These gluten-free and vegan carrot cake blondies with cashew-coconut icing have all the carrot cake necessities—flecked with walnuts, dotted with raisins, and packed with carrots and warming spices. As opposed to white flour and sugar, oat flour lends heartiness and a generous fiber boost while coconut sugar offers a rich, caramel-like sweetness. But carrot cake isn’t carrot cake without a little something on top, and these blondies keep it classic with a thick slathering of vanilla cashew-coconut icing.
Every now and then, the kitchen stars align and a recipe comes together magically. Well, the universe must have been feeling extra generous when I was recipe testing earlier this week, because these Vegan Carrot Cake Blondies with Cashew-Coconut Icing are as close to magical as they come.
What started out as an attempt to make carrot cake cookie bars ultimately resulted in the most wonderful blondies. They have all the carrot cake necessities—flecked with walnuts, dotted with raisins, and packed with carrots and warming spices—plus the irresistible soft and chewy texture of a blondie. As opposed to white flour and sugar, oat flour lends heartiness and a generous fiber boost while coconut sugar offers a rich, caramel-like sweetness.
But carrot cake isn’t carrot cake without a little something on top, and these blondies keep it classic with a thick slathering of vanilla cashew-coconut icing. . .
The icing is made by blending together homemade cashew cream, coconut butter, maple syrup, a tiny bit of coconut flour (to thicken and add structure), vanilla, a splash of apple cider vinegar (to offer a subtle tang reminiscent of a traditional cream cheese frosting), and a pinch of sea salt. It’s thick and creamy with just the slightest tanginess, and it’s the perfect complement to the carrot cake blondies.
While you certainly could make the blondies without the icing, you’d be selling them short and limiting their true potential of deliciousness. And nobody puts
baby these blondies in the corner.
So slather them with a thick layer of icing and let them shine. . .
Vegan Carrot Cake Blondies with Vanilla Cashew-Coconut Icing
These vegan and gluten-free blondies have all the carrot cake necessities—flecked with walnuts, dotted with raisins, and packed with carrots and warming spices. As opposed to white flour and sugar, oat flour lends heartiness and a generous fiber boost while coconut sugar offers a rich, caramel-like sweetness. But carrot cake isn't carrot cake without a little something on top, and these blondies keep it classic with a thick slathering of vanilla cashew-coconut icing.
Carrot Cake Blondies
- 1 cup coconut sugar
- 1/2 cup natural unsalted almond butter (stirred well before measuring)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup (113g) shredded carrots, from about 2–3 medium carrots
- 1 1/2 cups (176g) oat flour*
- 1 1/2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg or more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger or more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk
- 1/3 cup raisins
- 1/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts (optional)
Vanilla Cashew-Coconut Icing
- 3/4 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours and drained
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cashew milk or other plant-based milk, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup melted coconut butter, measured in a melted state—it should be runny and pourable—see note**
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons coconut flour
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or the seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (for a cream cheese like tang)
- 1/8 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
- 2 tablespoons chopped raw or toasted walnuts (optional)
For the Carrot Cake Blondies
Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8x8-inch square pan with parchment paper (double-check your pan size, because 9x9-inch won’t work for this recipe).
Add the the coconut sugar, almond butter, and vanilla to a large mixing bowl. Using a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment or hand mixer fitted with beater attachments, beat together on high for 1 minute. The mixture should appear crumbly at this point. Add the shredded carrots and beat for 30 seconds, or until incorporated. The moisture from the carrots should soften the sugar, yielding a wet, damp mixture.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the oat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and sea salt. Place within reach of the mixer.
With the mixer off, add the oat flour mixture. Then, pour the almond milk over the oat mixture and begin beating on low. Increase speed to medium and beat for 15 seconds or until the flour mixture is just incorporated. Do not over-mix. The dough should be sticky and should loosely hold its form (almost like a very, very thick, gooey muffin batter). Add the raisins and walnuts and stir or beat to incorporate.
Scoop the dough into the lined pan and use a spatula to smooth into an even layer. At first it might seem like there isn’t enough, but keep smoothing it outward until it’s nearly touching the sides of the pan.
Bake for 22 to 28 minutes, or until the edges are golden and crackled and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean with a few moist crumbs at the tip. Do not over-bake.
Let cool completely in pan.
For the Vanilla Cashew-Coconut Icing
Get started on the icing as soon as the blondie is in the oven.
Add the soaked cashews and cashew milk to a high-speed blender, and blend on high until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides as often as needed. The texture should resemble thick cream. Add the remaining ingredients and blend for 30 seconds, or until smooth.
Scoop the icing into a medium mixing bowl and freeze for 15 minutes to thicken slightly.
Once the bar is completely cool, smooth as much of the icing as desired over the surface. Sprinkle with the chopped walnuts (if using). Freeze for at least 30 minutes (but preferably 1 hour) to thicken and set the icing.
Once the icing is set, grasp the edges of the parchment paper to gently lift the bar from the pan, and use a sharp knife to slice into 9 squares; then, slice each square in half on a diagonal, creating 18 triangular bars.
Return the bars to the pan and loosely cover with foil. Store in the refrigerator*** for up to 1 week.
*Please, please, please do not substitute the oat flour with coconut flour. I only mention this specific swap because it's a common mistake to make (my hand is raised) and will DRASTICALLY alter the result, yielding dry, crumbly bars instead of soft, chewy bars. Coconut flour is highly absorbent (like a sponge) and cannot be used as a 1-to-1 substitute for other flours.
**It's very important that 1) all ingredients are at room temperature for the icing (or warmer) and 2) the coconut butter is in a liquid state before measuring and blending. I find it easiest to make a fresh batch of homemade coconut butter and simply measure off 1/2 cup while it's still in a liquid state. However, store-bought coconut butter will yield a smoother icing because it's typically much smoother than homemade coconut butter. That said, store-bought coconut butter can be tricky to melt because it scorches and burns easily which leads to a seized, hardened texture.
***Keep the bars chilled until just 5 to 10 minutes before serving to maintain the icing's thick, creamy texture.