I would take chocolate over any dessert at any time. BUT this raw carrot cake is delicious! Maybe it’s the sweet, moist cinnamon-spiced cake. Or the tangy cream cheese frosting. Or the bit of savoriness that comes from the nuts and helps the spices balance all that sweetness. Whatever it is, this raw carrot cake is very similar in taste and texture to the baked version. However, unlike the real deal carrot cake, this recipe is vegan (dairy-free, egg-free), grain-free (gluten-free), soy-free, and refined sugar-free.
Raw cakes are one of my favorite things to make. They come together quickly, taste, and look incredible, and the possibilities in terms of flavors, colors, and textures are endless.
But what exactly makes a great raw layer cake?
That is a good question. A lot of it comes down to personal preference. However, many will agree that a great layer cake is about balance. The cake itself should be moist and tender. Nobody likes hard or dry cake layers, whether you are using a light carrot cake or something as dense as a cheesecake crust. I think two to three cake layers are the best proportion, but you can stack as many as you like.
The filling and frosting should account for sweetness and decadence. While some might argue that nothing can be too sweet or too rich, you don’t want to overpower the cake layers, or any of the other components, really. For buttercream, cream cheese, or fudge fillings, try sticking to layers of fillings that are half the height of the layers of cakes. When using something like sweet fruit preserves or rich chocolate ganache, consider using a bit less filling. Or better yet, use a bit of both to balance out the sweet and rich elements. For frosting, use as little or as much as you’d like. If you are not big on sweet frosting, consider only icing the top of the cake and leaving the sides naked for a more rustic look.
Tips for Making Raw Carrot Cake
These key ingredients make this warm, cinnamon-spiced raw carrot cake moist, light, and even a little healthy.
- Carrots: the start of the show in this cake are carrots. Because this carrot cake is raw, the flavor of carrots is quite prominent, and their natural sweetness shines through.
- Walnuts: when you think about walnuts, you probably imagine a complex taste that’s earthy, fruity, and tart — maybe with hints of astringency. Even though the walnut flavor is very mild, it does include some sharp notes. However, the astringent taste is great for balancing out sweet dishes. Walnuts have a soft, rich, almost buttery texture, making them perfect for recipes that need that light, flaky texture – like raw cakes! If you are out of walnuts, pecans are the best substitute.
- Coconut: desiccated coconut fills this carrot cake with a rich, buttery flavor and adds a chewy texture. I usually use both desiccated coconut and coconut flour to give this raw carrot cake more of a flour-like texture.
- Medjool dates: I often use dates to naturally sweeten raw cakes and bind all the ingredients together. Medjool dates work the best here because they are soft, juicy, and with a melt-in-your-mouth feel. If your dates aren’t soft, soak them in warm water for 10-20 minutes before adding them to the cake, so they break down easily.
- Spices: it’s not uncommon to see carrot cake titled a “spice cake”. Indeed, a carrot cake contains many bold spices with heady flavors and scents, including cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger. Make sure the spices are fresh because spices are what you’ll taste the most in this cake.
Carrot Cake Frosting
- Cashews: the most frequently used nut in raw cake fillings and frostings is cashews. The reason is quite obvious. Cashews have a neutral, slightly sweet flavor and a smooth and creamy texture when blended. Although it can be hard to get the same results when substituting another ingredient for these nuts, macadamia nuts – while more fibrous and not as smooth – are probably the best option.
- Maple syrup: any liquid sweetener works in this frosting. However, if you have access to maple syrup, use it! Maple syrup works so well in this recipe because carrots have a flavor affinity for sugars as they are already sweet. They have woody and herbal notes, which play off the “brown”, caramel-like notes associated with maple syrup, creating the perfect combination.
- Coconut oil is an essential ingredient in raw frostings. It helps the frosting set and creates a texture that melts in your mouth. Coconut oil is also one of the reasons you should keep this cake in the fridge because it becomes liquid at room temperature.
- Lemon juice: lemon is the secret ingredient that makes everything taste better. Acidity cuts heaviness and sweetness and provides a fresh, bright taste.
- Vanilla extract: one of the most common ways to flavor frosting is with food extracts. A big advantage to using this method is that extracts pack in a ton of flavor without adding too much liquid
How to Make Raw Carrot Cake
- Grate the carrots finely. Finely grated carrots meld seamlessly into the moist, spiced cake, while shredded carrots create a less uniform texture. The finer the carrots, the more evenly distributed they will be, and the more cohesive the cake slices. So, select the finest holes on a cheese grater and grate the carrots into fluffy pieces. Alternatively, attach a shredding blade to a food processor to grate the carrots faster. Squeeze out any excess juice from the carrots. If the carrots are wet, they will make the carrot cake too dense.
- Process the carrot cake ingredients. The order in which you add the cake ingredients into the food processor is important. Walnuts go first to ensure they are finely ground, but still have some texture to them. Next are dates, desiccated coconut, vanilla extract, and spices to bind all the ingredients together. Finally, coconut flour and grated carrots. The coconut flour and carrots are folded in with a spatula to keep a lighter, less dense, and more “cake-like” texture. If you do not enjoy the texture of grated carrots in a carrot cake, you can add them to the food processor together with the dates. The pulsing action of the food processor will turn the carrots into even smaller, less detectable pieces.
- Shape the cake layers. You will need at least two cake layers to make a traditional-style layered carrot cake. The easiest way to shape the layers of the cake is to use a springform pan as a guide. So, divide the carrot cake mixture in half, and press it into a lightly greased 6-inch/15-cm springform pan. Make sure the sides are even, and the top is leveled. If a layer cake seems too much work, you can turn it into a simple two-layer cake with frosting on the top.
- Chill the cake layers. Place the cake layers in the freezer for 10-15 minutes so they firm up and are easy to work with.
- Blend the frosting ingredients. Add all the carrot cake filling ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend until completely smooth.
- Assemble the cake. Leave one of the carrot cake layers in the springform pan. Pour the first half of the frosting onto the cake and tap out any air bubbles. Transfer the springform pan with the cake back to the freezer to let the frosting firm up slightly, for about 30 minutes. It’s really important that the frosting is at least semi-firm to hold the second layer of the cake. Once chilled, place the second carrot cake layer on the frosting. Gently press it into the frosting to make sure it’s really on there. Pour the second half of the frosting on top of the cake and tap out any air bubbles once again.
- Chill. Cover the springform pan with a piece of paper towel (to trap any condensation), and then double-wrap the entire springform pan with plastic wrap for the best chance of preserving the cake’s taste and texture. Transfer the wrapped cake to the freezer for at least 6 hours, ideally overnight. The more frozen the cake, the easier and cleaner the removal from the pan.
Raw Carrot Cake Variations
Carrot cake can be a personal thing. If you like yours with raisins, feel free to fold some into the cake mixture. If you like yours with pineapple, add it in. Love coconut? Sprinkle more desiccated coconut over the frosted cake. I like my carrot cake plain although I always try adding a few decorations to transform the cake into something wow-worthy.
Other than add-ins, you can also choose your cake size and shape. The recipe below makes any of these:
- one 9-inch round cake
- one square 8×8 cake
- a layer cake using two 6-inch/15-cm cake pans (pictured)
- 24 carrot cake bites
If You Like This Raw Carrot Cake Recipe…
…you will probably enjoy other raw cake recipes as well. But before I share with you more recipes, I encourage you to first go over the basic principles of raw cake making. It will give you a solid foundation for creating and decorating the most beautiful, show-stopping raw cakes!
Read it? Great! Now, it’s time to explore more raw cake recipes.
- Cheesecakes: some of the most popular in the raw dessert category are cheesecakes. They are easier to make than layer cakes but no less delicious or impressive. Whether it’s a classic lime cheesecake, a strawberry cheesecake, or a chocolate cheesecake, they will be a hit with everyone you serve them to.
- Tiramisu: this cake is yet another favorite, and rightly so. It’s decadent, boldly flavored with espresso, and accentuated by a slight chocolate flavor. In this case, it’s the “greater than its parts” quality that you will appreciate.
- Brownies: of course, I can’t forget raw brownies, whether it is brownies with dates or brownies without dates. They are fudgy, chewy, and chocolaty. Honestly, I would take brownies over any other dessert any time. Yes, raw brownies are that good!
If you try any of these recipes, please, leave a comment and rate the recipe below. It always means a lot when you do.
Raw Carrot Cake
- Process the carrot cake ingredients. Add the walnuts into a food processor fitted with an S blade and pulse until the nuts are finely ground, but still have some texture. Add the dates, shredded coconut, coconut oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla extract, and spices, and process until all the ingredients are well combined. The carrot cake mixture should be a little bit crumbly but stick together when you press it between your fingers. If the mixture is too dry, pulse it a little bit more. Lastly, using a spatula, fold in the coconut flour and carrots.
- Shape the carrot cake. Divide the carrot cake mixture in half. Transfer the first half of the mixture to a lightly greased 6-inch/15-cm springform pan (if you're using anything other than a springform pan, line it with parchment paper for easier removal), and press it into an even layer. The top of the cake should be smooth and leveled. Transfer the cake to the freezer and let it chill for a minimum of 10-15 minutes. Repeat with the other half of the cake mixture. Note: if you only have one 6-inch/15-cm springform pan, let the first layer of cake chill first. Then carefully remove the cake from the pan, transfer it to a round cake board, and place it back into the freezer. Clean the springform pan, grease it once again, and repeat the steps above with the other half of the carrot cake mixture.
- Blend the carrot cake frosting ingredients. Add all the carrot cake frosting ingredients into a high-speed blender, and blend on high until smooth and creamy.
- Assemble the cake. With the carrot cake layer still in the springform pan, pour the first half of the frosting onto the cake and tap out any air bubbles. Transfer the springform pan with the cake back to the freezer to let the frosting firm up slightly, for about 30 minutes. Then place the second carrot cake layer on top of the frosting and gently press it into the frosting to make sure it's really on there. Pour the second half of the frosting on top of the cake and tap out any air bubbles once again.
- Chill. Cover the springform pan with a piece of paper towel (to trap any condensation), and then double wrap the entire springform pan with plastic wrap for the best chance of preserving the cake's taste and texture. Transfer the wrapped cake to the freezer for at least 6 hours, ideally overnight. The more frozen the cake, the easier and cleaner the removal from the pan.
- Serve. Once set, remove the carrot cake from the springform pan. Serve the cake frozen or let it thaw at room temperature for 15-20 minutes before serving.
- Store, Leftover carrot cake keeps well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 1 month (ideal).