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 10 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.

108 Comments

  1. My husband made this cake for my birthday yesterday. (I gave him the recipe.) It was outstanding! We didn’t have the crushed pineapple on hand but did everything else as per directions. It was perfectly moist and so delicious! Thank you for sharing the recipe!

  2. I made this for my sons birthday, I used an egg substitute and was worried that would ruin it but it turned out perfect! Everyone loved it even the non food allergy people. I would never have guessed it was dairy and egg free! Thank you for such a great recipe!
    One word of warning if your reading this before you make it, the second step is to let the first step sit for one hour. Thankfully I had Just enough time to finish because I went ahead and worked on doing the rest of the steps and mixed it up about 15min “early”. But I do Highly recommend you give it a try!

  3. This is seriously the best cake in the world! It is now referred to as “the cake” in our family. Thanks so much

  4. Hiya, fab cake! I’ve used your dairy free recipe hit butter cream too. My question is, can I freeze half the cake? – the half I haven’t already gobbled!

    • Yes, you can! If it’s frosted, let it defrost at room temperature for about an hour or in the refrigerator for longer, before eating. If it isn’t frosted when you freeze it, you can defrost the same way as frosted, or give it a quick reheat in the microwave.

  5. Kristin A Burggraff on

    Good morning, I need to modify this recipe to have no eggs. What is the best way to modify recipe to replace the eggs?

  6. Super excited to make this a second time for my husband’s birthday at his request ^_^ I just have a couple of questions to hopefully help simplify the process this year. Have you found 6 cups to average a certain weight of carrots to start with? And should I be packing the grated carrots to measure? I’m also planning to do a simple sheet cake in a large rectangle pan or two – so if you have any tips for tweaking the baking time I’d be happy to hear them 🙂

    • That’s a good question! But I have no idea on the weight. I don’t pack it though – it’s quite a lot without packing. It’s hard to say on the baking time, but it will usually take longer if baking in a larger format, and you could have issues with overbaking on the outside and underbaking on the inside. It’s a sheet pan baking risk, and I’m not completely sure how to adjust for that. While you might want to reduce the baking temperature just a little and bake for longer to help even out the baking, this could dry out the cake a little.

      • I ended up with two carrots left over from a 1 lb bag 🙂 If I had peeled the carrots I probably could have gotten away with using the whole bag. Poured the batter into a 2 quart and a 3 quart Pyrex baking dish. Baked them both for 35 minutes on 350°, then removed the 2 qt dish and gave the 3 qt an extra five minutes. Poured and smoothed the icing on top and served directly out of the dish. Turned out great!

      • Five cups ended up being two carrots shy of a one pound bag for me 🙂 If I had peeled the carrots I probably could have gotten away with just using the whole bag. Had enough batter for a 2 qt and 3 qt baking dish. Baked them both for 35 minutes on 350° then took the 2 qt out and gave the 3 qt an extra five minutes. Simply poured and spread the icing over top and served it directly out of the pan. Maybe not as aesthetically pleasing, but easy and delicious!

  7. This recipe is AMAZING!!! You answered this Auntie’s search for a dairy-free cake that my niece could eat. It is incredibly moist and flavorful. I only had 9 inch round pans and used the leftover batter for a loaf pan cake — all of it was simply delicious! Thank you so much for sharing.

  8. I’ve had 2 8” round cake pans in the oven for a little over 40 minutes now and both are still gooey in the center but almost burnt looking on the edges. Any advice? I followed everything exactly as stated in the recipe and used my oven thermometer to get the temp perfect. I’m stumped.

    • Hi Ashley, the recipe makes THREE 8-inch layers. So the batter should be divided between three pans, not two. OR two 8-inch pans and 8 cupcake tins. It’s in one of the first steps for the recipe. I’m not sure on the best temp/time if baking them thicker.

  9. Hi! Thank you for this! My boyfriend is allergic to everything so this will be perfect for his birthday this week! How long does the batter hold up in the fridge? Id like to save some of it to make a smaller cake a day or two after. Or, will an iced cake hold up okay if I make it all at once? Help please! 🙂

    • Hmm, I’m not sure. I’ve never left a cake batter in the refrigerator. That might hold for a day or two. It’s always best to ice just before serving, but if you want to make the whole thing in advance, store the iced cake in the refrigerator. It will keep well for one day, but should keep okay for a couple of days.

      • Thank you! Appreciate your quick response! Also, I don’t have an electric mixer – can I do the method of mixing the dry ingredients, mixing the sugar/wet ingredients, mixing together then adding the produce ingredients?? What would you suggest? #needyfirsttimer!

  10. Recipe for the simple icing that your Grandmother would have used?
    Or what about your recipe for the Cashew Cream Cheeze Icing?

    • Hi Laura, it was just a glaze, not an icing – basically powdered sugar and milk (milk beverage). My cashew frosting recipe is in Go Dairy Free, my book. Do you have a copy?

  11. I’d like to make this without processed sugar and sub in honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, or something of the like. Is there anything else about the recipe I might need to adjust to accommodate those changes?

    • Hi Katie, substituting a liquid sweetener will dramatically change the results. I suggest that you either consult a guide on how to sub liquid sweeteners for dry sweetener (and still expect the results to be a little different) or use a granulated sweetener. This recipe really was not created with liquid sweetener in mind, so I can’t make recommendations without testing. You can substitute coconut sugar, date sugar, or another unrefined granulated sweetener, but keep in mind that they will yield less sweet results.

    • I’ve never had even close to that much liquid release. I would just follow the directions (keep it), so that you don’t loose any of the sweetness. No idea why that happened though!

  12. I would like to make this cake, but curious how many carrots you need to make 6 cups grated carrots? I have no idea !! Thank you!

  13. This carrot cake tastes so good and is so moist. What is hard about baking for a group where there is a few that are allergy sensitive is the individuals who can eat anything can tell the difference when you bake gluten free and dairy free. That is not the case with this carrot cake recipe. It is so good that no one knew it was gluten free and dairy free. Awesome!!!!!

  14. This is the best carrot cake I have ever had, boyfriend says the same. When looking for dairy-free recipes you usually end up cutting corners and substituting, but this cake tops every “original”. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Tasha, I believe someone mentioned in the comments here that they successfully made it without the pineapple. All brown sugar would change it a little, but I can’t imagine brown sugar ever ruining anything 🙂

    • There’s a link in the recipe intro to the cream cheese frosting recipe I originally used Nicole. It isn’t my main cream cheese frosting recipe anymore, but still works well!

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