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Healthy Paleo Carrot Cake (Gluten-free and Dairy-free)

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This carrot cake is just as good as any carrot cake you’ve had, but it’s gluten-free, dairy-free, and paleo!

It’s made with almond flour, sweetened with maple syrup and dates, and frosted with whipped coconut cream – all of that makes it a healthy alternative to regular carrot cake.

Slice of healthy carrot cake on a plate

This carrot cake doesn’t taste like “diet” cake. All of my tasters have loved it – even those who don’t like traditional carrot cakes (like my carrot cake with pineapple). The combination of moist carrots, sweet and chewy dates, and the crunch of pecans makes for a cake that’s more of a sensory experience that your typical light and fluffy cake.

Piece of healthy carrot cake with a bite removedIt tastes like a spice cake that gets a bunch of sweetness from carrots instead of sugar. In fact, carrot cake evolved from medieval carrot pudding. During medieval times, sugar was expensive and hard to get; carrots were a cheaper alternative to using sugar.

Expect a nutty flavor from the almond flour and pecans yet with the spice profile of a traditional carrot cake.

Tips for Making Healthy Carrot Cake

While you can make this recipe without a food processor if you have great knife skills, I strongly recommend using a food processor. You’ll need it to food process the carrots and the dates, and combine all of the ingredients together.

This recipe works best if you food process the carrots on their own. That way, you can get them the right size and then measure them out.

You want the carrot pieces to be about the size of cooked quinoa.

Adding carrots to healthy carrot cake

The same goes for the dates. You’ll need to food process them on their own so that they can be measured. I always buy pitted dates for baking, but if yours aren’t pitted, be sure to pit them before processing them.

The goal is for the dates to become a big sticky mass.

Adding dates to carrot cake

Because the dates are so thick and sticky, they don’t integrate well with the other ingredients. This is, again, where the food processor can come in handy. You’ll need to food process everything (except the dry ingredients) until the mixture is smooth.

Carrot cake batter

I usually buy chopped pecans. If you buy whole ones, my final tip is to use the food processor yet again to chop up the pecans.

Folding chopped pecans into carrot cakeYou don’t need to worry about cleaning the food processor out between each step. It won’t matter at all!

This recipe calls for almond flour. If you’re unfamiliar with it, almond flour is made from finely ground almonds. It’s basically the same thing as almond meal, but almond flour is typically ground finer than the meal.

Pouring almond flour into a bowl

While I used almond flour in this recipe, you can use less finely ground almond meal and it will work just fine.

How to Make Whipped Coconut Cream

whipped coconut cream spread on carrot cake

If you aren’t dairy-free and want to splurge a little, go ahead and frost this cake with cream cheese frosting.

Whipped coconut cream is a wonderful alternative, though. It has a light coconut flavor and couldn’t be any easier to make.

Start with a can of full-fat coconut milk. This is not coconut water; it’s the coconut milk that comes in cans – usually in the Asian aisle of grocery stores.

Do not shake the can. You want to make sure that the cream is sitting on top when you open it.

Open the can and carefully scrape the cream into a bowl. Save the liquid for smoothies or cookies.

coconut cream

Use a whisk or a hand mixer to whip the coconut cream until it’s light and fluffy.

a bowl of coconut cream

Spread the coconut cream on the cake! See? I told you it was easy! And, coconut cream tastes wonderful with no need for any sugar!

Variation

It’s easy to turn this recipe into carrot cupcakes. I originally created it back in 2012 as a paleo cupcakes. You can see that photo below. I used a coconut oil frosting on the cupcakes, but I now prefer the coconut cream I described above.

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Slice of healthy carrot cake on a plate
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3.72 from 7 votes

Healthy Paleo Carrot Cake (Gluten-free and Dairy-free)

This healthy carrot cake is just as good as any carrot cake you've had, but it's gluten-free, dairy-free, and paleo! It's made with almond flour, sweetened with maple syrup and dates, and frosted with whipped coconut cream.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 12
Calories 341kcal
Author Stefani

Ingredients

Cake Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons oil such as almond oil or grapeseed oil
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped carrots chopped in the food processor to the size of cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup pureed dates pureed to a sticky mass in the food processor
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Frosting Ingredients

  • 27 ounces full-fat coconut milk two cans; be careful to not shake the cans

Instructions

Cake Directions

  • Preheat oven to 325 F.
  • In a large bowl, combine almond flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, maple syrup, and oil.
  • Mix chopped carrots and pureed dates into the wet ingredients.
  • Stir wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
  • Fold in the pecans.
  • Pour batter into a greased 8" square baking dish.
  • Bake 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out dry.

Frosting Directions

  • Open both cans of coconut milk and scrape the coconut cream that sits on top into a medium-sized bowl.
  • Use a whisk or a hand mixer to whip the coconut cream until light and fluffy.
  • Spread the coconut cream on the cake.
  • Store the cake in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Notes

Almond flour and almond meal are the same thing only almond flour is more finely ground. You can use either in this recipe.
If you aren't dairy-free and want to splurge a little, you can frost this cake with cream cheese frosting.
If you make this recipe as cupcakes, adjust baking time to 20 minutes.
 
 

Nutrition

Calories: 341kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Cholesterol: 40mg | Sodium: 275mg | Potassium: 295mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 2735IU | Vitamin C: 1.7mg | Calcium: 69mg | Iron: 3.2mg
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Healthy Paleo Carrot Cake (Gluten-free and Dairy-free)

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Recipe Rating




27 comments:

  1. Marcysays:

    I love this recipe and I make these cupcakes fairly often!

  2. Pennysays:

    5 stars
    An easy and delicious, moist cake. We didn’t have pecans so substituted with walnuts.

  3. Cassie Chandlersays:

    Can this be done without.nuts?

  4. Makesworth Accountantssays:

    5 stars
    Looking Delicious…

  5. Vittoriasays:

    5 stars
    Well, these are the WINNERS!! I’ve tried countless carrot cake recipes and this one beats them all! Perfect texture, not overly sweet, wonderful spice. Love the crunch of the nuts too. Thanks for sharing. I’m going to try actually making this as a cake next time!

  6. luciesays:

    5 stars
    This recipe is amazing thank you! I made these with my mum and they turned out delicious, everyone loved them! I’ll definitely redo them :)
    Only the frosting did not work too well…
    My dad is diabetic and my mum and I were looking for a recipe with healthy and natural sweeteners (i made a few carrot cake muffins without icing for him).

  7. Leslie Pieper-McQueensays:

    I have a cupcake blog called My Year of Cupcakes. I featured your Paleo Diet Carrot Cupcake recipe on Day 122. Here’s the link if you wanna take a look: http://myyearofcupcakes.com/2013/11/30/day-122-paleo-diet-carrot-cupcakes/

    Thanks for the great recipe!

  8. Lucsays:

    5 stars
    Just did thème ! Great ! Suble taste ! My fist time time with dates, will do t again. Thanks ( Luc , French, pastry cooking amateur before paleo, still building my paleo skills )

  9. Andreasays:

    Amazing cupcakes! I did my own recipe but great inspiration. Thank you!

  10. Anonymoussays:

    5 stars
    I just made these and my 4 year old ate 2 already! Didn’t even have time to make the frosting. I actually don’t think I need the frosting, they are delicious without it. And you are right, the cardamom is perfect for these

  11. Paleo Desertsays:

    The skinwill look clearer and smoother skin than in the past. We sometimes don’t even realize how dull and poor our skin’s appearance is becoming until it starts to clear. The Paleo diet is really a skin-clearing miracle.

  12. Anonymoussays:

    Hello,

    I am about to embark on the 21 day sugar detox as a lead in to trying to ‘go paleo’.

    I have just made these cakes but substituted the maple syrup, pureed dates and pecan nuts for mashed banana, mashed cooked green apple and crushed walnuts. They taste great!!

    Even my 22 and 23 year old sons, who are going to try to sugar detox with me didn’t turn there noses up at them : ) so thats always a good sign.

    I did not ice them!

    I am only just discovering most of these sites and recipies so I enjoy reading all the feedback

    Thanks

  13. Anonymoussays:

    I just recently found out I can’t have eggs! I’m not one to stray from a recipe what can I substitute for the eggs? I also can’t have wheat or coconut :(

    • Anonymoussays:

      You can use apple sauce or natural yoghurt instead of eggs in some recipes. I realise that natural yoghurt does not fit into the Paleo foods. Try using Almond meal for the entire amount instead of adding any coconut flour, that might work, or flaxmeal / chia seeds?

      I tend to experiment a bit..can you have egg yolks? or whites or is it the entire egg??

  14. akedwardssays:

    5 stars
    I have to say that I have not been happy with ANYTHING I have ever made with almond flour until now. This cupcake is DELICIOUS.

    THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU!!

  15. Abigailsays:

    I have recently begun eating the Primal/Paleo way, and baked goods have been extremely difficult to forego. These look amazing, I cannot wait to bake them!

  16. Juliasays:

    For reals, you have no ideeeea how perfect these look. OK fine, maybe you do ;) I’ve been baking a lot more paleo recipes and carrot cake is my favorite, so finding these, oh wow. I can’t wait to make them!!!!

  17. CABsays:

    I love this recipe since I’m always looking for tasty Paleo friendly recipes to satisfy cravings. The only thing I would recommend against is the use of grape seed oil since most Paleo experts are opposed to the use of it. I recommend using either the almond oil or even walnut oil. I think I’m going to try it with avocado oil too since it has a mild flavor to it. Thanks for the recipe!

  18. Texanerinsays:

    I ended up making these a few hours after my last comment because I couldn’t stand it any longer!

    They have the best consistency of any grain-free baked good I’ve had so far. They’re fantastic! Next time I’ll double the spices because I don’t actually like the taste of carrots and these were more carrot tasting than I’m used to in carrot cake. My husband, who usually dislikes everything, loved these. Thanks for the recipe! :)

  19. Jade @ Maidssays:

    Awesome!
    You always amaze me with your work, very impressive!
    looks so good!

  20. Patent Attorneysays:

    What a great and healthy update of a recipe that was already amazing. I can’t wait to try these out at home, and maybe even bring some into the office if I’m feeling generous!

  21. Texanerinsays:

    Thank you so much for this recipe! I’ve been trying to eat more grain free baked goods recently and can’t wait to try this! I especially love that it doesn’t have pineapple in it. Really, thanks a ton. I’m so excited about this recipe! Oh, and I love your caveman cupcake setup. :D

  22. Maya from Dress My Cupcakesays:

    Who would have thought these diet cupcakes would look so delicious! With a few orange cupcake wrappers these would be great for the upcoming holidays!

  23. Kristin @ Treat. Eat. Repeat.says:

    I LOVE that you included a paleo diet cupcake! I just learned about the paleo diet yesterday and it has definitely sparked my interest.

  24. Lisa @ Sweet 2 Eat Bakingsays:

    These look oh sooooo good. My fella would love these, he adores carrot cakes and the cupcakes are a perfect serving size (he’d have a massive door-stop wedge if he could, lol).

    Just wanted to let you know that I linked to your blog from my blog too. I love your blog and felt it was link worthy on mine. :)

    Keep on baking and posting! :)
    -Lisa.

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