I realize that sharing a new recipe for a carrot cake the day after Easter is about as useful as a new latke recipe the day after Hanukkah ends or a perfect buche de noel on December 26th. I’d intended to share this a week ago and — hubris alert! — I was patting myself on my back for my own cleverness, the first sign things are going to head south. What could be more perfect for a week that contained both Easter and Passover, while also saving so many people the work of having to adapt a gluten- or dairy-full cake to not include them? Nothing! But I was unraveled by dual forces: first, some confusion about whether or not baking powder, a leavener, is allowed on Passover, a holiday that prohibits leavened breads [turns out it is!] and also by our own Seder preparations [we had 16 people here on Wednesday night; I’m criminally bad at outsourcing so I cooked for 3.5 days straight]. And that brings us up to today. A lovely thing about having a 16 year-old for a cooking blog, however, is that even poorly-timed arrivals tend to find their rightful place in the archives. When you come looking for a flourless carrot cake, be it today, next week, or next April holiday season, this will be here, seemingly right on time.
Let’s talk about this cake! If you’ve got my most recent cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Keepers (and oh, I’m obviously biased but I think you’d love it), you might know that I prefer carrot cake to spotlight carrots most of all. The book’s Carrot Cake with Brown Butter and No Clutter is the most straightforward I’ve made. Yet, this recipe is full of… co-stars: almond flour and coconut and dates! What happened, Deb? It might just be the gluten-free of it all, but I like that this cake is hearty and full of textures; it absolutely works here and makes it better. Am I … evolving? Will I soon begin to embrace beets, bucatini, and deadlines? Whew, this is a lot to consider. What’s not is whether you need this cake in your repertoire is not: you unquestionably do.
A few notes:
- Dairy: The cake base is dairy-free. The cream cheese frosting shown is not, but I find non-dairy cream cheeses to be surprisingly excellent and they’ll work as well here, it will just be a bit softer.
- Cream cheese: If you’re using non-dairy cream cheese, no need to soften it before making the frosting; cold from fridge is fine. For with-dairy cream cheese, cold and cut into chunks is also fine for a food processor or stand mixer. For a hand-mixer, you will likely find it easier to use once at room temperature.
- Weigh your ingredients: I beg you to use a scale for this recipe. While scales are great for most recipes, they take on a whole extra level of essentialness with gluten-free baking. Ingredients like grated carrots, almond flour, coconut, and diced fruit are wildly inconsistent to measure in cups since no two will ever be the same. Since they’re basically all the cake is, plus eggs, it can and will throw things off. I’ve done my best to verify each weight in cups and describe how the cup is measured (packed, loose, etc.) but please keep in mind that you could press almond flour very firmly in a cup and fit almost 2 cups in a 1-cup measure!
- P.S. on scales I use this scale. I buy scales that have good reviews but also try not to spend too much because I rarely find any that work consistently for more than 5 years (it’s not unusual for restaurant kitchens to replace them yearly), and I’ve bought them at all price points and have not found that spending more yields a better or longer-lasting scale.
- Decorating: I’m borderline obsessed with finding unfussy ways for us to decorate cookies and cakes and today’s iteration is … squiggles from a sandwich bag with the corner snipped off. No advanced pastry-ing skills required! I love these piled telephone cord curls.
- Source: I bookmarked this from Donna Hay many years ago but have tinkered a lot to get it right for me; volume, pan size, cooking time, proportion of almonds, coconut, and carrots, jettisoning the raisins. Still, isn’t it always nice to talk about inspiration? Magic rarely happens in a vacuum.
6 months ago: Apple Dumplings
1 year ago: Lemon Cream Meringues
2 years ago: Lemon Potatoes
3 years ago: Ultimate Banana Bread
4 year ago: Essential French Onion Soup
5 years ago: Asparagus and Egg Salad with Walnuts and Mint
6 years ago: Cornbread Waffles and Mushroom Tartines
7 years ago: Sesame Soba and Ribboned Omelet Salad and Apricot Hazelnut Brown Butter Hamantaschen
8 years ago: The Consolation Prize (A Mocktail) and Baked Chickpeas with Pita Chips and Yogurt
9 years ago: Whole-Grain Cinnamon Swirl Bread
10 years ago: Lentil and Chickpea Salad with Feta and Tahini
11 years ago: Soft Eggs with Buttery Herb-Gruyere Toast Soldiers
12 years ago: Spaetzle
13 years ago: Irish Soda Bread Scones and Spinach and Chickpeas
14 years ago: Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Strawberry Sauce and Bialys
15 years ago: Caramel Walnut Banana Upside Down Cake and Swiss Easter Rice Tart
16 years ago: Mixed Berry Pavlova
Carrot Cake with Coconut and Dates
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup (215 grams) brown sugar, light or dark
- 12 ounces (340 grams) grated carrots, or 2.75 cups, gently packed; start with more (about 15 ounces) to account for trimming and peeling
- 3 cups (340 grams) almond flour or almond meal; cups were scooped then leveled
- Heaped 1/2 cup (45 grams) finely shredded unsweetened coconut
- 1 cup (155 grams) diced, pitted dates
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (Diamond brand; use 1 teaspoon of other brands)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/3 cup (75 grams) melted coconut oil, olive oil, or a neutral oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup (8 ounces or 225 grams) non-dairy or regular cream cheese [see Note]
- 2 tablespoons (30 grams) sour cream or plain yogurt
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (replace with additional extract if you don’t have)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place the eggs and 1 cup brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk at medium-high speed for 8 minutes, or until thick and doubled in volume. Combine remaining ingredients — carrots, almond flour, coconut, dates, salt, spices, baking powder, oil, and vanilla — in a large bowl, tossing to combine. Fold the carrot mixture into the beaten egg mixture, trying to deflate the eggs as little as possible, and spoon the mixture into your prepared cake pan. Smooth the top of the cake so that it’s level.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes but please note: A toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean of batter as early as 35 to 40 minutes but it will not be baked enough (i.e. the crumb might be damp and might even seem a little underbaked in the center) unless you take it another 10 to 15 minutes. The cake is forgiving of what you might think is overbaking, even if the sides seem dark.
Remove cake from oven and immediately run a knife around the cake, to loosen anywhere that might be stuck. Let cool for 15 minutes in pan on a rack, then flip it out onto a baking rack, peel off the parchment, and let cake cool right side-up until it’s at room temperature. I usually hurry this along either outside on a cold day or in the fridge.
Make the frosting: [See Note about cream cheese temps in the post] In a stand mixer, food processor, or with a hand-mixer: Beat or blend cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, and and vanilla paste and extract until creamy and light.
To frost and decorate: Spread 2/3 (just eyeball it) of frosting on cooled cake and spread it in a thin, smooth layer. Place the remaining frosting in a bag and snip the corner off. Pipe overlapping squiggles around the cake until you’re out of frosting.
Do ahead: Keep leftover cake in fridge. It keeps (without seeming dry, hooray) for 5 to 6 days.