I plan to make the df icing with cashew and df cream cheez. Thank you for your help. The kitchen smells amazing!