Better-For-You Carrot Cake (Gluten Free and Dairy Free!)

Carrot cake is my all time favorite dessert. I am a self-proclaimed chocoholic, but that doesn’t take the place of delicious carrot cake with rich cream cheese frosting. And, don’t even come at me with carrot cake that isn’t loaded with nuts, pineapple, and raisins! Anything less is just not acceptable, in my opinion.

With each of my pregnancies, I’ve noticed that there are certain foods that I don’t handle quite as well once baby arrives. One of the main culprits for headaches, moodiness, afternoon exhaustion, and skin irritation has proven to be sugar.

I used to be a purist when it came to desserts. I would always say that I don’t eat dessert often, so when I do, I want it to be the real deal. Well, I’ve (sort of) changed my tune about that. Don’t get me wrong, I will eat the real thing, but shortly before my most recent pregnancy, I gave up most dairy, a lot of gluten, and began to limit my sugar intake. I noticed a HUGE difference in how I felt.

Recently, a friend had some carrot cake questions for me, and ever since, I’ve been unable to get carrot cake off the brain, so I decided to come up with a new version that is a little healthier, and it does not disappoint!

What I love about the “healthy-ness” of this cake:

Dates: I used dates in this recipe, because I’ve been on a bit of a date kick lately. Also, they are full of lots of healthy nutrients like fiber, calcium and iron, as well as other vital minerals, like sodium, potassium, and magnesium. And they have vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, B6, folate.

Carrots: I mean what’s not to love about carrots, and this recipe is loaded with them! You get lots of beta carotene and Vitamin A from carrots. Plus, a healthy dose of fiber doesn’t hurt!

Real Maple Syrup: I love love love maple syrup, so any excuse to use it in a recipe is good with me! Some benefits of maple syrup include manganese, zinc, and 24 different antioxidants. If that isn’t a reason to enjoy it, I don’t know what is!

Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting: I have seen recipes for this floating around for months, but was always too nervous to try it. I finally bit the bullet for this recipe, and I was SO pleasantly surprised! It had a nice, creamy texture and tasted downright delicious.

Some things to note:

I prefer to use the pineapple rings and dice them myself. I find that crushed pineapple creates too much moisture, and the pre-diced pineapple is too big. Dicing yourself gives you the perfectly sized pieces.

Remove the cakes from their pan about 5-10 minutes after they are finished baking. The cake pans will retain heat and the cakes will continue cooking. Removing them from the pan when they are still pretty warm will help keep them moist.

When making the cream cheese frosting, you’ll want to take the cream “top” off of the can of coconut milk. Don’t stir it up, just scrape that top right off, and save the watery part for another use. I’m planning on putting it in a coconut curry noodle dish!

Enjoy, and as always, please let me know what you think in the comments and over on Instagram @sugarandsalt_co!