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Dairy-Free Carrot Cake (Gluten-Free)

Quite possibly one of my all-time favorite cakes! This easy gluten-free and dairy-free carrot cake is wonderfully moist and topped with the most incredible whipped cream cheese frosting. The perfect spring cake!

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Dairy-free carrot cake covered in white cream cheese frosting. There are white frosting roseets on top of the cake with chopped nuts and caramel drizzled.
Dairy-free carrot cake covered in white cream cheese frosting. There are white frosting roseets on top of the cake with chopped nuts and caramel drizzled.

The Best Dairy-Free Carrot Cake

Made from scratch with the most tender and moist cake layers, this one-bowl dairy-free carrot cake is simple to make and the perfect way to welcome in spring.

Here’s why you’re going to love it:

Easy Recipe – This cake batter whips up in one bowl without a mixer!

Mix-In Options – Whether you are team nuts, raisins, or nothing, you can customize to your liking.

Versatile – Cupcakes, sheet cake, or stacked. This cake can be baked and enjoyed in all forms.

Dietary/Lifestyle Friendly – A recipe tailored to suit all dietary/lifestyle needs.

Dairy-free carrot cake covered in white cream cheese frosting. There are white frosting roseets on top of the cake with chopped nuts and caramel drizzled.

What Makes Up A Dairy-Free Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake Layers – A tender moist crumb made with 100% real carrots.

Cream Cheese Frosting – Sweet and tangy, it’s whipped to fluffy perfection. 

Optional: Salted Caramel Sauce – Sweet, salty, and luxurious. It adds an extra element of deliciousness. Optional but highly encouraged.

Carrot Cake Ingredients & Substitutions

As always this recipe is gluten-free and dairy-free. That said, I test each recipe with “regular” ingredients and make notes of alternatives or swaps so that everyone can enjoy it.

Here are a few key ingredients for this cake but make sure you scroll to the bottom recipe card for the complete ingredient list.

Dry Ingredients

Flour: I made this cake with XO Baking gluten-free all-purpose flour blend. If you are not gluten-free, swap the flour with regular all-purpose flour. Note that gluten-free flour blends can vary in weight so I recommend measuring by the cup.

Baking Soda & Powder: Helps the cake to rise.

Spices: Ground cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg are all used to create the most wonderful flavor combination.

Salt: I prefer baking with fine sea salt but kosher salt will work too.

Sugar: Brown sugar adds so much moisture and flavor. granulated white sugar will also work in this recipe as will cane sugar, date sugar, and coconut sugar.

Wet Ingredients

Oil: Use canola or vegetable oil for best results but any neutral-tasting oil will work.

Applesauce: This adds extra moisture to the cake without making it too greasy/heavy. I always use unsweetened applesauce but if you only have sweetened applesauce reduce the sugar by 3 tablespoons.

Eggs: If you are vegan or egg-free, the eggs can be replaced with liquid egg replacer, vegan or regular sour cream, mashed banana, or aquafaba. Note: the cake will be more dense in texture.

Carrots: Fresh is best. I prefer to use freshly peeled and grated carrots. That said, you can use pre-grated and bagged carrots but note that they are often bigger than home-grated carrots and will affect the final cake texture.

Optional Nuts & Raisins: While not necessary, the addition of chopped nuts and/or raisins adds a delicious texture factor.

Butter: Becel plant-based bricks are my personal favorite for baking but any brick-style dairy-free, vegan, lactose-free, or regular butter will work. 

Cream Cheese: Again, as this is written dairy-free, I used Violife plant-based cream cream. Select whatever option best fits your dietary/allergy/lifestyle needs. The full-fat brick style works best.

Dairy-free carrot cake covered in white cream cheese frosting. There are white frosting roseets on top of the cake with chopped nuts and caramel drizzled.

Carrot Cake Step-By-Step Instructions

Here’s how to make this decadent celiac-friendly and dairy-free carrot cake recipe. You’ll need a large mixing bowl, a stand mixer or handheld electric one, two 8 or 9-inch round cake pans, a whisk, and a spatula.

1: In a large mixing bowl combine the brown sugar, oil, eggs, applesauce, and vanilla extract until fully smooth.

2: Measure in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt and mix until smooth.

3: Fold in the carrots and nuts and/or raisins if using and mix until just combined.

4: Divide the cake batter into two 8-inch cake pans and bake for approximately 30-35 minutes. Cakes are done baking when the edges pull away from the pan and spring back to the touch. Allow cakes to cool to room temperature.

5: Prepare the frosting by creaming the butter and cream cheese on high speed until smooth and fluffy.

6: Add in the icing sugar and salt and mix until combined. Turn up to high and allow to cream until fluffy and smooth.

Optional Salted Caramel Sauce Instructions

1. Combine the sugar and water in a medium pot and gently swirl until the sugar starts to dissolve.

2. Begin to heat the mixture until the sugar is fully dissolved and starts to simmer. Gently swirl the pot every so often. Do not stir!

3. Allow the mixture to cook until it turns a light amber color. Approximately 10 minutes.

4. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream, butter, and salt.

5. Allow to fully cool before using.

Dairy-free carrot cake covered in white cream cheese frosting. There are white frosting roseets on top of the cake with chopped nuts and caramel drizzled.

Carrot Cake Cake Assembly Success Tips

Stacking a layer cake can feel a bit scary. But, as they say, slow and steady wins the race. Let’s set you up for gluten-free dairy-free carrot layer cake success with a few tips and tricks.

Fully Cooled Cake Layers: Even if a tiny bit warm, layers will slip. Ensure that each cake layer is fully cooled, if not chilled. I will even work with semi-frozen cake layers if I have to bake them a few days before stacking.

Leveled Cake Layers: Flat and level cake layers will sit and stack far easier than crooked ones. I use this super easy cake tool to ensure each cake layer is perfectly level.

Create a Frosting Border: If using the salted caramel sauce filling, pipe a frosting border between the cake layers. It acts as a dam to keep the filling in.

Keep the Cake Chilled: If at any point you begin to feel the cake slip or the frosting is too soft to work with, pop the cake and frosting back into the fridge to chill. Remember, don’t rush it. Take your time.

Dairy-free carrot cake covered in white cream cheese frosting. There are white frosting roseets on top of the cake with chopped nuts and caramel drizzled.

How To Decorate A Dairy-Free Carrot Cake

“As you desire” is often how I refer to cake decoration. It’s not that I don’t want you to make the same cake I did, it’s simply that I don’t want you to feel like you *have* to make the same cake.

We all have an inner cake artist and I want to encourage you to let it shine. That said, let’s break down this allergy-friendly carrot cake decor.

First: Crumb-coat the cake and allow it to chill for 10 minutes. See the above section for stacking tips and tricks.

Second: Put a final “beauty” coat of frosting on the cake and smooth the sides and top of the cake with a smoother or offset spatula. I used a Wilton cake comb to create the subtle textured lines around the cake. Allow the cake to chill for 20 minutes.

Third: Pipe Wilton 1m rosettes and Wilton 36 open star dollops around the top border of the cake and sprinkle on finely chopped nuts or raisins if desired. Top with a drizzle of saltred caramel sauce.

Pro Tip: Allow the cake to come to room temperature for 20-30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Dairy-free carrot cake covered in white cream cheese frosting. There are white frosting roseets on top of the cake with chopped nuts and caramel drizzled.

Storing and Freezing Instructions

This cake can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. It can also be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months. 

Remember that, due to the nature of gluten-free cake, it will dry out a bit each day while stored. It is best enjoyed within the first day or two.

Make Ahead Tip: If you want to bake the cake layers a few days in advance, you most certainly can. Allow the layers to cool for 20-30 minutes, cover them tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze until you are ready to stack and decorate the cake. Remove the cake layers from the freezer approximately 1 hour before you plan to stack and decorate and allow them to thaw slightly at room temperature.

Bet yet, this cake can be frozen fully made, and decorated. Special occasions are often busy and I will sometimes freeze an entire finished cake a few days in advance to save time and stress the day of.

The night before you plan to serve the cake, remove it from the freezer and place it in the fridge to slowly thaw overnight. Do not take it straight from the freezer to room temperature. Doing so will cause condensation and you risk the cake toppling.

Dairy-Free Carrot Cake FAQs

Can this be made into cupcakes?

Yes, it absolutely can. The full recipe will make approximately 24 cupcakes or you could half it for 12 cupcakes. I also have a fabulous carrot cake cupcake recipe that is lighter and fluffier.

What other pans can I use?

This can be baked in a 9×13 cake pan (it won’t need as much frosting though), three 6-inch rounds, or two 9-inch pans. Note that the baking time will change.

Always look for light golden edges that are pulling away from the pan, the top should bounce bake to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.

Is It Possible To Make Everything In Advance?

Each element can be made in advance. What a lifesaver! Store the salted caramel sauce and cream cheese frosting in air-tight containers in the fridge. The cake layers should be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored overnight in the fridge or frozen in the freezer if baked more than 1 day in advance.

Why Is My Carrot Cake Green?

Don’t panic if you’re carrot cake appears to have a slight green hue to it. Carrots are sensitive to changes in pH balance (ie. baking soda) and can cause a chemical reaction causing the pigments to change color. It’s still totally edible. Make sure you peel the carrots first to help rectify this issue next time.

Dairy-free carrot cake covered in white cream cheese frosting. There are white frosting roseets on top of the cake with chopped nuts and caramel drizzled.

The Best Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Carrot Cake

Moist layers of sweet carrot cake paired with classic tangy whipped cream cheese frosting and finished with an optional salted caramel sauce. Made from scratch, this easy one-bowl recipe will knock your socks off with all the classic gluten-free and dairy-free carrot cake yum in every single bite.

An adaptable ingredient list allows you to tailor this recipe to suit all dietary or lifestyle needs. Everybody deserves cake and now they can have it!

Make sure you tag me on social media @cakedbykatie and leave me a star rating and review below if you make it. I cannot wait to see!

Spring-Inspired Baking Ideas

Spring has me craving all sorts of fresh yummy desserts. Here are a few of my current favorites:

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Dairy-free carrot cake covered in white cream cheese frosting. There are white frosting roseets on top of the cake with chopped nuts and caramel drizzled.

Dairy-Free Carrot Cake


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  • Author: Katie Stymiest
  • Total Time: 1 Hour 35 Minutes
  • Yield: 16 Slices 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

The most incredible gluten-free and dairy-free carrot cake with whipped cream cheese frosting and salted caramel filling.


Ingredients

Units Scale

Carrot Cake

  • 2 cups (240g) gluten-free flour 1:1 baking blend
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) canola or vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cup (350g) brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (300g) grated carrot

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 cup (227g) dairy-free salted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups (200g) dairy-free cream cheese, room temperature
  • 5 cups (600g) powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Salted Caramel Sauce

  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoon (30ml) water
  • 2 tablespoons (28g) dairy-free butter
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) dairy-free heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Instructions

Carrot Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and prepare two 8-inch round cake pans with non-stick baking spray and parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl add the oil, eggs, brown sugar, applesauce, and vanilla extract and whisk together until fully combined and smooth.
  3. Measure in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt and mix until just combined.
  4. Gently fold in the grated carrot.
  5. Divide the carrot cake batter between the two prepared cake pans and bake for approximately 30-35 minutes or until the edges are golden brown, are pulling away from the cake pans, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks for 10 minutes before inverting and removing the pans to cool fully. 

Cream Cheese Frosting

  1. In a stand mixer or large mixing bowl with electric beaters, combine the butter and cream cheese and beat together on high until light and fluffy. This should take approximately 5-10 minutes.
  2. Add in the powdered sugar and salt and mix on low until combined.
  3. Turn the mixer up to high and allow it to beat for 5 minutes. 
  4. Place in the fridge if not using right away.

Salted Caramel Sauce

  1. Combine the sugar and water in a medium pot and gently swirl until the sugar is covered in water.
  2. Bring the mixture to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and place a lid on the pot. Gently swirl the pot every minute or so but DO NOT stir it.
  3. Allow it to simmer until it turns an amber color. This should take approximately 5-10 minutes. Keep an eye on it as it happens fast. Remove it from the heat and whisk in the heavy cream. Once combined stir in the butter and salt and whisk again until fully melted and smooth. 
  4. Pour into a heat-proof jar or container and allow to fully cool before using. 

Cake Assembly

  1. Level each fully cooled carrot cake layer with a cake leveler or knife if needed. *The layers should bake flat though.

  2. Place one leveled layer of cake on a cake board, plate, and/or cake turntable and top with approximately 2 cups of cream cheese buttercream.

  3. Pipe a buttercream border around the edge and fill with the salted caramel sauce if using.
  4. Top with the remaining cake layer and very gently apply a thin coat of buttercream to the cake. Chill the cake for 20 minutes. *If the cake feels unstable or the buttercream becomes too soft at any point while stacking, stop and chill the cake and frosting for 15 minutes.
  5. Cover the cake with a final layer of buttercream and very roughly smooth the sides with a cake smoother and/or offset spatula. I used a Wilton cake comb to create the textured horizontal lines.

  6. Decorate the cake as you please. I piped Wilton 1m rosettes and Wilton 36 open star dollops around the top border of the cake. Sprinkle on chopped nuts or raisins if desired and drizzle some extra salted caramel sauce. Enjoy!
  7. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 7 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
  • Prep Time: 60 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 Minutes
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

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