When it comes to dessert, there are few topics of debate quite as polarizing as carrot cake.
A devout cake-lover from birth, (pictures from my first birthday feature me elbows deep in pink frosting) I fangirl hard for cake of any kind. Cupcakes, cake pops, birthday-cake flavored anything, I’m down. And I’m no snob, either. Whether from box mix or scratch, I’m ready, fork in hand. Even grocery store cake will do. In fact, I get legitimately (and irrationally) offended when someone I know confesses to not liking cake.
But although I don’t discriminate when it comes to cake, that doesn’t mean I don’t pick favorites. Despite the hate and the weird looks from classmates at my birthday parties every year, carrot cake has always been my all-time favorite.
Of course, carrot cake is a hot button issue in the dessert world, and I’ve been a vocal supporter for years. I have campaigned for it many a time, trying to convince carrot cake naysayers that it is just as delicious and harmless as any other cake.
Apparently, some people are so terrified of vegetables they can’t even stand the idea of consuming them smothered in frosting. Whatever, their loss, more for me. To their credit, however, I have to admit that I have the same weird hangup about zucchini bread. Yes, I’ve tried it, and yes, it’s true: you can’t even taste the zucchini. But even why bother putting it in then?
Anyway, I guess I can understand why people have concerns about ruining a perfectly good dessert with vegetables. As all good carrot cake lovers know, however, that is far from the case here.
This super easy, no-bake carrot cake recipe yields mini cake bites just as moist and delicious as the real deal. So, how do you get away with not baking a cake?
First off, there’s no egg and no flour, which makes the whole no baking thing much easier to pull off. Of course, that begs the follow up question: How do you make a cake without egg and flour?
The main trick here is dates, a classic vegan baking secret ingredient. Ground or blended into a paste, dates are a perfect clean substitute for butter and oil and work as a binder. While many vegan recipes recommend banana for this purpose, dates have gained popularity as they help to maintain a more traditional flavor for baked goods. For this recipe, just pulse the dates in a food processor on high until they form a ball.
Meanwhile, dates also happen to be one of the sweetest fruits out there, meaning your no-bake carrot cake gets a dose of natural sweetness while you’re already cutting fat and calories.
Carrots, coconut, raisin and pecans round out these no-bake carrot cake bites, leaving them rich in flavor and texture. This is about as clean as cake gets, considering you could eat just about every ingredient on its own as a snack. And since we’ve kept the cake itself light, there’s no need to skimp on the frosting.
For this recipe, we’ve used four simple ingredients: fat-free cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. However, if you’re looking to lighten things up even further, feel free to substitute coconut oil for the butter.
Quick and easy, these no-bake carrot cake bites make a perfect last-minute addition to your holiday dessert bar. Once you try them though, you’ll probably hope your guests fall on the opposite side of the carrot cake debate so you can keep the leftovers for yourself.
Yields: One 8x8-inch cake, 20 squares | Serving Size: 1 square | Calories: 180 | Total Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0g | Cholesterol: 9mg | Sodium: 41mg | Carbohydrates: 30g | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 26g | Protein: 1g | SmartPoints: 10
- 15 pitted dates
- 1 1/2 cups pecan halves, optional walnuts
- 1/3 cup raisins
- 1 1/2 cups grated carrots (use small wholes on grater)
- 1 cup finely shredded coconut
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 4 ounces (fat-free) cream cheese, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature (optional, coconut butter)
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Cake: Using a food processor or high powered blender, add dates and pulse until they form a ball. Remove dates and place in a medium mixing bowl. Add pecans to the food processor and pulse just until a coarse crumb consistency. Be careful not to turn the pecans into flour or mill.
- After shredding carrots, press as much liquid out as possible, paper towels work well.
- Add all cake ingredients in the mixing bowl with the dates and combine using your hands or a wooden spoon. Evenly press cake dough into an 8 x 8-into a square pan. Cover and refrigerate while making the frosting.
- Frosting: Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl and beat until combined and smooth. Frost carrot cake and cut into 20 mini squares.