Not-Carrot Carrot Cake with Lemon Frosting {Dairy & Gluten Free, Vegan Option}

Not-Carrot Carrot Cake with Lemon Frosting {Dairy & Gluten Free, No Added Sugar, Vegan Option}
Following on from my last post – I’m bringing you the first recipe in my low-sugar treats series! I was originally going to post about the vegan chocolate ice cream today, but instead it’s ‘carrot’ cake. This is because, after I posted a picture of said cake on instagram yesterday, A BILLION PEOPLE commented asking for the recipe. It seemed like the ice cream could wait for a bit so I gave in and started editing the cake photos instead.

Not-Carrot Carrot Cake with Lemon Frosting {Dairy & Gluten Free, No Added Sugar, Vegan Option}

Carrot cake seems like a kind of obvious thing to turn into no-added-sugar recipe. Grated carrots were mixed into cake batter during the Second World War when sugar was rationed, as they have a natural sweetness to them. Quite often recipes will include raisins or even pineapple too, which add sweet pops of flavour throughout the cake. A generous spoonful of cinnamon and ginger takes it even further into the dessert realm.

Not-Carrot Carrot Cake with Lemon Frosting {Dairy & Gluten Free, No Added Sugar, Vegan Option}

Drawing from my experience of baking a few different types of carrot cake, I brought together different aspects to make the perfect cake. My mum likes to add coconut which is naturally sweet so in that went. My grandma’s recipe included canned pineapple – which I didn’t have – so I blended up some fresh mango instead. A usually overly sugary cream cheese frosting was replaced with a lemony cashew-coconut cream (as cashews are, in my opinion, quite sweet in flavour).

Not-Carrot Carrot Cake with Lemon Frosting {Dairy & Gluten Free, No Added Sugar, Vegan Option}

Now imagine my sadness, after cleverly coming up with all these tricks, when I looked in the fridge and couldn’t find any carrots. I was contemplating using grated courgette for a second, but I knew that wouldn’t be as sweet as carrots. I was thinking ‘what’s sweet that you can grate and add to cake?’. Then there was a magical moment of enlightenment: BUTTERNUT SQUASH. I coarsely grated a peeled section of squash, mixed it into the batter and hoped for the best. I wasn’t sure what would happen as butternut squash is kind of drier than carrot when grated, but it worked amazingly well!! So now you can try it yourself and make a not-carrot carrot cake 🙂 (I promise it tastes legit. It passed the dad taste-test)


For the mango if you don’t have a blender: use 100g of mashed, very ripe banana OR unsweetened applesauce. If you use the banana you’ll be able to taste it in the cake, though.
To make the cake vegan: use a flax egg (1 tbsp ground flaxseed + 3 tbsp water) instead of the egg
If you don’t have mixed spice use: 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
Coconut butter is the same as those solid creamed coconut bars you can buy in little cardboard boxes. It’s not, however, the same thing as coconut oil.
– If you don’t have a blender and are okay with eating dairy, use frosting option 2

Not-Carrot Carrot Cake with Lemon Frosting {Dairy & Gluten Free, No Added Sugar, Vegan Option}

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  • 100 g (1/2 cup cubed) ripe mango flesh (about 1/2 a mango) (see notes for if you don't have a blender)
  • 1 egg , (see notes)
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) milk, any kind
  • 2 tbsp olive oil or melted coconut oil
  • 100 g (1 cup, packed) coarsely grated butternut squash or carrot
  • 30 g (1/4 cup) unsweetened, shredded coconut
  • 2 tsp mixed spice , (see notes)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 70 g (1/2 cup) buckwheat flour
  • 50 g (1/2 cup) ground almonds
  • 30 g (1/4 cup) currants, raisins or other dried fruit

Frosting option 1 - Cashew-Coconut Frosting (Vegan):

  • 75 g (1/2 cup) cashews, soaked overnight in cold water OR in boiling water for 30 minutes
  • 1/2 a medjool date
  • 5 tbsp coconut butter , (not coconut oil) (see notes)
  • pinch of salt
  • zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • water , , for blending

Frosting option 2 - Lemon-Ricotta Frosting:

  • 5 tbsp ricotta
  • 3 tbsp cream cheese or Greek yogurt
  • zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tsp date paste , , 1 tsp of xylitol or 6 drops of stevia
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


  • Lemon zest , , pecans, flaked coconut


For the cake:

  • Grease an 8-inch cake tin and line with a circle of baking paper (seriously, make sure you line the tin!!!). Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F).
  • In a blender, combine the mango, egg, milk and oil. Blitz until completely smooth then pour into a medium bowl. Stir the grated squash and coconut into this mixture.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the mixed spice, baking powder, salt, buckwheat flour, ground almonds and currants. Pour these dry ingredients into the medium bowl and stir well to combine. Scrape the mixture into the cake tin, spreading it out evenly in the pan, and bake for 40 minutes. The top will look dry and dark golden. Run a dull knife around the edge of the cake and turn it out onto a wire rack. Remove the paper from the cake and leave to cool.

For frosting option 1:

  • Drain the soaked cashews and place into a high-powered blender with the rest of the frosting ingredients except the water. Blitz, adding water as necessary (I used about 60ml/1/4 cup) until completely smooth and thick, scraping down the edges of the blender at intervals.

For frosting option 2:

  • In a medium bowl, use a whisk to combine the ricotta and cream cheese/yogurt until it's as smooth as possible. Add the rest of the frosting ingredients and whisk until smooth.


  • Transfer the cooled cake to a plate. Frost the surface with the frosting and decorate with lemon zest, crushed pecans and flaked coconut. Serve immediately or chill until serving.
Tried this recipe?Let me know how it went! Mention @izyhossack or tag #topwithcinnamon!

27 thoughts on “Not-Carrot Carrot Cake with Lemon Frosting {Dairy & Gluten Free, Vegan Option}”

  1. Awesome. I’m so going to make this. Maybe use apples mixed with the squash to make it even sweeter and a dash of cinnamon just because I love it. Great recipe!

  2. How interesting! I never would have substituted carrots for butternut squash, but it sounds divine! And both frostings sound amazing. Yum!
    xx Sydney

  3. LADY! You deserve all sorts of high fives and fist bumps for this recipe. Love, love, love that you used butternut squash in place of the carrots. I have one sitting on my counter that I was planning on using for soup buuuuuuut.. I don’t think Thom will notice if a cup of it is missing. 😉

  4. hi, i am a sweet potato addict, would sweet potatoes work in place of the squash as i don’t have one. your cake looks divine, thanks for such a yummy recipe

  5. This recipe is just magic. Love it how you used all those different ingredients to make it naturally sweet and incredibly good. + love the “it passed the dad taste-test”; best moment (:

  6. What a great solution to use Butternut Squash! I made a squash cake last year and LOVED it, so I’ll have to try this one for sure!

  7. This is amazing and magical! It’s the perfect dessert that actually is healthy (not just pretend dessert healthy)! Love it <3

  8. Because my blender / food processor baulks at the sight of anything not already soft and half pureed (I really should replace it!), do you think I could use natural cashew butter instead of soaking and blitzing the nuts???

    • Ooh that’s a good idea! I think that would work really well (you could even just go for all coconut butter if you wanted!)

  9. Really liking the sound of this cake. But due to being allergic to coconut, I’ll have go a different route for the icing. What would you recommend about leaving the shredded coconut out of the cake?

  10. Hi Izy,

    …found your blog at the perfect moment! Just finished a few months of VERY little sweet things (including fast carbs i.e. white grains etc.) due to chasing some stubborn candida out of my guts.
    Which made me rethink my diet and made me aware of many beautiful foodie blogs.
    I found yours through the Saveur Blog Awards 2014 🙂 and signed up for email updates straight away.
    I’m gonna try this cake asap!!! 🙂
    Love your new focus on little added sugars as I find a lot of “alternative” sweets recipes over-loaded with dates and maple sirup and such. Not that I don’t LIKE them but what you say about cravings applies to me as well. 😉
    Looking forward to your upcoming series!!
    Thanks for all the beauty and inspiration – I appreciate very much!!

    All the best from Germany

  11. This sounds like what usually happens to me: I’m craving a certain dish or dessert and don’t have the right ingredients, so substitutions happen and magically work! This cake looks delicious; I’m tempted to drop my textbooks, forget about the essays I need to write, and head over to the kitchen and bake it! 🙂

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