Grandma’s Best Dairy-Free Carrot Cake

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Everything that comes out of my kitchen is dairy-free, but for my family, at special events, I like to bake things that are as “normal” as possible. To do so, I often peruse the recipes that grandma clips from the newspaper or dog-ears in her favorite magazine, Taste of Home. Though I’m not completely sure of the original source, this dairy-free carrot cake recipe was born from one that I found at my grandma’s house.

My grandma, father, and I are big carrot cake fans, and it took just a few minor tweaks to develop a dairy-free carrot cake recipe that we all loved. I surprised her with a big slice of it for her 6th 75th birthday (you do the math).

Grandma's Best Carrot Cake - still one of our most popular dairy-free recipes! A staple.

Carrot Cake Frosting Tips

I topped it off with the dairy-free cream cheese frosting recipe that I created for Allergic Living magazine, but this recipe is also quite delicious. To maintain the thickness of the frosting, start with just 1 cup of powdered sugar and only add as much as needed for your tastes. I find that adding the full amount can make it a touch runny, depending on the brand of dairy-free cream cheese alternative.

Vegan & Egg-Free Carrot Cake Suggestions

If you can use eggs in this recipe, do! The results are superior with eggs. If you need an egg-free option, I have a full egg substitute guide to help out. The options I recommend trying are a powdered egg replacer or aquafaba. Avoid alternatives that are too moist and heavy, like applesauce and flax eggs. The cake might not set up if you use an egg option with density but not structure.

Allergic Living Spring 2012 - Gluten-Free & Vegan Cupcakes with Dairy-Free Pineapple Creamy Cheese Frosting

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Carrot Cake Suggestions

Because carrot cake is so moist, I recommend using a flour blend that doesn’t contain any gums. Gums can get, well, gummy in moist recipes. But I do recommend keeping the eggs, and not using an egg replacer, if you are trying this recipe without gluten. The carrot cake recipe I created for Allergic Living used a basic gluten-free flour blend of 2 cups brown rice flour, 2/3 cup potato starch, and 1/3 cup tapioca starch. I have not tested that specific blend in this recipe.

Quick Tip

Note that I do grate the carrots for this dairy-free carrot cake recipe by hand, which can be time consuming. If you have a food processor to help make fast work of the carrots, this cake will come to together quite quickly.

Grandma's Best Dairy-Free Carrot Cake Recipe

Special Diet Notes: Grandma’s Best Dairy-Free Carrot Cake

By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, nut-free, peanut-free, soy-free, and vegetarian. For an egg-free and vegan carrot cake, see my tips above.

5.0 from 9 reviews
Grandma’s Best Dairy-Free Carrot Cake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
I adapted this recipe from one of my Grandma's favorites. Grandma’s original version used a simple sugary glaze rather than frosting, but for a more festive touch, I frosted the cake with a dairy-free “cream cheese” frosting. Please note that the Prep time is hands on time only - allow 1 hour for soaking the carrots.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 16 to 20 servings
Ingredients
  • 6 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped raisins
  • 4 eggs (see notes in the post for egg-free suggestions)
  • 1½ cups white sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable or grapeseed oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (see notes above on my gluten-free recipe)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Instructions
  1. Combine the grated carrots and brown sugar in a medium bowl and set aside for an hour. After the two have had some good mingling time, stir in the raisins.
  2. Preheat your oven to 350ºF, and grease and flour two 10-inch cake pans, three 8-inch cake pans, or two 8-inch cake pans +8 cupcake tins.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and briefly set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, and gradually beat in the white sugar, oil and vanilla. Stir in the pineapple. Stir the flour mix into the wet mixture, being careful not to over mix. Gently fold in the carrot mixture and nuts.
  4. Pour the batter evenly into your prepared pans. Bake as follows: 10-inch pans – 40-50 minutes, 8-inch pans – 30-35 minutes, Cupcakes – 20-22 minutes, or for all, until the cakes are springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  5. Place the pans on a wire rack to cool for 10-20 minutes before removing them from the pan.
  6. Once the cake is completely cool, then you can frost it or drizzle with icing.

About Author

Alisa is the founder of GoDairyFree.org, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

106 Comments

  1. MICHELE J PERNIA on

    Really, 6 cups of grated carrot?! It almost sounds like a typo… Please confirm. Also, I’ll likely be using my food processor to “grate” the carrots as my arthritic hands may not be able to muster the strength to use a manual grater. OK? I’ll be making this cake for Easter weekend and wanted to be right for my son’s 31st birthday as well on Saturday. Thanks! Michele

    • No typo – it’s true carrot cake! Note that it makes 3 8-inch layers – so a lot of cake. Yes, your food processor would definitely help! I’d use the fine holes if you can.

  2. I made this for the first time for a carrot-themed party where moms were dairy-free attended and I was asked many times for the recipe! Thanks for such a great one!

  3. Hi Alisa
    I’m only just starting out when it comes to baking and this will be my first dairy free cake!! It’s probably a very silly question to everyone else out there but what is that actual measurement of a cup?

    Thanks so much x

  4. I’ve been looking for a good carrot cake recipe for a while. Can’t wait to try adapting this one to be egg-free! I’ll let you know how it turns out.

  5. BEST CARROT CAKE EVER! I subbed the oil for applesauce, reduced both white and brown sugar by 1/2, and left out the raisins. Ended up with an incredibly moist, heavy cake that disappeared within hours! Thank you!

  6. This recipe is absolutely delicious!!! I subbed apple sauce for pineapple, but then it was too runny, so I added a half cup brown rice flour. I used Bob’s Red Mill all purpose for my flour. I also added dried cranberries along with the raisins and walnuts. Great tip on chopping the raisins! I don’t know why I never thought of that??? As well as letting the sugar and carrots marinate–brilliant! We cut the recipe in half and got a dozen over-sized cupcakes. I think I will do the pineapple next time. Thank you so much! This is the first cake I’ve made that it was not immediately totally obvious that it was gluten and dairy free!! ps. we haven’t tried the frosting yet, this is so sweet that I was able to get away with a dusting of powder sugar on my daughter’s to make her happy 😉

  7. I made this recipe as cupcakes for my work one morning – they went down a treat! I’ve since made it into a cake (two layers, with cream cheese icing in-between) and am about to whip up another cake for my husband’s colleagues. It’s become my go-to! I left out the pineapple as the dairy-free girl in my office also doesn’t like pineapple and I’ve found the recipe to be perfect regardless – I was concerned it’d affect its moistness but it was just perfect. Thanks heaps for a brilliant recipe 🙂

  8. Great recipe! Turned out really moist and beautiful. I cut everything in half and I could make 12 cup cakes out of this. Everyone loved it! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  9. This is the best recipe. I made it gluten-free by using Tom Sawyer’s Multipurpose Gluten Free Flour (www.glutenfreeflour.com) which can be used cup for cup replacement in any recipe. I first made this cake for Easter and my mom loved it so much she requested it for Mother’s Day. So I made it for her and it turned out just as good or better the second time. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Michelle Edwards on

    As a Breastfeeding mama I have recently gone dairy-free, my 15 week old baby has a dairy intolerance. After several weeks with very few treats I decided to have a go at this recipe. Having never made carrot cake before, I was a little nervous … but it turned out ok 🙂 Going to have a go at the ‘overnight oatmeal cookies’ next. Thanks for the great, easy, recipes.
    Michelle, South Yorkshire, England

  11. These are so moist and delicious. I only had enough carrots to make 4c. Still enought tho. Will definatly make again

  12. Wow, I’m impressed. I haven’t had carrot cake in ages, but this gluten-free version of yours in Allergic Living (thanks for the link) sounds doable. And delicious. The frosting looks like the “real” thing and the cake part looks perfect. I’m definitely giving this a try.

    • Hi, I just made the cake for the third time. The first 2 are perfect. But this time, I think I made mistake(s). The cake has texture like brownies! I wonder if it is due to packing the 6 cup of carrots. Or putting both pans in the oven at the same time (top and Bottom).

      • Carrot cake brownies sound good, but that definitely isn’t how it should turn out! Since your first two turned out well, I’d say your assumptions are correct. Too much moisture will definitely make it more dense. I do prefer to bake the pans side by side rather than top and bottom (can cause some moisture retention), but packing the carrots would definitely add a lot of moisture.

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