Carrot Cake Bars with Cashew "Cream Cheese" Frosting
My obsession with carrot cake was born in my hometown of Southampton, New York. I grew up on Tate’s Bakeshop carrot cake, which I’ve requested for every birthday since I grew out of my Carvel ice cream cake phase many years ago. After all this time, I’m still convinced there is no better carrot cake in existence (though the one from the Rose Bakery is a close second).
There is, however, healthier versions of carrot cake. And in celebration of Easter, I decided to pay homage to the carrot cake by making these carrot cake bars, topped with a vegan cashew cream “cheese” frosting. Gluten-free, vegan, and paleo, they are a decadent and filling dessert, snack or quick breakfast on the go.
These carrot cake bars are gluten-free, vegan and paleo and are made with natural sugar from dates and raisins. Walnuts are full of healthy fat, are a vegetarian source of omega-3s, and contain essential amino acids. Dates and raisins are condensed energy sources, also high in essential vitamins and minerals. Unlike refined sugars, dates are good for digestion because of their fiber content. Dates are also relatively high in iron, potassium, and magnesium, which help with metabolism, muscle contractions and maintaining strong bones and teeth. The vegan cashew "cream cheese" frosting is made with cashews, which are also full of healthy fats particularly oleic acid, the same heart-healthy monounsaturated fat found in olive oil. Cashews are also great for hair, skin and bone health due to their copper and magnesium content.
In the spirit of carrot cake, here are some other great healthy carrot cake inspired recipes from some of our favorite sites:
Need a break from all the sweets? Stick with the carrot theme, but try this (easy, addicting!) Carrot and Sunflower Seed Salad with Lemon Honey Dressing.
Carrot Cake Bars
with Cashew "Cream Cheese" Frosting
CARROT CAKE BASE
1/2 cup packed pitted whole dates, Medjool or soaked overnight (see notes)
1/3 cup raisins
1 cup raw walnuts (plus more for garnish, optional)
1/3 cup unsweetened, dried shredded coconut
1/3 cup grated carrots
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
VEGAN CASHEW "CREAM CHEESE" FROSTING
3/4 cups raw cashews, soaked at least 4 hours
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
1 tablespoon coconut milk (or water)
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Make the carrot cake base. Line a small pan or container with parchment paper (we used a 7 x 5-inch glass container).
Add walnuts to a food processor and blend until finely chopped (but not paste-like).
Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until the fruit is finely chopped and blended and the mixture begins to stick together. This should take a couple of minutes and you may need to scrape the sides with a spatula occasionally.
Spread the mixture evenly in the parchment lined container and place in the freezer until set, about an hour.
Make the vegan cashew "cream cheese" frosting. Add all ingredients to a high-speed blender, like a Vitamix, and blend until very creamy.
Spread mixture evenly on top of carrot cake base, sprinkle with chopped walnuts and cinnamon (if desired) and put back into the freezer another hour.
When set, remove from freezer, allow to thaw for a couple of minutes and cut into the desired shape. Keep the bars in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks or freezer for up to 3 months.
This recipe was made using Deglet Noor dried dates, not Medjool. Medjool dates are moister so they don’t require soaking while Deglet Noor dates need to be soaked. To soak, simply cover with water overnight or use the quick soak method. To quick-soak put dates in a microwavable bowl and cover with water. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Discard the soaking liquid before using.