Yummy carrot cake (oil free)

Ask me which cake is my favourite and the answer is always carrot cake. Same for my son. In fact he loves it so much it was his wedding cake. That’s my boy πŸ˜‰

And what’s not to love? It’s moist, has a great texture and a fab underlying cinnamon hit. And whilst most carrot cakes bought in a shop can’t necessarily be called ‘healthy’ (even though it contains a vegetable), it can be made with minimal or no added oil and minimal added sugar and still taste utterly delicious.

Baking without some type of fat or oil can be challenging. For a start the fat content stops the cake being welded to the tin πŸ™‚ . Apart from the practical element, fat is integral to the actual structure of the cake, contributing to the quality of the ‘crumb’ and density. So when making an oil free cake you have to accept there will be denser than a standard cake, but no less delicious. And then there’s the frosting…..If you’re not following a health programme that avoids refined fats like Overcoming MS then you can use vegan cream cheese or maybe vegan spread. However that is not an option for health recovery. So what to do? It’s too depressing to take the frosting off and use all your will power not to eat it (I know, I’ve tried many times πŸ˜‰ ). Fortunately I have a tasty solution using cashew nuts.

Why bake a no oil cake?

First though, why I am talking about avoiding oil in cakes? Many plant-based oils contain polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) rather than saturated fat, so aren’t they better? The problem is the refining processing damages the structure of the fats which can have a negative effect on the gut lining, which in turn can then lead to inflammatory compounds getting into the body and causing harm. Sunflower oil also contains mostly omega 6 fatty acids which support the inflammatory pathway rather than the anti-inflammatory (Omega 3 does that). Not only that but all the beneficial nutrients have been stripped out of refined oils; all that remains is the fat.

For example, sunflowers contain lots of healthful nutrients like protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals as well as fat. Sunflower oil however contains nothing except fat. Cold-pressed sunflower oil may retain some vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, but not much else. And it’s expensive – not the cooking oil you find on the supermarkets shelves.

There are oils which are slightly ‘better’ to use than others. Extra virgin olive oil is one, although if it’s the genuine stuff the strong aroma overtakes the flavour unless you’re making an olive oil cake. Avocado oil is another. I haven’t used it myself so I can’t comment on how effective it is but the high price tag (as well as the huge number of avocados used) is a big issue. My compromise when I chose to use oil is to use standard olive oil which is a mix of refined and extra virgin oils. And much less of it.

When you’re using food as medicine, you want to avoid ingredients that promote inflammation and focus on eating anti-inflammatory foods that support healing.

But don’t we need to eat fat?

Yes, of course. Fat is a key macronutrient. But when we eat food, we eat more than just fat. Whole foods contain a smorgasbord of nutrients from fat, protein and carbohyrdrates to fibre, minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients. All these nutrients works together and can provide the body what it needs – even in cake form!

I’ve not described this recipe as low fat, as it’s not. Both walnuts and cashew nuts contain different types of PUFAs including both omega 6 and 3 fatty acids as well as other nutrients and fibre. This is fat in it’s healthy form. Good for the brain and the body.

What can I use instead of oil?

There are a number of ingredients that can be used as alternatives to oil in plant-based baking including:

  • mashed bananas
  • apple puree
  • extra soya milk

Bananas have a strong flavour so need to used carefully otherwise they become the main flavour. Fine for banana bread, not so much for a carrot cake. Apple puree is a great option and the one I use in this carrot cake recipe. It definitely makes a dense cake though, but brings with it additional nutrient benefits including pectin, a type of fibre the microbiome loves to dine on. Extra soya milk is good for muffins and lighter bakes but requires the use of good non-stick baking paper otherwise the bake gets truly stuck in the tin.

What’s in the frosting?

None of the above fat replacements will work for a frosting though πŸ™ . My solution for chocolate-based recipes is to use pureed sweet potato to make sweet potato chocolate frosting as the cocoa powder hides the orange colour. I’ve tried sweet potato for non-chocolate frosting and it just doesn’t work. The combo of colour and flavour wasn’t pleasurable! Soya yoghurt is an option but takes some time to prepare – I’ll add a post about that soon.

So what’s the solution? Cashew nuts.

These fabulously adaptable nut are naturally sweet, soft and super creamy when blended. They take on other flavours well and only need a little extra something to make it sweeter. The key challenge however is using enough fluid to create a cream but not too much that it runs straight off the top of the cake! That’s definitely been my pain point with this frosting πŸ˜‰

Well-soaked cashews and a high speed blender that has a small pot is essential for this. It can be hard to get a smooth texture without both. A small bowl on a food processor is the second best, it just takes longer and requires lots of stopping and starting whilst you scrape the mix off the sides. It’s worth it though. The topping for me brings the whole cake together. I hope you agree.

This cake can be made with gluten free flour; the density from the apple sauce is an asset here as it helps prevents the crumbling you can get with some gluten free bakes. If you are nut free then please leave the walnuts out and go for an alternative topping option.

I love this oil free version of carrot cake. It’s packed full of flavour as well as gut-loving fibre. And I can say for sure it’s a healthy but still tasty cake. Do let me know what you think.

Yummy oil free carrot cake

A beautifully moist and tasty carrot cake that is low in refined sugars and avoids the use of o
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Cake
Servings 12 slices


  • 20 cm loose-bottomed cake tin
  • High speed blender for the topping


  • 220 ml soya milk
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 280 g wholemeal or gluten free self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 30 g chopped walnuts optional if nut free
  • 50 grams raisins
  • 1 medium carrot grated approx. 125g
  • 80 ml maple syrup
  • 100 g apple sauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • For the cashew nut icing:
  • 80 g cashew nuts soaked in hot water for at least 2 hours.
  • 45 ml soya milk or other dairy-free milk
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • To decorate
  • 15 g walnuts roughly chopped
  • Β½ tsp ground cinnamon


  • Add the lemon juice to the soya milk and leave it to curdle for a few minutes.
  • Mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt together in a large bowl and mix well. Stir in the chopped walnuts (if using) and the raisins.
  • Add the carrot, maple syrup, vanilla essence and apple sauce to the curdled soya milk. Whisk well to combine.
  • Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and briskly mix making sure you include the flour at the bottom of the bowl. Don't worry if it’s a bit lumpy - it's more important not to knock all the air out the mix.
  • Pour the mix into the prepared cake tin and use a spatula to scrape the bowl.
  • Jiggle the bowl to make sure the mix has spread out then tap it on the worktop. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, turning halfway through. Check the cake is cooked using a skewer or toothpick.
  • Once cooked, remove from the oven. Leave the cake to rest in the tin for 5 minutes then carefully tip out upside down onto a cooling rack. Gently peel off the non-stick baking paper and turn over. Leave the cake on the rack to cool completely.
  • To make the topping, drain the soaked cashew nuts and put them in a small high-speed blender pot. Add the soya milk, maple syrup and lemon juice and blend until smooth. Add a little extra soya milk or lemon juice if the mix is too thick for your blender.
  • Spread the frosting evenly over the top of the cake. Scatter the chopped walnuts over the top and gently sprinkle the ground cinnamon over the top (I use a small sieve).
  • Keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Keyword healthy cake, oil free, OMS friendly, plant-based cake, whole food





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