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:
This cake was delicious! I made a “test” cake to see how it would turn out before making it for an event. My neighbors were loving the fresh cake and could not tell there was any difference between this and one with all the gluten/dairy. The frosting recipe does make a LOT. I used about 6 cups of sugar and 2 sticks of vegan butter and it was plenty. I can’t wait to make it again. Thank you!
For the frosting what can I use besides apple cider vinegar I only have regular vinegar right now
I have made this cake once before, using real eggs, and it came out amazing (and I thought I had left a review already, but I couldn’t find it). I just made it again, exactly as written, and it’s once again amazing. I did cupcakes this time; it made exactly 24 cupcakes (filled 3/4 full) and I made a half-batch of the frosting and it was exactly the right amount. I was admittedly very nervous about the “flax eggs” because the mixture didn’t seem very egg-like in consistency at all, even after being in the fridge pretty much all day until I got around to making the batter. They must have been okay, though, because the cake came out perfectly. This is seriously awesome carrot cake and I love that I can make it safe-to-eat for certain family members and friends who have food allergies and Celiac disease.
How long did you bake them for?
Oh. My. Goodness. I just made this cake for Easter and it was fantastic!! Thank you for such a fabulous recipe. The only tweaks I made were adding in some xanthan gum because Bob’s doesn’t have any in it, using “neat egg” (basically the same as milled flax seed), and a different frosting recipe. The cake was moist and so delicious! Keeping this for the future, would highly recommend!
So awesome every time. Dense .and moist
Best carrot cake ever! I used almond flour and I didn’t have flax seeds. Also ran out of brown sugar so I used apple juice and molasses so I used one less wet ingredient (egg). The frosting is delicious. I didn’t have butter so. Used coconut oil instead. The hint of citrus makes the whole cake come together. Oh and I completely forgot to add salt. But even with all those mistakes, it is still amazing. When I do another grocery run, I’ll be able to buy all the right ingredients… but for now…. I’ll give it five yummy stars
Hi! I’m wondering what kind of dairy free butter you used for the icing?
I made this frosting to go with GSO’s regular carrot cake, and it was by far the best carrot cake I’ve ever made. But I would definitely only use about 3 c. of powdered sugar for the frosting, not 8 c. as in the recipe. With 3 cups it was still veeeery sweet. And yes, it does taste like cream cheese frosting!
•coconut sugar for granulated sugar
•applesauce for eggs (1/4 for each egg)
Came out great !
Also added a little maple syrup :)
Thanks for the recipe !
Just made this cake for an event where there was a challenging group of attendees. We had allergies including – gluten, nuts, dairy, eggs, and soy. And just to add to the complexity we also had some vegans. When I found your cake I was pretty happy. It fit the bill and totally delivered on taste and presentation. The vegan cream cheese frosting is amazing! That recipe is going in my book. It can be reproduced from pantry items and who can tell it from real/traditional cream cheese icing? . Thank you Ali.
This cake is a repeat request at our house! It’s SO good and hits all the marks. I’m curious about adding raisins? How much would I add, maybe a 1/2 cup would be enough just folded into the batter before pouring into pans?
So I’ve made this multiple times and LOVE it. Tonight when I made it, the cake BOILED. I’m so sad. Any advice?
Thank you for a great recipe. Made this Christmas morning and my family really enjoyed it and said I should make it again. This is the first carrot cake I have had since being diagnosed with food allergies and I would never know it was gluten free and vegan.
sounds so delicious. What temp and time to bake do you recommend for cupcakes?
This cake is truly delicious and I’m always asked to make it for someone’s birthday!
Absolutely loved this recipe the first time I made it!!!! I followed it exactly for the cake but made my own recipe of vegan cream cheese frosting. Will this recipe work ok for cupcakes?
AMAZING!!! I have been GF Celiac for 12 years and DF/EF for 3.5 years… I have also been a baker for 30+ years, and have 2 teens that have had severe food allergies their whole lives. I halved the recipe and made cupcakes… It made 12 perfectly moist, decadent, non gummy, absolutely delightful allergy free cupcakes ever!!!… And OMG’sh… That mock cream cheese buttercream is TO DIE FOR!! My picky allergy free eaters devoured the all of them in one sitting!! Thank you so much for sharing… And to Americas test kitchen for their innovative research into finds like this. Allergy free baking that tastes pallitable is a rare find… This was divine! I will have to check their book out. ?
This cake is incredible! I have been making it for a couple years now (apologies I am just now writing a comment!). My 3 year old daughter has significant food allergies to wheat, egg, dairy and peanut … and now an intolerance to nightshades. I LOVE to bake. I grew up baking …and cooking… with my family. Learning to cook and bake again is like learning to walk for the first time. All new ingredients, new methods, substitutions, and … critics; who have been eating the “the other way” for decades. Any who, this cake was one of the first cakes I made – absolutely delicious! Over time I have changed it up a bit. Couple things I love to do is add applesauce (1/4 cup, and reduce veg oil to 1/2 c), add smashed pineapple (drained – 1/2 cup) and 3/4 c raisins. Just thought I’d share! This recipe doesn’t need a change… but I can’t help it – it’s the baker in me ??
I don’t normally rate things online, but this recipe really saved my (vegan) bacon. The daughter was turning 5 and asked for a carrot cake. Muggins here messed up ordering one and had to try and make one.
Followed the recipe exactly (although used less icing) and had to use a loaf tin. Reduced the oven temperature so much that it to 2 hours to bake ?, but it turned out great. She said it was amazing and was incredibly happy.
Okay, so…this cake is INSANELY good. I set out to make a really good carrot cake after a heated discussion in our household about whether or not carrot cake is an acceptable “all time favourite cake” flavour. I was on team NO, initially, but I thought it only fair after making a solid carrot cake first. WOW– I have joined the other team now! In fact, at this moment, carrot cake might be MY favourite cake flavour. Thank you for this incredible recipe that is so allergen friendly and delicious!
I made some substitutions and it still turned out perfect:
-halved the recipe (one 8″ layer cake with one layer of frosting only- baked for ~26 minutes)
-nearly halved the sugar amount too! I did 1/4 heaping cup coconut sugar in place of brown sugar, and about 3 tbsp cane sugar and 2tbsp monkfruit/erythritol blend in place of the white sugar. I tasted the batter as I went and found this to be a desirable level of sweetness for me (since a rich frosting would be added!)
-instead of 1/4 cup + 2tbsp of oil needed for the amount I was making, I did 1/4 cup oil and 1/4 cup crushed pineapple with juices and all
-as for frosting: I made 1/4 of the recipe, but did 1.5 cups sugar instead of 2 (ran out) and it was perfect for us!
-I also used Bob’s GF AP baking flour (red bag) and loved it!!
I can’t wait for another occasion to make this heavenly cake again!!!
Could you use bob’s red mill gluten free 1 to 1 baking flour which contains xantham gum or it would make this cake rubbery?
I have just made the cake this morning. Can it be frozen? Or can it keep until needed for a couple of days???
I will make the icing now for practice sake ….I am new at this gluten free and vegan kind of baking. Thank you!
I made this recipe into cupcakes and it’s amazing! I used cane sugar instead of granulated sugar and didn’t have cloves so just used an extra pinch of nutmeg. I’ll be bringing my GF and vegan cupcakes to Thanksgiving! I already had one and it was AMAZING. For me the recipe made 24 cupcakes with some left over (6 mini muffins).
Highly recommend this recipe!
Thank you so much for this recipe! It’s amazing. I’m vegan and my son has celiac so making something we can both enjoy has been a big challenge for me. This carrot cake is perfection and made my son very happy. No one would have guessed it was vegan and gf. Also…genius for the frosting! It really tasted like the cream cheese kind! Made a double layer cake with 9 inch pans and it was way too much frosting! Not complaining just going to bake another cake to use it up?
Could this recipe be made with no refined sugar for the cake? Can I sub maple syrup for the granulated sugar? If so, how much?
I haven’t tasted the cake yet. BUT the frosting is unreal! You cannot tell that it is not cream cheese. I cook gluten-free and dairy-free for my husband (I have no issues) and I am not normally a fan of his food. Really just try this recipe!
Hailing from France here. I thought I’d try something truly American for a gathering of language workers.
Taking the advice of a fellow Briton here, I made the following changes:
– Replaced the 1 cup of granulated sugar with 1 cup of chopped walnuts and 1/2 cup of chopped raisons.
– Used dark brown sugar.
– Used whole wheat flour… (no GF flour at home)
– Made 1/5th of the recipe for frosting.
– Made 12 large cup cakes and 6 small cup cakes.
My opinion on the result:
– It’s pleanty sweet. (No need for that extra cup of sugar)
– Glutenous flour can replace GF flour, no problem
– It’s a bit greasy (but other carrot cake recipes are a bit greasy too)
– The frosting is way too sweat, too caloric, poison to the teeth
– If making the frosting, make sure the margarine is not yellow…
– the emulsion technique using flaxmeal as an egg replacer was cool. Good to know.
My French friends’ opinions on the result:
– Some people innitially thought it was spicy chocolate cake.
– Everybody loved the non-frosted version.
– Nobody but American culture enthusiasts felt the need for frosting.
Will definately keep this recipe, for the next time I want to feed people carrots in a pleasurable way ;)
I love LOVE the original version of your carrot cake! But now I need to make it GF, but not vegan. Can I simply make this version but sub out the flax eggs for the real deal?
Is the batter supposed to be pretty thick? After adding the wet ingredients to the dry, the batter is very thick and seems like mostly carrots. Should I add a liquid? Thanks!
Best ever! When I found ur site I Make it every Christmas for my daughters birthday! Thankyou
I have been using this recipe for years now and it is absolutely wonderful. People are always amazed when they find out it’s vegan! The frosting is a family favorite . This recipe is delicious every time.
Can you sub apple sauce for all or part of the oil?