Carrot Cake Bars

by on July 2, 2012
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Carrot Cake Bars

I love getting recipe ideas from readers! Next to traveling and dining at vegan restaurants, it’s my favorite way to discover new foods. So I was thrilled to receive an email recently from Sharon Starr in San Francisco asking me to figure out the recipe for Whole Foods’ Vegan Carrot Spice Cake, which she described as “moist, dense and somewhat chewy.” I’m always up for a challenge (especially when it involves dessert), so I told her I would give it a try.

Before I get to the recipe, I have a little housekeeping to do. A few weeks ago I added a feature that should make searching for recipes a little easier for you. If you go to the top of the page and click on Recipe Index, you’ll see a new link to Master List of All Recipes. When you click on that, you’ll find a list of all the recipes on this blog, alphabetically by category, on one page. No photos, just titles. Now you have four ways to look for recipes: the search box in the upper right corner, by category (such as Salads), by tag/topic (such as Eat to Live), and this new page. You’ll also find this feature on the main Fatfree Vegan Recipes site, up in the top menu bar as Index. I hope it helps you find what you’re looking for.

Now on to this recipe:

Sharon sent a photo of the Whole Foods cake along with the ingredients list from the package. Her photo showed a dense bar, almost like a blondie, with lots of dark areas that I assume were the dates and raisins and just a few hints of orange from the carrots. The ingredient list was as follows: Carrots, Unsweetened Applesauce, Dates, Whole Wheat Flour, Raisins, Walnuts, Baking Powder, Vanilla Extract, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Allspice, Clove. By law, ingredients must be listed on packages in decending order by weight, with the main ingredient listed first. Knowing the order of ingredients is a help, but it’s certainly not a formula, and if you don’t know the exact proportions, it’s hard to duplicate a recipe, especially a baked item. But I gave it my best shot. I began by weighing all the ingredients and deciding on a starting amount of my first ingredient, carrots. The 5 medium carrots I used weighed 7.4 ounces; once I had that measurement, I tailored the amounts of the other ingredients in descending order, using a little common sense and a lot of guesswork.

Carrot Cake Bars

In the end, I guessed wrong about the amount of flour. My desire to avoid too much refined starch probably had a lot to do with my underusing the flour (according to my calculations, I could have used almost twice as much and still been on target, weight-wise). So my bars came out moist and dense and a little chewy, but not cake-like. However, my family absolutely loved them, so much so that we ate the entire pan in one day. I considered trying again, using more flour and baking powder, but we’d already blown our family’s weekly sugar budget because even though these treats are refined sugar-free, they still contain a lot of sugar from the dates and raisins. I decided having another batch around would be too much temptation. And besides, my husband told me to leave them alone–they were perfect this way.

I may make the recipe again, once my sugar high wears off, and aim for a cake-like bar next time. But I think these bars stand on their own as a different kind of dessert, somewhere between a raw “Larabar” and a piece of Impossible Pumpkin Pie. Thank you, Sharon, for sending me off on this quest!

Carrot Cake Bars

P.S. Try not to eat the whole pan!

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{ 82 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Richa@HobbyandMore July 2, 2012 at 1:01 pm

I made a similar cake from The starch solution and was very surprised with the sugar and fat free moist cake! these look fabulous. so dense and delicious.

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2 HSGAVolunteer July 2, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Thank you for posting this recipe — I’m not vegan, but I love carrot cake and am an avid food journaler, so I love that you post nutritional information on your blog. And I hate reduced fat or vegan cream cheese — so I can’t wait to try these bars!

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3 Becky July 2, 2012 at 1:55 pm

These look super-delish!

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4 Melissa July 2, 2012 at 2:34 pm

What happens if you leave out the dates? Will the bars still hold together?

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5 Susan Voisin July 2, 2012 at 2:38 pm

No, I don’t think so. And they wouldn’t be very sweet at all.

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6 Millie Snyder July 2, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Yum these look delicious, I think the density would be yummy. I’m not even vegan and I’m going to try this. Thanks for sharing!

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7 Redd H from Salted Spoon July 2, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Oooh these look great! I love that you were able to create a recipe based on a picture and ingredient list. That sounds like a really fun little experiment that I might have to try sometime!

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8 Sally July 2, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Does this recipe call for baking POWDER or baking SODA? The instructions don’t match the ingredient list.

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9 Susan Voisin July 2, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Baking powder. Thanks for pointing that out.

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10 Megan July 2, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Wow. I will be making these this weekend! Thanks! Wow…

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11 Kristina July 2, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Susan these look fantastic! I love to use my juiced carrot pulp in baking – I bet I could do that here? I love a dense dessert bar!

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12 veganamericanprincess July 2, 2012 at 5:27 pm

This looks delicious!! On May 30, 2012, I posted a blog entitled “Carrot Cake With Vanilla Frosting-In a Jiffy”. I used boxed ingredients and veganized them and the results were great!!! Not fat-free but delicious and simple!!! Susan’s recipe looks that much healthier!! http://veganamericanprincess.com

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13 Janae @ Bring-Joy July 2, 2012 at 5:41 pm

I think carrot cakes/bars are the best because they are so easy to do oil-free while still tasting delicious.

I really like your combination & mixes of spices. I love your fearless, experimental attitude in the kitchen–I aspire to that :)!

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14 Francesca July 2, 2012 at 6:41 pm

What a lovely recipe and brave challenge – you are ever so talented and very inspirational. Thank you for sharing your ‘quest’ – I’m glad your family enjoyed the carrot cake bars – the next batch should be for you though, to meet your cakey desires.

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15 spicygirl July 2, 2012 at 7:17 pm

Thankyou so much for a yummy gluten free ,soy free, sugar free recipe! I can’t wait to make this for my family!

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16 Elaine Lynch July 2, 2012 at 7:57 pm

I can’t wait to try this! I just love your site. Thank you so much!

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17 sharon July 2, 2012 at 7:59 pm

Gluten free vegan and sugar free recipes are so hard to find. Thanks so much.

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18 Lisa @ The Raw Serenity July 2, 2012 at 8:42 pm

This recipe sounds amazing! Sounds like a brownie texture.
Can’t wait to try this one out!
I never add refined sugar so this is perfect.
X

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19 Caralyn @ glutenfreehappytummy July 2, 2012 at 10:57 pm

oh my gosh Susan those look outrageous! i love carrot cake – these bars are right up my alley!

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20 Melissa Lang July 2, 2012 at 11:32 pm

I made these tonight!!! Fabulous and I agree with your husband – they are perfect how they are. (But if you do a cake version, I’d love to try that recipe, too!) I accidentally left out the ground ginger, but I’ll add it next time. I used cashews instead of walnuts and added a dollop of ND whipped topping to make it very decadent. Thank you, Susan!!!

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21 elaine July 3, 2012 at 12:09 am

Sounds delicious. I have not had any refined sugar since January, so having this will be a real treat! Thank you!

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22 moonwatcher July 3, 2012 at 12:49 am

Hi Susan,

These look great! I will have to wait until more people are around before I try these out, because I WILL want to eat the whole pan. :)

xo

moonwatcher

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23 Angie@Angie's Recipes July 3, 2012 at 2:34 am

These carrot bars look terrific!

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24 marie townsend July 3, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Susan, Carrot bars sound great just as all other recipes I’ve tried from you collection. I’ve been a vegatarian for quite sometime, but went vegan a few years ago. And a first I thought it would be a challange and sometimes it is when dining out. I do enjoy cheesecake on my b-day and my grandkids as well. I appreciate your recipes you have given me much insipation. I will be making carrot bars earky on the 4th before the temp. is above 90. Happy Holiday

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25 Janhavi July 3, 2012 at 3:22 pm

I was wondering if I could use bananas in this recipe somehow? I have 3 that are a little too ripe for me to eat right now and I want to use them for something and this looks delicious!

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26 Susan Voisin July 3, 2012 at 3:40 pm

You could try replacing the apple sauce with mashed banana, but it might turn out overly moist and mushy. How about trying one of my banana recipes, such as banana bread, banana-cashew balls, or banana coffee cake?

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27 Kathleen @ KatsHealthCorner July 3, 2012 at 10:29 pm

What an absolutely delicious recipe! THANK YOU SO MUCH! <3

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28 Laina July 3, 2012 at 10:58 pm

What pretty looking bars! I look forward to making them. Also’, thanks for another way to search. You’re so thoughtful.

Btw, I love your signature! :-)

Laina :-)

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29 Legolas813 July 4, 2012 at 10:28 am

I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, but everyone at work loved it. This is what I did.

1 lb. bag whole baby carrots
2 mini cups of applesauce
1.5 cups raisins
2 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 tsp cinnamon
0.5 tsp ground allspice
0.5 tsp ground cloves
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup walnuts

Combine all ingredients in Blendtec. Cook at 375 for 45 minutes.

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30 brook July 5, 2012 at 8:40 pm

Thank you so much for this recipe! You should really call them “carrot crack bars,” because I suspect they’re as addictive. I’ve made them 3 times since you posted the recipe! Everyone loves them! Thanks again.

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31 Azahara July 6, 2012 at 12:36 pm

“P.S. Try not to eat the whole pan!”

How do I do that?

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32 Jacqueline July 7, 2012 at 11:30 am

They do look good Susan. I add carrot to flapjacks (Scottish flapjacks made from oats, not pancakes) and they go lovely and caramelly, I bet they do in this cake too. Yum!

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33 Scottish Mum July 7, 2012 at 12:18 pm

These look absolutely lovely. Found them when Jacqueline tweeted.

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34 Stuart Vettese July 7, 2012 at 2:07 pm

These look amazing! A diabetic friend has been asking me for ideas for sugar free recipes – I will certainly give this one a try :)

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35 Johanna GGG July 8, 2012 at 8:51 am

the carrot bars sounds lovely – I love dense over cakey!

also wanted to say I love the masterlist index – sometimes that is all I want and the photos make indexes quite hard to wade through because they are not many on a page!

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36 Tika July 8, 2012 at 2:46 pm

My word! These bars are incredible.

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37 Melissa July 8, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Susan, this was a delicious recipe though I did not have allspice, so I don’t know what I missed but I certainly could have eaten the whole pan in one sitting. I will say I did not think I cooked them long enough due to the very moistness of the cake. I made my own raw applesauce which may have caused this, but even being extremely moist(almost like undercooked brownies) it was still good to me. I did not have anyone else try them yet, though I suppose I must to be nice:)

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38 S July 8, 2012 at 8:07 pm

These bars look delicious! A great alternative to cookies as a snack for my toddler. Do you think the recipe would work with packaged date paste?

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39 Susan Voisin July 8, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Probably so, but I don’t know how much of it you should use.

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40 S September 7, 2012 at 12:01 pm

I used the packaged already mashed dates, and it came out great. The package I bought was 2lbs, and I cut off a 6oz chunk.

Didn’t use the food processor, just used lightly greased hands to mix everything together.

Thanks!

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41 Dyan July 8, 2012 at 8:32 pm

These are great! I was tempted to stop before the flour and baking powder and just blend everything together and eat it raw, but I wanted to see the recipe through and I’m glad I did. I’ve polished off half the pan already. That said, I still want to try a raw version. Next time! Thanks for this recipe. I’ve never seen one like it and I think it has a lot of potential for experimentation.

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42 jamie July 9, 2012 at 12:52 am

This looks great! I’m delighted that you posted this. Carrot cake is a favorite and I am excited to sweeten with the dates as I’m not using sugar much these days. Might be trying these out this week! Thanks!

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43 Kim July 9, 2012 at 10:41 am

These look great! Any idea if they’ll freeze well (so I can avoid eating them all at once)?

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44 Susan Voisin July 9, 2012 at 11:09 am

I haven’t tried freezing them but I can’t see any reason it wouldn’t work.

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45 Azahara July 13, 2012 at 4:56 am

I finally didn’t eat the whole pan and ended up freezing some servings. Just thaw them in advance and you won’t notice the difference.

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46 Susan Voisin July 13, 2012 at 7:15 am

Thanks for checking on that! Freezing is a great solution for keeping them around longer.

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47 Ninufar July 9, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Thanks so much!! There’s a carrot-cake Lara bar, but it’s got pineapple in it & I’m mildly allergic to that, so here is a wonderful alternative!

I will try it w/”ivory” teff flour, maybe cut with some arrowroot starch.

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48 Laura July 9, 2012 at 7:48 pm

I made these the other night and can verify that they are awesome!! I did not have applesauce so I puréed 1.5 bananas for an equivalent volume, which worked out great in my opinion. Even the six-year-old sugar-crazy boys running around called them delicious — I’m not making that up!

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49 Sharon July 9, 2012 at 9:52 pm

Thanks for the recipe! I added a tbsp of agave to the recipe, toasted the bar once baked, and spread tofutti -better than cream cheese on top. Pretty darn delicious!

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50 Anne July 9, 2012 at 11:42 pm

Thank you, thank you, thank you…yet another delicious recipe. Your blog is just an abundance of riches!

I’m going on a road trip next week and these are coming with me.

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51 Sherry July 10, 2012 at 11:29 am

Delicious! My daughter begged to take one to day camp today AND have one for breakfast (“No”), hubby stole 2 last night AND took 2 to work this morning (grrrr) and I just had one with coffee. The only negative thing about these is figuring out how to keep them around longer than a day!

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52 Michele (Soy Free Vegan) July 11, 2012 at 7:25 am

Oh this look delicious! Is there another sweetener I could use to replace the dates? I have all the other ingredients on hand to make this today.

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53 CLEVegan July 11, 2012 at 10:09 am

Susan, thank you so much for taking up this challenge! I have always loved carrot cake and was eager to try these. My basic Cuisinart food processor was not powerful enough to chop the dates into a paste, so I added all the wet ingredients to help things along. I added the spices to the flour & baking powder because I thought it would blend better. The bars came out moist as promised, but all we could taste were the spices (if you like pumpkin pie spices, which I do, you will like these) and not the carrots . Next time, I will process the dates with all the wet ingredients except the carrots, to see if I can get some carrot flavor. I would love to try a more cake-like version, too. Keep up the good work, Susan!

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54 Corrin Radd July 12, 2012 at 7:13 pm

I made these today and they’re delicious. No added fat or sugar? Wow! Keep posting great ideas like this.

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55 Dariamarx July 15, 2012 at 1:38 pm

Made this today to share at a potluck in Paris, France and everybody loved it (and I was the only vegan !). Thank you :)

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56 Monica July 15, 2012 at 4:22 pm

I made the bars today. They were good. I might use less dates next time as I found them a bit sweet. Also, I think I may not have baked them long enough as they were soft/too moist on the bottom. I wrapped individual bars in parchment and put them in a ziploc bag for future, delicious consumption.

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57 Betsy DiJulio July 16, 2012 at 6:11 am

OMG, two of my favorite foods in one: carrot cake with the denseness of a brownie. Genius! Thanks for sharing.

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58 Vegan July 16, 2012 at 10:18 am

I wish I have a talent in baking like yours. I was just wondering… did you also add sugar for this cake?

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59 Missy July 17, 2012 at 6:10 am

These look absolutely amazing! I just bought a bag of carrots and started scouring the internet for something I could actually eat (intolerant to: gluten, soy, nuts, bananas, pineapple, eggs, dairy) so it looks like I hit the jackpot! I have a ton of prunes on hand and no dates. Do you think that would sub well… maybe if I soaked them first?

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60 Susan Voisin July 17, 2012 at 7:35 am

Prunes aren’t as sweet as dates, so you might end up wanting to add a little stevia or other sweetener to them.

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61 Bonnie July 18, 2012 at 5:28 am

Hey this sounds rather interesting and yummy! :)

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62 Lili July 20, 2012 at 2:02 am

These look delicious! Can’t wait to try them! I need all the help I can get to conjure up sweet vegan treats. Thanks for sharing. Please stop by my blog http://www.simplyliliblog.wordpress.com. I would love for you to feature one of your fat-free vegan recipes on my page. I look forward to more yummy recipes.

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63 Amy July 23, 2012 at 7:40 pm

I just made these today, they didn’t last long, everyone loved them! However I was unable to evenly mix the dates into the carrots and apple sauce, so I tossed it all back in the food processor which meant no carrot bits but a more cake like consistency. I also had no clove or allspice and it still was good! Next time I’m going to double the recipe. Also thinking of a variation with zucchini since it’s that time of year! Maybe 1/2 carrot and 1/2 zucchini.

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64 Mythreyi August 8, 2012 at 5:30 am

This is very nice and healthy… never tried savory cakes…pinned…

-Mythreyi
Yum! Yum! Yum!

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65 allie August 17, 2012 at 10:48 am

Do you think I could substitute agave for the dates? I don’t have any dates in my kitchen, but I have all the other ingredients.

These look great! I just got a whole bunch of carrots from my CSA and this is a perfect way to use them (I hate carrots, but love carrot cake for some reason. Go figure.)

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66 Susan Voisin August 17, 2012 at 10:54 am

I’m afraid it won’t work because the dates are what’s holding the bars together.

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67 allie September 7, 2012 at 12:49 pm

I finally just bought the dates and made these… and they are delicious! I had to make my own applesauce because I didn’t have any on hand. I would also wonder how these would be using apple butter or crushed pineapple instead of applesauce.

Also now I have a big box of dates to try other recipes with!

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68 admattai October 11, 2012 at 9:34 pm

I made these tonight, and they turned out great! Will make again soon. Thanks so much for the great recipes!

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69 Christian October 21, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Oh my they are goooood!

I am going to try this using bean flour mixed with oatmeal processed into an oat flour and see how they turn out. Might add dried all natural cranberries too.

Also I keep thinking how I could add pumpkin to this recipe???

Yummy

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70 Kim D April 21, 2013 at 8:20 pm

Hi–this recipe is great. I modified it to make a carrot cake cookie. I love the spices, really gives it a great flavor. Here’s my recipe: http://inspiredbykim.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=284&action=edit&message=6&postpost=v2

Thanks for the inspiration!

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71 Andrea R April 26, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Would the same ounces of Del Noor dates be OK. I have heard they are not as sweet. Should I bump up the amount or look for the Medjool?

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72 Susan Voisin April 26, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Are they smaller than medjool? If so, I would just use a few more of them so that they equal the same number of ounces. But I would try to keep the ounces the same.

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73 Acacia Gray July 4, 2013 at 2:35 am

These look great and very healthy too! I will definitely be trying this!

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74 Gill July 4, 2013 at 2:49 am

These bars sound like perfect post-run recovery bars to me – thanks for the recipe! Love your recipes :-)

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75 Pauline July 6, 2013 at 12:26 pm

I just made these and they turned out pretty well- I used GF flour (Bob’s Red Mill). I wouldn’t say they turned into “bars” though- more like a cake. Why do you think it didn’t firm up? Also, they were WAY too sweet. Do you think I could just cut the amount of dates in 1/2 or would that ruin the recipe and keep the batter from sticking together? Thanks!

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76 Lana | My Happy Dessert August 1, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Hi Susan,

I’m really enjoying your blog! I love that you’re keeping the desserts healthy and fat free! These carrot cake bars look delicious:)

I just wanted to let you know you have a new follower!

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77 Micheline November 8, 2013 at 10:56 am

I am new to vegan cooking and my attempt at these bars and vegan pumpkin bread yesterday went horribly wrong. The bars just did not cook! I followed he recipe to the letter except I made my own apple sauce by blitzing softened (lightly cooked) apples with a touch of water. Is this where I am going wrong? Any help would be much appreciated! Thanks

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78 Susan Voisin November 8, 2013 at 10:58 am

I’m so sorry! I suspect that lightly cooked apples retain a lot more moisture than bottled apple sauce, so that may have caused the bars to have too much liquid. I hate to hear of all your time and ingredients wasted.

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79 Carrie December 1, 2013 at 7:14 pm

I made a batch of these today, and they were wonderful — very nice and moist, and the perfect balance of spicy and sweet. I will definitely make these again. Thanks for the great recipe!

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80 Genny December 18, 2013 at 10:42 am

I love carrot cake and I would like to try making these. I have an 8×8 pan, but it’s not glass. Is that ok, or does it have to be a glass pan?

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81 Susan Voisin December 18, 2013 at 10:50 am

Glass cooks more slowly than metal, so you would just need to check them often to make sure they don’t burn.

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82 Guy July 3, 2014 at 11:45 am

Is there a way of cutting down the sugar?? Dates are so high in sugar, and why does fat free have to mean high in sugar?

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