Dad’s Carrot Cake
My Dad is irresistible. He’s one of those guys that seems to get along with everyone. If you walk into a party, there’s Bud Simmons, offering you a drink and already telling corny jokes. I inherited his love for learning and adventure – adopting the curiosity for travel that has led both of us across the country on road trips. He has always been a role model for creating time for fitness. He would go for 5am runs while we still slept, coming home in time to shower and take us to school.
If you ask my Dad what his favorite cake is, he’ll tell you “Carrot Cake”. As a kid, I never understood this. Why would anyone throw away their chance for dessert on something as healthy as carrots? Only my Dad would choose this – the same dad who would request a “black bean sub without cheese” at Subway long before vegan was a thing. For me, though? I didn’t comprehend. Get rid of those vegetables and make room for more chocolate and fudge, please.
As an adult, though, I get it. The little bits of raisins, grated carrots, and pecans play together with delightful textures. Warming spices like ginger, clove, and nutmeg comfort you to the core. Plus, all of these healthy ingredients make it much acceptable to enjoy it for breakfast 🙂 Yes, learning from my Dad on this one – a slice of carrot cake, warmed slightly in the microwave for 20 seconds makes the best “Breakfast Dessert” ever.
Re-Making His Favorite Dessert
Well, Dad would be proud of this plant-based version of his favorite treat. Whole grain oat flour replaces refined white for a gluten-free option that also creates a fluffy texture. Dates, raisins, and banana are pureed to replace refined syrup or oil. This makes a batter that is sweet and moist – without all of those empty calories.
The spices have been simplified to a blend of Pumpkin Pie Spice. I kept all of the bits and pieces he loves – healthy carrots, raisins, pecans. However, you can add your own beloved variations here. Grated zucchini, dried currants, and sunflower seeds would all work well. There’s even room for vegan chocolate chips.
Portioned into muffins, you can enjoy one or share some – it’s up to you. This batter also works great as a traditional cake. Simply pour it into a 9-inch round cake pan that’s been lined with parchment. Increase the baking time to 50-60 minutes, until it passes the toothpic test.
Slather these with Cinnamon Cashew Cream for dessert. Or make a batch to bring for brunch. Whatever you do, make extra. Just like Dad – they’re irresistible.
Medium | Servings: 12 | Ready In: 40 minutes | Yield: 12 muffins
These gluten-free carrot muffins are incredibly moist and deliciously sweet. You won’t believe how healthy they are – no refined sugar, syrup, flour, or oil! Warming pumpkin pie spices like cinnamon, ginger, and cloves combine with texture from raisins and pecans. These will take you back to your childhood – with memories of carrot cake and spiced bread. If you like these, try: Whole Grain Blueberry Oat Muffins, Zucchini Oat Bread, and Spelt Banana Walnut Bread.
- 1 ½ cups (12 oz) unsweetened almond milk
- 1 ¼ cup (125g) pitted dried dates
- ¾ cup (120g) raisins, divided
- 1 ripe banana (1/2 cup, mashed, about 110g)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1¾ cups (157.5g) oat flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1½ (100g) cups finely shredded carrots
- ½ cup (2 ounces) pecans pieces + 12 pecan halves, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 12-count muffin tray with Parchment paper liners**. If using traditional paper liners, you will need to spray them with oil to prevent sticking
For the wet mixture: In a blender or a deep bowl, combine the almond milk, dates, ½ cup (80g) of the raisins, the banana, and vanilla. Use the blender or use an immersion blender to puree the mixture until completely smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Be sure the mixture is completely smooth – let your blender run from 45-60 seconds to ensure the dried fruits are well-blended.
For the gluten-free dry mixture: In a medium bowl, whisk together the oat flour, baking powder, baking soda, Pumpkin Pie Spice, and salt.
To make the Gluten-Free Carrot Pecan Spice Muffins: Pour the wet mixture into the dry. Whisk together until well-combined. Add the remaining ¼ cup (40g) raisins, the shredded carrots, and the pecan pieces. Fold together until well-incorporated.
Portion the batter evenly between 12 muffin tins, filling each one nearly to the top. Garnish each muffin with a pecan half, pressing the pecan into the batter lightly.
Bake the muffins 30 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick can be inserted and come out clean.
Let cool 10 minutes before serving or storing.
Chef Katie’s Tips
Nut-Free Tip: If you need to keep these muffins nut-free, you can swap out the almond milk for a nut-free plant-based milk. Soy milk and oat milk work best to maintain a light, fluffy texture for this recipe. Omit the pecans or substitute with sunflower seeds.
Oil-Free Tip: Parchment muffin liners require no oil spray. You can find them in the baking aisle of most healthy grocery stores. You can also use a re-usable silicon muffin mold for an oil-free muffin.
Grate your own carrots: If you prefer to grate your own carrots, 1 grated carrots yields about ½ cup grated. You’ll need about 3 carrots for the 1 ½ grated carrots in this recipe.
Other dried fruits: Instead of raisins, you can use other dried fruits like currants, golden raisins, or chopped apricots.
Inspired by Susan’s Fat Free Vegan Kitchen recipe on Forks Over Knives: This recipe was inspired by the Easy Vegan Carrot Cake recipe I saw on the Forks Over Knives’ site. You can pour this batter into an 8-inch square or round baking pan for a cake version. Top with Vanilla Cashew Frosting and decorate with chopped pecans. No one will believe it’s gluten-free, oil-free, and vegan!
No Refined Sugar or Syrup? I’m on a mission to get rid of empty calories. These muffins don’t use any refined sugar, maple syrup, or other refined sweetener. Dried dates provide sweetness, along with healthy fiber and essential nutrients.
|Amount Per Serving|
|% Daily Value *|
|Total Fat 5 g||8 %|
|Saturated Fat 0 g||1 %|
|Monounsaturated Fat 2 g|
|Polyunsaturated Fat 1 g|
|Trans Fat 0 g|
|Cholesterol 0 mg||0 %|
|Sodium 264 mg||11 %|
|Potassium 339 mg||10 %|
|Total Carbohydrate 43 g||14 %|
|Dietary Fiber 5 g||18 %|
|Sugars 23 g|
|Protein 5 g||10 %|
|Vitamin A||13 %|
|Vitamin C||3 %|
|* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.|
Shopping and Gear List
- Arrowhead Mills Flour Oat Organic, 16 oz
- Terrasoul Superfoods Organic Deglet Noor Dates (Pitted), 2 Pounds
- Standard Paper Cupcake Liners