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