Carrot cake is my favorite cake, and this vegan carrot cake is the best I’ve ever had. It’s moist but not heavy, perfectly sweet, and decorated with an authentic vegan cream cheese frosting. It’s a delight at any time of year, but especially in the spring!

A vegan layered carrot cake is resting on a round platter. It has been sliced into three slices, which are each resting on small dessert plates against a white surface.

I woke up yesterday with a little more lightness in my heart than had been there earlier this week. And when I’m feeling lighthearted, my first instinct is to bake.

What better thing to bake than vegan carrot cake for Easter Sunday?

This isn’t my first carrot cake recipe. A couple years back, I posted a vegan pumpkin carrot cake that’s a hybrid of pumpkin bread and carrot cake. It’s perfect for fall. That cake is hearty and dense. The carrot and raisins are predominant.

That’s how a lot of carrot cakes are: dense, studded with dried fruits and nuts, unmistakably carrot-y. I love that kind of carrot cake. Lately, though, I’ve been craving a carrot cake recipe that’s lighter, fluffier, and more cake-like.

Putting the “cake” in vegan carrot cake

Recently I saw that Coral Lee had posted a carrot cake on Food52 that features a genius trick: grating the carrots on a microplane, rather than shredding them. In Coral’s words, “fine-grating with a microplane yields carrot shreds—even wisps!—that better meld with the batter, and make for a more ubiquitous carrot flavor, without the salad-y texture.”

I had a laugh when I read “salad-y,” because that’s how so many of my carrot cakes have been.

This carrot cake, which is inspired by Coral’s recipe, is my new favorite vegan carrot cake. It’s my dream carrot cake, really. It’s hearty and moist, yet light enough on the inside to make this cake-lover happy. And, to keep things traditional, it features a creamy, tangy vegan cream cheese frosting.

Do you need to use a microplane grater here? No. You can also use the fine side of a regular box grater. And regular grated carrots work, too! You’ll just have a denser cake.

The right ratio of mix-ins

In her recipe, Coral offers nuts and raisins as optional. This is in keeping with the idea of a grown up, elegant, not too salad-y carrot cake.

I add walnuts and raisins to my vegan carrot cake. But I keep to Coral’s quantities of a half cup of each mix-in I also chop the walnuts pretty finely, so that they aren’t overpowering in the cake.

The top of a frosted cake, which has been garnished with walnuts.

Frosting & decorations

Of course, you can get as fancy as you like with your vegan carrot cake decorations! Chopped nuts, frosting carrots, flowers: they’d all look lovely.

But part of what I love so much about carrot cake is its slightly rustic, homey feel. This may be a classy carrot cake, but it’s still carrot cake. I frost the cake, garnish it with walnuts, and call it a day. Sometimes I make little carrot decorations with my extra frosting, but it’s not mandatory.

Vegan carrot cake ingredients

Unbleached, all-purpose flour

My go-to choice for cakes. If you like, you can use 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 2/3 cups unbleached, all-purpose. I don’t recommend swapping the flour for all whole wheat. The cake will be overly dense that way!

Spices

I keep the spices light for this cake. 1/4 cup each of nutmeg, cardamom, and ground cloves. You can increase each of these if it’s to your taste, and you can add 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

Oil

I like to use refined avocado oil for baking (as well as higher heat cooking). My go-to brand is Chosen Foods. You can use another neutral vegetable oil here, such as safflower, grapeseed, or canola.

Walnuts

I chop these finely for a perfect cake crumb. You can use chopped pecans in place of walnuts, or—if you have a nut allergy—you can leave them out altogether.

Raisins

Both regular and golden raisins work well in the recipe. The raisins can also be omitted if they’re not to your tastes!

Sugar

I use a combination of brown and cane sugar in the vegan carrot cake. The brown sugar adds moisture, while the cane sugar keeps it light. You can use all brown or all cane sugar, but I think the ratio included is just perfect.

Vegan cream cheese

I tend to use Tofutti cream cheese in vegan frosting because it’s relatively inexpensive. Best to save the fancier cream cheese for toast and bagels! You can use whichever vegan cream cheese you prefer.

Vegan butter

Just as with the cream cheese, I usually opt for a more affordable vegan butter when I make cake frosting. Earth Balance is my go-to, but you can use your butter of choice.

A frosted vegan carrot cake with chopped walnuts on top.

Can vegan carrot cake be gluten-free?

Yes, absolutely. I’ve made this carrot cake both vegan and gluten-free many, many times. I almost always use King Arthur’s Measure for Measure, which I think is the best plant-based GF blend around.

Storing & freezing the cake

Store the carrot cake in an airtight container at room temperature in the fridge. Stored this way, it’ll stay moist and delicious for four days. If you plan to wait longer to eat it, then I recommend freezing the cake.

I like to freeze cake leftovers in individual slices, so that I can defrost them one at a time (rather than defrosting more cake than I can eat within a couple of days.

A neat slice of vegan carrot cake has been placed on a small dessert plate. Another slice peeks out in the background.
A vegan layered carrot cake is resting on a round platter. It has been sliced into three slices, which are each resting on small dessert plates against a white surface.
4.67 from 3 votes

My Favorite Vegan Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Author – Gena Hamshaw
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Resting and decorating time 3 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 20 minutes
Yields: 12 slices

Ingredients

For the carrot cake

  • 1 tablespoon ground flax meal
  • 2 2/3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour (320 grams)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup avocado oil (or another neutral vegetable oil)
  • 1 cup lightly packed light or dark brown sugar (substitute coconut sugar) (213 grams)
  • 1/2 cup cane sugar (100 grams)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup applesauce (250 grams)
  • 4 medium/large carrots, peeled and finely shredded with a microplane grater or on the fine side of a box grater (211 grams after preparation)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans (optional) (65 grams)
  • 1/2 cup raisins (80 grams; optional)

For the vegan cream cheese frosting

  • 1/2 cup vegan cream cheese, at room temperature (4 ounces/113 grams)
  • 2 sticks vegan butter, at room temperature (8 ounces/226 grams)
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar (454 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar (if you don't have this at home, you can omit)

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 350F. Lightly grease two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans with removable bottoms. Line the bottoms of the cake pans with a round piece of parchment, then dust the pans lightly with flour.
  • Combine the ground flax seed with 3 tablespoons of water and set it aside.
  • Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  • In another roomy mixing bowl, combine the oil, brown and cane sugars, vanilla, applesauce, and the flax/water mixture. Whisk these wet ingredients well, then add them to your dry ingredients. Use a spatula to fold the batter together. When the batter is almost mixed (a few streaks of flour are OK at this point), add the grated carrot and nuts/raisins if using to the batter. Continue folding it until it's just entirely combined and the carrots are distributed evenly. Try not to over-mix the batter.
  • Divide the batter into your two prepared cake pans. Bake for 45-50 minutes, rotating the pans once halfway through baking. When a toothpick inserted into the cakes emerges clean and the tops are firm, they're ready. They'll be a deep golden brown. Remove the cakes from their pans and set them on a cooling rack to cool for at least 2 hours, so that they're completely cool before frosting.
  • To prepare the frosting, place the butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed for 5 minutes, or until the butter and cream cheese are very fluffy. Stop the mixer, then add the sugar. Cover the mixer with a tea towel. Mix the frosting on low speed for 2 minutes. Then, remove the tea towel and beat on medium speed for another 4-5 minutes, or until the frosting is very, very fluffy again. Beat in the white vinegar, then stop the mixer.
  • Frost your cake! You can trim the tops and sides of the cakes to make them even for frosting if you wish. (If you do this, save the scraps for crumbling onto fruit, vegan yogurt, or ice cream, or just for snacking.) Place one layer of cake onto a cake stand and cover the top with frosting. Place the other layer on top, then proceed to frost the tops and sides with straight and offset spatulas (or a butter knife), maintaining a thin layer of frosting to start with (according to Coral Lee's carrot cake recipe, this is called a "crumb coat"). If you have time, refrigerate the cake after the crumb coat application for 20-30 minutes. Then, use the rest of the frosting to cover the entire cake, making some nice swirls as you go. Make any additional decorations you like, then slice and enjoy your cake.

Notes

This recipe may give you slightly more frosting than you need, but I think that’s a good thing! More frosting is always better than getting halfway through cake decoration and realizing you haven’t got enough. 
 

Video

An angled photograph of a cake, which has been decorated with white frosting and chopped walnuts. It's resting on a white surface and against a white brick backdrop.

Greek Easter is really the easter that I grew up celebrating. Still, Easter Sunday is meaningful to me. I greet it as a celebration of rebirth, new beginnings, and hope. The promise of life everlasting in the sense that new things are always starting as old ones pass away. I welcome it as a sign of springtime and shifting seasons.

Today, in spite of the darkness and loss that surrounds me here in New York City, I’m finding a tiny way to celebrate. It’s this vegan carrot cake.

I hope that some of you might celebrate with the cake at some point, too. Happy Easter Sunday, if you’re observing it, and I’ll be back in a couple days with another recipe.

xo

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Recipe Rating




    18 Comments
  1. Hi (:
    This looks delicious.
    I was wondering about the amount of confectioners sugar. 4 cups is a little excessive for me personally, but I’d love to make this cake. By how much do you think I can cut it that amount down, and still maintain the overall flavor/texture of the cake?

    • Hey Joe! I wouldn’t go less than 3 cups, personally. The icing will taste good, it’ll just be very rich and not as whipped/fluffy as the stated amount. You could try adding 2 cups, seeing what the texture is like, and then adding as much more as you need to get the consistency that works while being less than the amount called for.

  2. 5 stars
    This cake is amazing! I am not much of a baker but wanted to make a vegan cake for my daughter’s first Birthday at the end of September (she is allergic to milk and eggs). My frosting skills need a lot of work (I really underestimated how difficult that is to do), but I cannot believe how well this turned out. Thank you so much!

  3. I want to make your carrot cake, can I substitute flaxseed with anything? Do I need it at all? What does it do? Tks

    • Hi Ruth! It functions to replace egg, but I think you’ll still have good texture if you omit it. You can just add 3 T water to the wet ingredients, minus the flax. Hope you enjoy!

  4. Do you mind sharing which brand of cream cheese you used for the frosting? It looks so fluffy and delicious! Thank you!

  5. thank you for sharing that eating healthy can also taste good this gives the public a different perspective on nutrition

  6. I made this and it was surprisingly easy and delicious. I made it with whole wheat flour and I’m sure it’s a little more dense than regular flour but just a delicious! Really loving this recipe!!

  7. Hello!!!
    I’m look forward to making this cake on the weekend. Do you think I can substitute the applesauce with pineapples? Thanks!
    annalisa

    ps. thank you for sharing so may great recipes.

  8. Do you have any guidance on making this gluten free? Would almond flour work? Or a combination of almond and coconut flour? Something else?

    • Hi ReaderRita! It can be made gluten free with a mix of GF grain flours and starches. I’d recommend using a 1:1 GF all purpose flour; I like the King Arthur Measure for Measure flour a lot! I wouldn’t recommend almond or coconut flour.