Carrot Cake Donuts

Anything “carrot cake” is O.K. by me, and if it looks like a donut, even better! Carrot cakes are typically loaded with oil, butter, sugar and eggs, all of which I avoid in my recipes; so coming up with a cake that is just as tasty (and moist but not too heavy), was a fun challenge. With four rounds of recipe testing behind me, I think my goal of creating a healthy donut that can bring utter joy has been reached. Yay!

I thought a carrot cake recipe would be fitting as Mother’s Day nears. All mothers like carrot cake, right? I started with the idea of making muffins, and wanted to try using a silicone muffin pan, something I’ve not used before and frequently get asked about. So I thought it was time to pick one up.

I stopped at a kitchen store in Sonoma called “Sign of the Bear,” which I liken to a tiny Disneyland for cooks. They have all the usual kitchen stuff plus a lot of unusually creative and unique products. But what they didn’t have on the day I was there was a silicone muffin pan. I was bummed until I noticed a non-stick donut pan on the next shelf; from muffins to donuts I went.

I didn’t use any oil in the batter or on the pan, and while they were baked in a non-stick pan, they required a little coaxing with a plastic fork to remove. The one drawback is that you’ll need to wash the donut pan between batches, as cake residue accumulates on the surface. As a person who tries to do as little dish-washing as possible, I was fine making six donuts (that’s how many you can make at one time) and then using the remaining batter for muffins.

In addition to the donut pan, I also picked up some individual silicone muffin cups since they did have those. They are used just like muffin papers, and the muffins pop out like a breeze! You can see a photo of the cups below (red and purple). They are easy to wash and are reusable. (The silicone used is food grade, so you don’t need to worry about them going into the oven and touching the food.)

My memory of baked donuts is that they were dense, dry and dull, only to be saved by the glaze and rainbow sprinkles. These baked donuts, in contrast, are sweet, spicy, and springy, and delicious with or without the frosting. And they keep well, making a perfect snack for days to follow. I hope you enjoy your carrot cake donut experience! (Please see the “Notes” below for amendments and substitutions.)

Carrot Cake Donuts

5 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup water

1-3/4 cups rolled oats
2 teaspoons baking powder (see Notes)
1 teaspoon baking soda (see Notes)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground clove

1/2 of a ripe banana, diced
1 cup almond milk
1-1/2 cups grated carrots
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in center position. In a small bowl, combine the 5 dates, 1/4 cup raisins and 1/2 cup water. Let soak while you prepare the other ingredients (at least 15 minutes).

2. Grind the rolled oats in a high-speed blender until it resembles flour; transfer to a large bowl. Add to this the baking powder, soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove, and mix with a fork.

3. Transfer the soaked dates, raisins and water to a high-speed blender and blend until smooth (about 30 seconds). Add the banana and non-dairy milk and blend further until everything is smooth. Add this wet mixture to the bowl of dry ingredients and gently fold together using a big spoon; now fold in the carrots, raisins and walnuts. The batter should be somewhere between a cake batter and cookie batter in consistency.

4. Using a soup spoon, spoon batter into a non-stick donut pan, filling to the top and smoothing batter flat. Bake for 20-25 minutes (I like to bake mine for 20 because it produces a moister cake). If you press on the cake lightly and it bounces back a bit (instead of staying indented), it’s likely ready. These continue to set up as they cool.

5. Remove from oven and cool for 5-7 minutes before removing the donuts from pan (if left in too long it will be hard to get the donuts out). Using a plastic fork, gently go around the donuts (outside and inner circle) to loosen them from the pan. Even though we’re using a non-stick pan, we are not using any oil so we need to help them out a bit. After loosening the edges, invert onto a cutting board (shake a bit if still not coming out the first time) and let cool at least 5-10 minutes more before serving plain or with the below frosting.

Carrot Cake Frosting

I tried making this with all tofu (no cashews) and the tofu taste was too strong. When I tried it will just cashews (which are great soft nuts to use in gravies, dressings and desserts), the flavor was also too much, too cashew-y. But with the addition of just 2 tablespoons of tofu with the cashews, the flavor of traditional carrot cake frosting has been approximated (I think; you let me know what you think). Feel free to vary the nuts and tofu to your liking. Both add to the thickness and richness of the frosting.

5 medjool dates, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup raw cashews (not salted or roasted)
3/4 cup water

3 tablespoons lemon juice or crushed pineapple
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons tofu (silken or firm)
1/4 cup water (plus 2-3 more tablespoons as needed)

Soak the dates and cashews in 3/4 cup water for 15-30 minutes. After soaking, drain off the soak water into a bowl. In a high-speed blender, combine all ingredients (measuring out the 1/4 cup water+ from the soak water) and blend until very smooth, adding more water as needed to reach desired consistency. Frost donuts or muffins just before serving them. (Since there is no oil or sugar in this frosting it will not harden up like regular frostings.) Frosting will keep refrigerated for 3-5 days.

Prep time: 25 minutes (donuts), 15 minutes (frosting)
Cooking time: 20-25 minutes (donuts)
Makes: 10-12 donuts or muffins; 1 cup frosting


Muffins: You may also make these into muffins if you don’t want to bother with the donut pan. Spoon the batter into a non-stick muffin pan (metal or silicone), or into muffin papers or individual silicone muffin holders (as shown below) placed inside a metal muffin pan or on a cookie sheet. Smooth the batter on top so they don’t come out bumpy (unless you want bumpy). Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly browned on top and muffin springs back slightly when touched on top.

One-layer square cake: This recipe will make a one-layer cake as well. Cook it for 40-45 minutes, until there are a few cracks in the top of the cake. Forty minutes will yield a slightly moister cake.

Raisins: I prefer golden raisins in this recipe but you can use regular brown raisins too. The batter and resulting donuts or muffins will be slightly darker in color with the brown raisins.

Nuts: With the nuts, I prefer walnuts here (they are pretty traditional with carrot cakes), but feel free to use other types of nuts that you like. For both the raisins and nuts, you may leave either or both out (at the end) if you are not partial to them.

Flour: I am used to grinding my own flour from rolled oats in my Tribest blender or Vitamix, but you can substitute with whole-grain, pre-ground flour if you like.

Nutmeg: Instead of using pre-ground nutmeg, try grating your own from whole nutmegs, which can be found in grocery stores and in spice shops. For carrot cake, which is characteristically spicy, this it will make it even yummier.

Non-dairy milks: I have used soy as well as lighter non-dairy milks like almond and rice in this recipe, and I prefer the lighter ones; but if you only have soy on-hand, that will work too (just cook for a couple minutes longer).

Baking soda and powder: Please note that baking soda and powder are high in sodium. For powder: Google “sodium-free baking powder” to find a sodium-free brand. And always use aluminum-free baking powder. For soda: You can just leave it out if you are avoiding sodium entirely (I have not found “sodium free” baking soda). Powder and soda are also processed, which some people are also trying to avoid. If you leave both soda and powder out, the cake will be denser and moister, but will still taste good.

Grating carrots: Go ahead and grate your carrots at the standard size; they don’t need a fine grating.

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  1. heartspeaking says

    I made this yesterday, but decided to make it into a cake instead, using a silicone bundt pan. It was perfect as a cake!! I baked it for about 50 min at 350 deg. It was delicious and very moist. I too had a little trouble getting the frosting to taste like I wanted. It seemed too lemony to me. I added a little extra tofu but also added some cinnamon and a few chopped walnuts. Very good! This will be one of my new favorite recipes for dessert! Thanks!

  2. says

    This sounds fantastic. I was wondering if a few substitutions would work: soy milk for the almond/rice milk. and I make a yummy homemade soy yogurt and I’m wondering if that would work instead of the tofu in the frosting.

    love your blog!

  3. says

    oops, just read your notes so you already answered my soy milk question! I happen to have that on hand–I could always dilute it a bit. ? I think I will try the soy yogurt instead of tofu.

  4. says

    Wow, this looks fabulous! I have been wanting to get a doughnut pan after seeing so many recipes for healthy doughnuts! I love that this one contains no, refined sugar, oil or flour! Will definitely try these out! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. says

    Thanks for all the comments :) I love the bundt pan idea; I will add that to the recipe, thanks! And yes, try soy yogurt instead of tofu, and let me know if it turns out well. It may not be as thick but that’s ok. Thanks!

  6. Monica says

    Yummo! My husband & I absolutely love these!! I didn’t have the tofu to make the frosting, but will definitely try that next time. Wanted to do donuts, but only had a muffin tin – delicious!

  7. emilierv says

    These are fabulous! I made them as muffins twice already and I used the same base recipe to make another batch with blueberries and buckwheat.

  8. says

    Kristin, yeah, I think the lemon in the frosting throws some people, but you can leave it out if you want. I love it, and you are right: in combo with the cake, it’s wonderful. I was trying to emmulate that tanginess that traditional cream-cheese frosting has. It’s not quite the same, but it’s better than no frosting (if you’re into frosting) :)

  9. elna says

    Would you mind telling the amount of dates in weight? I don’t have easy access to medjool dates, but have the other kind. How much should I use? I am so excited to try the recipe.

  10. says

    Hi Elna, 5 medjool dates is about 120 g or 5 oz. Medjools are very wet/sticky and sweet, so if you use another date like deglet noir, they are drier and less sweet, so you may want to adjust for that.

  11. Tina DiBlasio Schantz says

    this was the best carrot cake I ever ate, and that includes the non-vegan recipes from the old days. thanks so much for sharing your wonderful recipes

  12. says

    I wonder if instead of grated carrots I could use pulp from the juicer from making carrot juice? Any idea how I would make up for the reduced moisture content?

    • says

      I went ahead and made a double batch of muffins using carrot pulp from the juicer instead of grated carrots (and substituting allspice for ground cloves, which I don’t have). They are great and very moist. Delicious.

  13. Karen P says

    I’d like to make this recipe for a diabetic friend’s birthday cake. She allows herself to have a banana on occasion. Do you think this would be OK for her situation?

  14. konamomma says

    I made these into muffins recently for a girls game night. The girls all loved them, and I ate the 2 leftovers the next day!! They are so delicious and it’s hard to believe they are not bad for you!! LOVE THEM! Thanks for the recipe!

    • Bonnie says

      I also made these into muffins! I used muffin papers and would recommend waiting until they are completely cooled before trying to peel them out of their papers – I tried while they were still even the tiniest bit warm and the edges of the muffins wouldn’t come off the papers. THESE WERE ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS, by the way!!!

        • Bonnie says

          I have since invested in a silicone muffin pan, which makes these (and any other muffin recipe) an absolute breeze. Also, it makes it so there is no paper waste!

  15. molly9094 says

    hi, mine were mushy and wonder what happened. I’m a new vegan and not much of a baker, so am learning for sure and will keep trying til I get it right!

    • says

      Hi Molly, it sounds like maybe they just needed to cook longer. Depending on the pan size and type, your oven, time of cooking time can vary. These are moist naturally, so taste best after they have completely cooled.

    • says

      Hi KC, the tofu is only in the frosting, so you could just not do frosting (and they are still very yummy), or I would just leave the tofu out. It’s not that much. :)

  16. Lisa says

    Cathy, wondering how I should store the leftovers? Made these this morning & my kids’ loved them. However, I did frost the leftovers. That makes me wonder if I should store in the refrigerator b/c of the tofu? Thanks!

    • says

      Hi Lisa, yes, I’d keep them in the fridge. And maybe in the future frost them as you eat them, then the cake won’t get soggy. So glad the kids liked them–I know winning kids over can be a tricky business when it comes to new foods. Yay! :)

  17. Lynn says

    Hi Cathy, thanks so much for this recipe! I’ve made it several times and the icing is fantastic!! I just bought a Wilton whoopie pie pan (for no other reason than it was really cute! ha) and I’d love to try it with this recipe. Do you think the icing would still come together if I reduced the water to make it bit thicker?

  18. Gayle says

    The cake is in the oven now, but just had to say how yummy that frosting is! Hope there is some left for the cake! I added extra lemon juice and used some plain unsweetened homemade soy yogurt instead of tofu.

  19. Betsy says

    We(my kids and I) made this and put it in a bundt pan. It turned out soooo good. So excited to try your other recipes! One note: If you buy bulk dates (like I did for the first time today) do not forget to de-pit them! Our cake was a bit, uh crunchy!!!!

    • says

      Thanks Betsy! Yes, date pits are extrememly hard, like a rock, so always be sure to remove all of them first. Sometimes I count out the number of dates I need and after dicing them all, I make sure I have the same number of pits on my cutting board before tossing them out.

    • says

      Sure Lee. I haven’t tried any other, but check out gluten-free carrot cake recipes and see what they use and then just substitute. :) And let me know if it works and what you used.

  20. says

    I made these last night and they are so delicious! They came out a little too moist, so I flipped them over and baked a little longer. Perfect! :-)

    Also I offered one to my sad eating DH and he loved them. He did think they taste similar to carrot cake.

    Thanks so much for a delicious treat!

    Do you have a biscotti recipe by chance?

  21. says

    I have made these probably a dozen times now, they are one of my absolute favorites!!! I make them as muffins (no frosting) and I add Vegan Chocolate Chips. Everybody who has ever had them has loved them. I usually try to chop and soak the dates overnight otherwise I have found they are still a bit chunky which isn’t a bad thing. Maybe the batch of dates I have are just extra hard.

  22. heidi says

    This is another great recipe of yours–thank you! It’s spring break, and the fourth batch of carrot cake is in the oven :) I don’t have a donut pan and didn’t want to mess with sticky muffin papers (knowing we’d just have to eat them warm) and so I’ve made it in an 8×8, about 45 minutes+ of baking. The adults love it as is; the kids add powdered sugar on top. Not perfect, I know, but still better than some other kind of sweets, right? Thanks again! This is a keeper.

  23. says

    I want to make this recipe but I’m on Weight Watchers and wondered how I would get the nutritional values- fat/fiber/carbs and protein content?

    • says

      Hi Patti, you can caluculate it in Cron-o-meter if you like: You’ll need to put in the recipe first. It’s a little tricky the first time, but it’s a worthwhile site if you do these calculations periodically. My site does not have these breakdowns, but may add them in the future. :)

  24. Margaret Krize says

    Cathy, this recipe is award winning! I made mini carrot muffins for my Business class presentation and the class loved them! I hope you create a cookbook like Chef Ramses did! Miss you guys!

    • says

      Yay!! Thanks Margaret! ๐Ÿ˜‰ I am working on a cookbook; that’s what I’m doing right at this moment in fact, editing soup recipes, wheee! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  25. Grant says

    Thumbs up for this. My girls made it for mother’s day dessert (as muffins) & we just ‘had to’ taste them to make sure they were edible (yum). Thanks Cathy. We are loving our new whole-foods plant-based lifestyle (12 months now) and enjoy finding new recipes to thrive on.
    Everyone, keep up the good work, it is definitely worth it for amazing health improvements. If you are just starting out, keep going – it’s the best thing once you find your groove.

    • says

      Hi Grant, thanks so much for the comment! I love that image of your daughters testing the muffins first. :) And great advice about finding your groove, thanks!!

  26. says

    Cathy, thank you, thank you, thank you! Good karma for all eternity! I made these as muffins and this is the BEST carrot cake I have ever had! I can’t believe these are vegan, sugar and oil free. I added 3 TBSP ground flax seeds. Looking forward to trying more recipes. :)

  27. Cheryl says

    I read through the comments and didn’t see this, but what size cake pan could be substituted as you indicated in your notes above? I only see the baking time. I see a bundt pan referred to in the comments, but I don’t have one of those, just the square or round ones.. ?

  28. says

    Cathy, I’m a big fan of your site.
    And this donut is a huge hit!!! I’ve mad this 5 times.
    I love the original (in muffin, pound cake tin, bunt), but kids like my ‘chocolate version’
    where I replace 3/4 cup of oats with carob powder & add orange peel to the non-dairy milk in the blender.
    Thank you so much for your generosity sharing your yummy recipes.

  29. says

    I made the muffin version the last weekend, and they were a big hit! My fiancee is still telling me how great they are! I had to double the amount of dates in both the muffins and frosting because he never thinks anything is sweet enough, but that is a small price to pay to get him to stop eating refined sugar and butter-laden crap from the store. Thank you so much! I can’t wait to try your other recipes! The Oatmeal Raisin cookies are on deck for this weekend…

    • says

      Thanks Gira! ๐Ÿ˜‰ You may want to add more dates to the cookies too; I’ve also been adding 2T almond butter to them so they’re a bit softer.

  30. Tiffany says

    Cathy, Thank you so much for this recipe! It is seriously one of the best cakes I have ever had. Wondering if there is any way to convert it into a plain vanilla cake? Or if you will maybe have a recipe for that in the future?

      • Laina says

        Thanks! I’ve been looking around for a donut pan, but couldn’t find one. So last night I finally made them as muffins.

        These are so – totally off the charts delicious! I even made them without the frosting.

        Thanks so much for such a delicious recipe. I just sent it on to a friend. :)

  31. Caroline says

    For the frosting you just mention “dates” not “Medjool dates.” Do you mean to use the smaller Deglet Noor (or other small variety) of dates in the frosting? I have both Medjool and Deglet Noor at home (thanks Costco!). I looked through all the comments but couldn’t find an answer. I’m going to be trying this recipe for the first time this weekend for my husband’s birthday and didn’t want to mess it up. Thanks!

  32. Jennifer says

    This recipe is delicious! I have made it as a carrot cake a couple of times and loved it. But now that Fall has started, I was looking around for a good vegan, refined-sugar-free apple cake recipe and suddenly had the inspiration to adapt this one. All I did was take out the carrots and instead put in 1.25 cups of diced apples. It turned out great! Thank you for such a healthy, tasty and versatile recipe!

  33. Mary says

    Great recipe! I just made it in a 9″ square pan for the second time. The first time I made it the icing was a little strong on the lemon for me. So this time I cut the lemon juice back to 2 tablespoons and it was perfect! Carrot cake has always been a favorite for me and I love having this healthy option to enjoy! I’m looking forward to trying your pumpkin pie recipe for Thanksgiving next week. I’m looking forward to your cookbook when it comes out.

  34. says

    may be a silly question…. but… when you measure 2 tablespoons of tofu for the frosting….. do you measure it directly from the block of tofu, using a tablespoon ? or process the tofu and measure out 2 tablespoons of liquified tofu? Thanks

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