I would take chocolate over any dessert 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 easily, 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?
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. Whether you are using a light carrot cake or something as dense as a cheesecake crust, nobody likes hard or dry cake layers. Two to three cake layers is the best proportion, in my opinion, 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 types of 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 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 really shines through.
- Dates: to naturally sweeten the carrot cake and bind all the ingredients together, I used dates. Medjool dates work the best here because they are soft, juicy, with a melt-in-your-mouth feel. If your dates aren’t soft, soak them in warm water for 10-20 minutes before you add them to the cake, so they break down easily.
- 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 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, which makes 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 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.
- Spices: it’s not uncommon to see carrot cake titled as a “spice cake”. Indeed, a carrot cake does contain a lot of 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.
- 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 exactly 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! The reason maple syrup works so well in this recipe is that carrots have flavor affinity for sugars as they are already sweet themselves. They have a 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.
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.
- Pulse 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. The rest of the dry ingredients, except the coconut flour, are next to have all the ingredients well combined. Dates come last to bind all the ingredients together. The carrot cake mixture should be a little bit crumbly but stick together when pressed with your fingers. If the mixture is too dry, pulse a little bit more. If it’s too wet, add a little bit more coconut flour.
- Fold in the coconut flour and carrots. By folding as opposed to pulsing the coconut flour and carrots in a food processor, you can keep a lighter, less dense, 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. To make a traditional style layer carrot cake, you will need at least two cake layers. The easiest way to shape the cakes layers is to use a springform pan as a guide. So, divide the carrot cake mixture in half, and press it into a greased or parchment paper-lined pan (this particular recipe calls for a 6-inch/15-cm tall springform pan). Make sure the sides are even and the top is leveled. If a layer cake seems like too much work, you can turn it into a simple two-layer cake with frosting just on the top.
- Chill the cake. Place the cakes in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. I typically have the cakes in the freezer while I’m making the filling.
- Prepare the frosting. Starting with room-temperature ingredients, blend all the ingredients in a high-speed blender 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 into the freezer to let the frosting firm up slightly, 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 top of 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 into the freezer for about 6 hours, but 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 to add 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 or chocolate cheesecake, they will be a hit with everyone you serve them to.
- Tiramisu: yet another favorite and rightly so. This cake is 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 really appreciate.
- Brownies: of course, I can’t forget raw brownies, whether it is brownies with dates or brownies without dates. They are fudgy, chewy, 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
- Prepare the carrot cake. Add the walnuts into a food processor and pulse until the walnuts are finely ground but still have a little bit of texture. Be careful not to over-process the walnuts, Add the shredded coconut, coconut oil, lemon juice and lemon zest, vanilla extract, spices, and salt, and pulse a few times to combine. Once semi-fine meal is achieved, add one date at a time through the feed tube of the food processor while the food processor is running. The carrot cake mixture should be a little bit crumbly, but stick together when pressed in between your fingers. 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 into a greased 6-inch/15-cm springform pan (if you're using using anything other than a springform pan, line it with parchment paper for an easier removal), and press it into an even layer. The top of the cake should be smooth and leveled. Transfer the cake into the freezer and let it chill for a minimum of 10-15 minutes. Repeat with the other half of the 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 into 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.
- Prepare the frosting. Add the cashews, coconut cream, coconut oil, maple syrup, lemon juice, and vanilla extract 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 into the freezer to let the frosting firm up slightly, 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 into the freezer for about 6 hours, but 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. To cut the cake into individual pieces, use a hot, sharp knife. 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).