My most popular carrot cake recipe is wonderful. It’s packed with all of those goodies that make carrot cake so unique. But I’ve repeatedly received inquiries for no pineapple, no raisins, and no nuts, in addition to no dairy. So I baked this basic carrot cake recipe that’s stripped down and easy to customize.
This beloved dessert is pineapple-free as is, so there’s no need to worry about moisture levels. It’s also made without nuts and raisins, but I’ve included options should you want to add either, or both, back in. And the delicious glaze is made without dairy OR dairy alternatives of any kind. Yes, this is a naturally dairy-free dessert!
Basic Carrot Cake with Lemon Glaze, but without Pineapple, Dairy, Raisins, or Nuts!
This is a nice moist carrot cake that’s full-flavored, and complemented by a delicious sweet-tart glaze. It bakes up quite like a seamless box mix cake, but with a definite homemade taste. I have just a couple recipe notes to expand on:
Leavener: The original recipe uses 3/4 teaspoon baking powder and 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, as still listed in the recipe. I’ve also tested this recipe with 1 teaspoon of each, and it rises up more like a sweet bread or pound cake, but is still moist and delicious. If making loaf or rectangular cakes, and you want a higher rise, use 1 teaspoon of baking powder, and optionally increase the baking the baking soda to 1 teaspoon. But make sure to use dark brown sugar – the extra molasses in dark vs light brown sugar reacts with the baking soda. With light brown sugar, you might taste the baking soda a little in the end cake if you use too much. The image below represents the loaf cake texture made without increased leavener (just 3/4 teaspoon each).
Pan Sizes: My most recent test was in a limited kitchen with just a convection oven and two 8×6-inch square baking dishes. I had to bake the cakes for 55 minutes. In a regular oven, it would have been much faster, but the time would still be a little longer. Make sure to keep a close eye on the cakes if baking in different size pans and/or in a smaller oven. The cake should be fully risen, appear golden, and be slightly firm to the touch. The toothpick test will confirm that it’s ready.
Special Diet Notes: Basic Carrot Cake
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, gluten-free option, nut-free, peanut-free, soy-free, vegetarian, and pineapple-free!
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour (see gluten-free option below)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder (see leavening note in post above)
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¾ cup sugar
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar (can sub light brown sugar)
- 4 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1½ cups oil
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and grated
- 3 to 5 cups powdered sugar
- ¼ cup lemon juice, or to taste (see Lemon Note below)
- Preheat your oven to 350°F.
- Grease two 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with a round of parchment paper cut to fit. (See below for other pan sizes.)
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice.
- In a mixing bowl, beat the sugars, eggs, and vanilla with the whisk attachment for 3 minutes.
- Lower the speed and slowly add the oil, while beating. The egg mixture will become thicker as the oil is added. Continue to beat for another 5 minutes.
- Gradually mix in the flour mixture. Fold in the carrots.
- Scrape the batter into your prepared pans.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the pans and bake for another 5 to 15 minutes, or until the cakes seem firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean.
- Cool the cakes on a wire rack.
- In a medium bowl, beat the lemon juice and 3 cups powdered sugar on low speed, until smooth.
- If the glaze seems too runny, mix in more sugar. If it becomes too thick, mix in little more lemon or water (if it is too tart for your taste).
- Turn the cakes out onto a plate or cake circle.
- Coat the center of one cake with lemon glaze.
- Top with the second cake layer, and allow the remaining glaze to coat the top and run down the sides.
Loaf Cake and Rectangular Cake Options: Grease three 8x4-inch loaf pans or two 8x-6-inch pans, and line them with parchment paper overhanging on two opposite sides (to easily lift the cakes out). Increase the baking powder to 1 teaspoon, and optionally increase the baking soda to 1 teaspoon (but only if using dark brown sugar). Bake the cakes for 20 minutes, rotate, and bake for 20 to 35 minutes more (we had variation by oven types), or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean.
Raisin Option: You can stir in 1 cup raisins (dark, golden, or a combination of the two) with the carrots.
Nuts Option: You cn stir in 1 cup chopped walnuts with the carrots.
Gluten-Free Option: My friend René tested this recipe with King Arthur Measure for Measure Gluten-Free Flour and it was "a big hit!"
This recipe is adapted from the The Art of Dessert by Ann Amernick.