Vegan Carrot Cake
This vegan carrot cake is just like the classic recipe, but made without eggs and dairy! Two layers of spiced cake are stacked and frosted with the dreamiest cream cheese frosting, then decorated with toasted walnuts for the perfect finishing touch!
Although the cozy spices in carrot cake make it perfect for fall and winter, it’s definitely a dessert we associate with springtime! Maybe it’s because carrots are one of the first crops available when the weather starts to warm up, or maybe it’s because carrots happen to be the Easter Bunny’s favorite snack! Whatever the reason, I thought it was time to tackle making a vegan carrot cake recipe to share here for all your spring (or fall! or winter! or heck, even summer!) celebrations.
Of all the baked goods you can make plant-based, carrot cake is especially well-suited to veganization (okay, that’s probably not a word!) because it’s already made with oil instead of butter, and it’s naturally a dense cake, so there’s not as much need for the protein from eggs to act as scaffolding. This means you can replace those eggs with a simple swap of applesauce, rather than having to make a flax egg or purchase a fancy egg replacer at the grocery store.
Paired with my favorite cream cheese frosting, this vegan carrot cake is almost identical to a typical carrot cake made with eggs and dairy. Sweet, perfectly spiced, and impossible to resist!
Notes on Ingredients
Please note that this is important information on the ingredients and instructions and the FULL recipe with amounts and details can be found DOWN BELOW (scroll to it) in the recipe card.
For the cake:
- All-purpose flour – Sift the flour after you measure it.
- Baking soda
- Baking powder
- Sea salt
- Solid refined coconut oil – Measure the oil while it is solid. If your jar of coconut oil is melted, you can chill it in the refrigerator until it hardens.
- Brown sugar
- Unsweetened applesauce
- Vanilla extract
- Finely grated carrots – You’ll need about 3 large carrots.
- Chopped walnuts – Toast the nuts by placing them in a skillet over medium heat; remove them from the pan when they’re fragrant and just beginning to darken.
For the vegan cream cheese frosting:
- Vegan cream cheese – Take it out of the refrigerator when you’re ready to make the frosting.
- Vegan butter – The butter, on the other hand, should be room temperature.
- Vanilla extract
- Powdered sugar – Sift the powdered sugar after you measure it to keep lumps out of your frosting.
- Chopped walnuts – These are for garnish, so you can leave them out if you prefer.
Does Traditional Carrot Cake Have Raisins?
Traditional carrot cake typically has either pineapple, nuts, raisins, coconut, or some combination of these ingredients. If you’d like to add raisins, you can, but because raisins tend to be polarizing, I’ve made this vegan carrot cake without them!
Can You Use Pecans Instead of Walnuts in Carrot Cake?
Yes! If you’d like, you can swap the toasted walnuts for toasted pecans. Walnuts are the most common nut used in traditional carrot cake, but some recipes use pecans instead.
How to Make Vegan Carrot Cake
If you don’t have a large block of time to make everything in one go, you can easily bake the cakes one day, then make the frosting and assemble the next.
Prepare. Preheat your oven to 350℉/180ºC, then grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans, tapping out any excess flour.
Mix the dry ingredients. In a mixing bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices until well-incorporated.
Mix the wet ingredients. Scoop the coconut oil into a microwave-safe bowl. Melt the oil in the microwave by heating it in 15-second bursts. Transfer the oil to a large mixing bowl and stir in the sugar, applesauce and the vanilla extract until the mixture is smooth.
Finish the cake batter. Pour the dry mixture into the wet mixture, then fold in the carrots and nuts.
Bake. Divide the cake batter into the two prepared pans and bake for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean or almost clean (a few crumbs are fine).
Cool. Place the cake pans on wire racks and cool for about 20 minutes. After this, carefully remove the cakes from the pans and let them finish cooling directly on the racks.
Make the frosting. Beat the butter and cream cheese for about 2 minutes, then beat in the vanilla extract and salt, followed by the powdered sugar a cup at a time. Once the first cup is incorporated, add the next, then the next. When the frosting reaches your desired sweetness and consistency, stop there.
Chill the frosting. Place the bowl of frosting in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes to allow it to thicken a bit.
Assemble and frost. Set one of the cake layers on a cake plate or lazy Susan and frost the top of the first layer. Set the second layer on top of the first, then frost the sides and top of the cake. Garnish with nuts and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes before serving to set the frosting.
Tips for Success
Here are some tips to help you get the perfect vegan carrot cake!
- Easier cake removal. If turning out cakes to remove them from the pans always makes you a little nervous, you can make things easier by greasing the bottoms of the pans and lining them with a circle of parchment paper. (Greasing the pan first keeps the parchment in place!)
- Adding raisins and coconut. If you like raisins and coconut, you can add them to the batter; I recommend soaking the raisins in rum, apple juice, or water first to plump them up and keep them from absorbing moisture from the cake.
- Making the frosting pipe-able. If you want to add rosettes or other decorative flourishes with the frosting, I recommend adding all 4 cups of powdered sugar to ensure it’s stiff enough for piping.
How to Store
Store your vegan carrot cake in the refrigerator for up to 4 days; I recommend wrapping it in plastic wrap or transferring it to an airtight storage container if you have leftovers. Let the cake sit on the countertop for 15 minutes or so before serving.
Can This Recipe Be Frozen?
Yes, this carrot cake freezes beautifully! If you want to freeze the whole cake, place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze it uncovered. Once the frosting is solid, you can wrap the cake in a few layers of plastic wrap and return it to the freezer for up to 3 months. Leftovers can be frozen in an airtight storage container.
To serve, let the cake thaw in the refrigerator, then let it sit on the countertop for 15 minutes or so to come to room temperature.
Enjoy friends! If you make this vegan carrot cake recipe, please snap a photo and tag #jessicainthekitchen on Instagram! We’d also love it if you would leave a comment below, and give the recipe a rating! Thanks so much!
Vegan Carrot Cake
For the cake:
- 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, sifted, 270g
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ tablespoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 cup solid *refined* coconut oil, 200g
- 1 ½ cups brown sugar, 300g or cane or organic white sugar
- 1 cup unsweetened applesauce, 250g
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 cups finely grated carrots, about 3 large carrots (288g)
- 1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (112g)
For the vegan cream cheese frosting:
- 8 ounces vegan cream cheese, cold from the fridge
- ½ cup vegan butter, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch salt
- ¼ cup cornstarch, sifted (32g)
- 3-4 cups powdered sugar, sifted (480g)
- 1 cup chopped walnuts, for garnish (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350℉/180°C, then grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans, tapping out any excess flour. (Alternatively, you can grease the bottom of the pans, then line them with parchment paper for even easier cake removal.)
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices.
- Place the coconut oil in a microwave-safe bowl. Melt the oil in the microwave by heating in 15-second bursts, then stir in the sugar, applesauce and the vanilla extract until thoroughly combined, at least 2-3 minutes.
- Pour the flour mixture into the wet mixture, then fold in the shredded carrots, and nuts.
- Divide the cake batter into the two prepared pans. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean or almost clean (a few crumbs are fine).
- Place the cake pans on wire racks and let them cool for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, carefully remove the cakes from the pans and let them finish cooling on the wire racks.
To make the frosting and assemble:
- Beat the butter and cream cheese for about 2 minutes, or until fully incorporated. Beat in the vanilla extract and salt, followed by the sifted cornstarch and powdered sugar. Once the first cup is incorporated, add the next, then the next. If the frosting has reached your desired sweetness and consistency, stop there. If not, add the fourth cup of sugar. I usually add all 4 cups to reach a stiffness that I can pipe.
- Refrigerate the bowl of frosting for at least 15 minutes before using.
- Set one of the cake layers on a cake plate or lazy Susan. Frost the top of the first layer and set the second layer on top. Then, frost the sides and top of the cake. Garnish with nuts or decorate any way you like and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes before serving to set the frosting.
- If storing in the fridge, wrap the cake in saran wrap.
Disclaimer: Although jessicainthekitchen.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, kindly note that these are only estimates. Nutritional information may be affected based on the product type, the brand that was purchased, and in other unforeseeable ways. Jessicainthekitchen.com will not be held liable for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information. If you need to follow a specific caloric regimen, please consult your doctor first.