This delicious spice cake is dense, sweet, and super moist, just like a good vegan carrot cake should be. Topped with a dreamy cashew cream cheese frosting, this sneaky veggie dessert is perfect for your Easter menu or an anytime decadent treat!
I love my sweets, but in all honesty, I’m not a huge cake lover. I find traditional cake to taste too sweet and not much like anything else.
This vegan carrot cake recipe has loads of flavor from the warm spices and a balanced sweetness that comes from fruits and veggies, not just sugar.
It turned out perfect! Just sweet enough, dense texture, and super moist! I guess I do love cake after all!
Ingredients you need
Ingredient notes and substitutions
There are some staunch carrot cake lovers out there who will tell you exactly what you should not put in your carrot cake recipe…mainly, pineapple, nuts, and/or raisins.
I’m not a fan of raisins, so we’re good there. But, the other two, I’ve got them in my vegan carrot cake, and I’ll tell you why – moisture and texture!
Carrots ~ It wouldn’t be a carrot cake recipe without the carrots. They lend a subtle sweetness and offer texture, but you don’t really taste carrots in the final dish. Shred them finely before adding them to the cake.
If you love carrots, you’ll love these other vegan carrot recipes, too!
- Carrot Cake Pancakes
- Carrot Pineapple Salad
- Easy Vegan Carrot Soup
- Carrot Cake Baked Oatmeal
- Roasted Carrot Hummus
Nuts ~ A good carrot cake is soft and moist and dense, so the nuts bring a nice contrasting texture.
If you don’t like walnuts, you can substitute pecans.
For a nut-free version, leave them out!
Pineapple ~ I make my vegan carrot cake with pineapple because it adds the perfect amount of additional moisture and natural sweetness. Use canned crushed pineapple and make sure to drain it well before measuring.
If you don’t like or can’t have pineapple, you can use applesauce. I find applesauce tends to make most cakes too heavy and doesn’t add as much moisture as the pineapple, but it will work in a pinch.
Flour ~ I use all-purpose flour. It’s light, mild flour that holds together well.
You can use white whole wheat or spelt flour if you prefer. A gluten free flour blend designed to replace wheat flour at a 1:1 ratio, like Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1:1 Baking Flour, would likely also work.
Sugar ~ I use a combination of coconut sugar and pure maple syrup. I love the deep caramel flavor they bring. It complements the spices in this cake so well.
Brown sugar can be subbed for the coconut sugar.
Milk ~ I use almond milk, but cashew, oat, or soy would all work. Choose an unsweetened, plain variety.
Oil ~ I use coconut oil in both the cake and frosting. You can replace the coconut oil in the cake with canola or vegetable oil if you prefer. Or for an oil-free version, you can try subbing the oil with applesauce – though I haven’t personally tried this.
Do not substitute the coconut oil for a different type of oil in the frosting! When the coconut oil cools, it will solidify making the frosting thick and stable. Any other type of oil won’t work.
Cashew Cream Cheese Frosting ~ Most people can probably agree that any good carrot cake has cream cheese frosting. It’s creamy, tangy, and sweet and is, quite literally, the icing on the cake!
Since we are dairy-free here at Veggie Inspired, we aren’t using cream cheese, but instead blending cashews with a little lemon juice to create that same creamy tangy texture. Vanilla and powdered sugar sweeten it up.
You can use store-bought vegan cream cheese in place of the cashews.
If for some reason, you are against a delicious dreamy cream cheese frosting, or if you are allergic to nuts, you can use my Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting that I use on my Chai Spiced Pumpkin Layer Cake. It would be divine with the flavors of this cake, as well.
Your favorite store-bought vanilla frosting will also work.
How to make the recipe
Place the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl (1) and whisk to combine (2). Place the wet ingredients into a separate large mixing bowl (3) and whisk to combine (4).
Pour the dry ingredients into the wet (5) and whisk just to combine (6). Do not over mix. A few small lumps are fine, but you shouldn’t see any visible white flour. Add the shredded carrots and walnuts (7) and stir to incorporate evenly throughout (8).
Pour the batter into two prepared round cake pans (9).
Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pans on a cooling rack (10) for about 10 minutes before removing the cakes from the pans. Once removed from the pans, let the cakes continue to cool completely on the cooling rack.
To make the cashew cream cheese frosting, you’ll need soaked raw cashews, powdered sugar, fresh lemon juice, vanilla extract, non-dairy milk, salt, and melted coconut oil (11).
Place the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor (12) and process until smooth (13). Add additional non-dairy milk 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed, until the mixture is completely smooth.
Transfer the frosting to an air-tight container and put it in the fridge for an hour or two to firm up while the cakes cool.
When you’re ready to frost the vegan carrot cakes, remove the frosting from the fridge. If it’s too stiff, let it sit out on the counter a bit until it’s spreadable.
Spread one thin layer of frosting on the top of one of the cakes. Place the other cake on top and pour the rest of the frosting on top (14). Using a spatula, spread out the frosting (15) over the entire cake and down the sides until it is completely covered (16).
Garnish with chopped walnuts. Place the entire cake back into the fridge to set up.
When ready to serve, let the cake come to room temperature on the counter.
Leftovers of this vegan carrot cake will keep in the fridge in an air-tight container for about 4 to 5 days.
I love it cold straight from the fridge, but you can let it sit out on the counter for 20 minutes or so if you want it to come up to room temperature.
You can also freeze this vegan carrot cake! You can freeze the entire cake, frosted or unfrosted, or freeze individual slices. Let it sit in the fridge for several hours first to ensure the frosting is set. Then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and place in a freezer safe container or plastic bag. It should keep well for about 4 months in the freezer.
To thaw, place in the fridge overnight.
Pro tips for success
~ Line the cake pans with circles of parchment paper so the cakes slide out easily after cooking.
~ Use the spoon and level method of measuring the flour.
~ Use the small grates of a grater to finely shred the carrots. I like using the grating blade of my food processor to make quick work of this process.
~ Bring all of your ingredients to room temperature, especially the non-dairy milk, maple syrup and pineapple, before starting. Otherwise the melted coconut oil may seize up and won’t incorporate correctly.
~ Mix the batter until just combined. Do not over mix. There should be no visible white flour after mixing, but a few small lumps are fine.
~ Let the cakes cool completely before frosting them. If the cakes are still warm, the frosting will slide right off.
~ The Cashew Cream Cheese Frosting needs time for soaking the cashews and time for setting up in the fridge. Plan accordingly! The frosting can be made in advance.
~ You should have just enough frosting for a thin layer between the two cakes and to cover the whole thing. If you like a LOT of frosting, you may want to double the recipe.
~ You may need to let the cold frosting sit for just a few minutes at room temperature in order to spread the frosting easier.
~ After frosting, stick the entire cake back in the fridge for 20 minutes to set (or stick it in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes) before slicing.
Vegan Carrot Cake FAQs
Yes! Finely shredded carrots are mixed into the cake batter.
Carrot cake doesn’t actually taste like carrots. However, the carrots lend a subtle sweetness and certainly up the nutrition factor.
I make my version with pineapple. But, again, it’s an ingredient you won’t really be able to taste. Some carrot cakes with pineapple absolutely do taste of pineapple, and that’s fine if that’s what you’re going for. But, here, we are using the pineapple as moisture, and another layer of sweetness.
So, what does it taste like? It tastes like a spice cake. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger mingle with vanilla and caramel-y coconut sugar to provide the most amazing flavor.
Bonus: your house will smell fabulous as it bakes!
But, this is no light and airy cake. It’s dense, yet soft, and incredibly moist. Just like a perfect carrot cake should be!
Despite vegetables being in this cake, I wouldn’t call it health food. It is dessert after all. It contains flour, sweeteners, and oil, which should be consumed in limited amounts. However, this Vegan Carrot Cake does contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein. Let’s just say there are worse things you could eat for sure!
Yes! You can freeze the whole cake or individual slices. You can freeze it frosted or unfrosted. Just wrap the cake or slice tightly in plastic wrap and place in a freezer safe container or plastic bag. It should keep well for up to 4 months.
To thaw, place in the fridge overnight.
More vegan cake recipes
- Vegan Gingerbread Cake
- Vegan Blueberry Breakfast Cake
- Strawberry Lemonade Ice Cream Cake
- Banana Chocolate Chip Snack Cake
- Vanilla Corn Cake w/ Roasted Strawberries
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Vegan Carrot Cake Recipe w/ Cashew Cream Cheese Frosting
For the Carrot Cake
- 2 ¼ cups all purpose flour white whole wheat or spelt flour will also work
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspooon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ tsp Himalayan pink salt
- 1 cup crushed pineapple drained
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- ¾ cup coconut sugar or brown sugar
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup
- ½ cup coconut oil melted
- 1 ½ cups unsweetened almond milk
- 2 cup finely shredded carrots
- ½ cup walnuts chopped (plus more for garnish)
For the Cashew Cream Cheese Frosting
For the Carrot Cake
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Line two 9-inch cake pans with a circle of parchment paper or lightly spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the crushed pineapple, vanilla, vinegar, coconut sugar, maple syrup, coconut oil, and almond milk.
- Stir the dry ingredients into the wet just until incorporated.
- Stir in the shredded carrots and chopped walnuts. The batter will be thick, but still pourable.
- Divide the batter among the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Let the cakes cool in the pans on a wire cooling rack for at least 10 minutes. Then, turn the cakes out and let them continue to cool on the wire cooling rack.
For the Cashew Cream Cheese Frosting
- Add the soaked cashews, lemon juice, vanilla, powdered sugar, and salt to a food processor. With the food processor running, slowly pour in the milk through the top spout. Then slowly pour in the melted coconut oil through the top spout. Continue to process until the mixture is perfectly smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary. Add additional milk 1 tablespoon at a time if needed to get the mixture silky smooth.
- Transfer the frosting to an airtight container and place in the fridge for several hours to firm up.
- Once the cakes have completely cooled and the frosting has thickened, turn the cakes upside down so that the perfectly flat sides are face up. Spread a thin layer of the frosting over the top of one of the cakes. Stack the other cake on top and then gently frost the whole cake. (If the frosting is too hard to spread just out of the fridge, let it sit on the counter for a bit to soften.
- Garnish with chopped walnuts.
- Store any leftover cake in an airtight container in the fridge as the frosting won't stay solid if it gets warm. Let it come back to room temperature on the counter before serving.