Vegan Pumpkin Carrot Cake
October 11, 2017

This vegan pumpkin carrot cake is a mashup of traditional carrot cake and spiced pumpkin bread. It’s the ultimate autumn treat!

A few small plates, each with a slice of vegan pumpkin carrot cake.

A couple weeks ago, I found myself at a vegan restaurant looking at dessert options. They had it all: a vegan soufflé, pie, a chocolate blackout cake, a sundae, and more. And the thing I wanted most of all was the carrot cake.

It was he most homey dessert on the menu. And that’s why I wanted it so much. I love classic, comforting treats. Cakes are my favorite dessert. And there’s no cake I love more than carrot cake.

A love letter to carrot cake

It took me a long time to put a carrot cake recipe on the blog. It’s such an iconic dessert. People tend to have strong feelings about carrot cake: the texture, the sweetness, the concentration of carrots vs. raisins vs. nuts.

I’ve learned that I like carrot cake dense, but not with pieces of carrots and nuts so large that it starts to eat like a salad. Raisins are a must, but I don’t add so many of them that the cake itself gets weighted down.

I like cream cheese frosting, always. But I don’t always need to frost the whole cake. In this recipe, I just frost the top and center, with a light coat on the side. It makes the carrot and pumpkin infused cake itself shine.

This vegan pumpkin carrot cake isn’t an ultra traditional carrot cake. For that, I turn to my favorite vegan carrot cake recipe.

It is, however, an incredible carrot cake for fall. Why? Because pumpkin.

Why pumpkin is a perfect addition to carrot cake

Pumpkin is a game changer for carrot cake for a lot of reasons.

First, pumpkin adds moisture to the cake. This is good for its texture, and it also helps to reduce the amount of fat that’s necessary for the recipe.

Second, pumpkin adds subtle sweetness, along with a beautiful, vibrant orange color.

I love pumpkin bread in all of its various forms: classic pumpkin bread, pumpkin chocolate swirl, pumpkin cranberry, pumpkin gingerbread. So it’s no surprise that I love pumpkin carrot cake. The nuts and carrots are a perfect match for pumpkin and its traditional baking spices of ginger, nutmeg and cloves.

A big slice of carrot pumpkin cake, studded with raisins and walnuts.

The cloves in this recipe are courtesy of the folks at Nuts.com. Nuts.com is one of my go-to destinations for restocking the pantry. It’s a wonderful place to purchase quality nuts, legumes, grains, and pasta.

But the site also has a huge selection herbs and spices. It’s perfect for stocking up on spices I use often. The cloves in this recipe have a deep, distinctive flavor, and even a little pinch made the cake so much richer.

An overhead photograph of a dessert plate with a slice of vegan pumpkin carrot cake, lightly frosted with cream cheese frosting.

Decorating vegan pumpkin carrot cake

As you can see, this isn’t the most elaborately decorated carrot cake in town. I pretty much left the sides of the cake naked, focusing on the interior and top of the cake. (For more how-to on frosting the whole thing, this post is helpful!)

But if you ask me, carrot cake was meant to be homey and rustic.

I loved cream cheese frosting as a kid. Licking the spatula after I made this batch of dairy-free cream cheese frosting brought me back in time. It’s pretty rich. So, if you prefer something lighter and less sweet, you can try my creamy cashew frosting instead!

A few small plates, each with a slice of vegan pumpkin carrot cake.
4.55 from 11 votes

Vegan Pumpkin Spice Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Author - Gena Hamshaw
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Yields: 12 servings

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 3/4 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as refined avocado or grapeseed
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1/2 cup raisins

For the frosting:

  • 8 ounces room temperature vegan cream cheese (Toffuti is my favorite for frosting)
  • 6 tablespoons room temperature vegan butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2-3 cups confectioners' sugar

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Oil two round, 8 or 9-inch, springform cake pans and line the bottoms with a circle of parchment.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.
  • In a medium sized mixing bowl, briskly whisk together the non-dairy milk and apple cider vinegar. Stir in the pumpkin, oil, and the two sugars. Mix till the ingredients are combined.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold them together till they're evenly combined (a few lumps is fine). Fold in the carrots, nuts, and raisins. The batter will be quite thick. Divide the batter into the two cake pans and transfer them to the oven. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the tops are firm and a toothpick comes out clean. Release the cakes from the pans and allow them to cool completely.
  • To make the frosting, place the cream cheese and butter in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (alternately, you can use a handheld mixer). Beat the butter and cream cheese together till smooth. Add the vanilla, then add the confectioners' sugar, a half cup at a time. When the frosting has a thick, spreadable consistency, transfer it to an airtight container. Allow it to cool in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  • To assemble the cake, top one round with 3/4-1 cup frosting, spreading the frosting evenly. Top this layer with the other round of cake, and frost the top layer with another 3/4-1 cup frosting. Cut and serve right away, or keep the cake chilled till serving (the frosting gets soft when it's left out).

Notes

If you like, you can leave the two frosted cakes separate, or you can make one large, 9 x 13 sheet cake.

A few dessert plates with slices of autumnal frosted cake.

As October-friendly as this recipe is, it would make a wonderful birthday cake or anytime cake (snack cake, dessert cake, tea cake, etc.) at any time of year. I think it would also be a great addition to any Thanksgiving or holiday table.

I hope you’ll find it as comforting and satisfying as I have. See you soon, for another weekend roundup.

xo

This post is sponsored by Nuts.com. All opinions are my own, and I love this family-owned and operated business! Thanks for your support.

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Categories: Recipes, Cakes, Tree Nut Free

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    34 Comments
    • I am sure that you could use a liquid sweetener (like maple syrup or agave), but I haven’t tested it, so I’m not exactly sure of how the recipe would need to work! If you have any success, let me know 🙂

  1. Has anyone done this in a 9×13 pan? How long should it bake for? I tried it last night … after 35 minutes a toothpick in center came out clean, BUT after the cake cooled the whole center part of the cake had sunk.
    Thankfully yesterday was my “test run” for family, but I don’t want it to do that again if I am giving it away.

    • Hi Stacy,

      I haven’t tried it. I may need to test before I can give you an informed response and fear I won’t be able to do that before you want to make it again. Two preliminary tips are to change the leavening agents to 2 tsp baking powder (no soda) and also to cook longer, even if the toothpick is already clean. I hope it works out 🙂

      G

  2. 5 stars
    This cake was insanely good! I served it to friends who were visiting me this weekend and they all loved it. I did tweak the recipe a little bit because I read the comments here first. I did 2 tsp of baking powder, about 3/4 cup of pumpkin puree (I had half of a can in fridge), and I didn’t put nuts in the batter. The result was moist, fluffy, flavorful, perfect cake! I decorated the top with pecans. I would absolutely make this again.

    • Woohoo! So you did 2 t baking powder in place of the soda + powder? If this is working best for folks, I may amend the recipe 🙂

  3. Just wondering if this would work as a bundt cake? Please answer quickly…going to make it now for a birthday! 😉

    • Hi Karleen,

      I’m honestly not sure. It’s a very dense cake and I wonder if it’ll be impossible to get out of the pan, or if it’ll hold it’s shape well. I’m sorry that’s not more helpful, but if you really need it to work, I’d follow the recipe as written. I hope you like it!

      G

  4. 5 stars
    Hi Gena!
    I just tried this recipe. Full disclosure: I didn’t have all the right spices so had to make do with just cinnamon.
    Babies are allergic to nuts and we have a dog, so nuts and raisins were both out of the picture (in case a rogue raisin escapes somehow or the kids accidentally drop cake on the floor. Risk I’m not willing to take 🙁 )
    Also, so cream cheese. Might just make a glaze with maple syrup and sugar later.
    Despite my omissions, this cake is delicious!!! Mine rose beautifully.
    I know the batter is thick, but I wonder if people that ended up with an unsavoury type of dense just overmixed their batter.
    Thank you for this recipe! I’ll make sure I have the right spices in stock soon. Christmas is coming too. There’s no excuse!

    TL;DR: Cake is delicious! Not overly sweet. Rises well if you don’t overmix your batter. Lovely!

  5. 3 stars
    Great flavour but much too dense — I think partly to blame is the amount of pumpkin puree, which even reduced to 3/4 cups was too much. I did notice most of the rising happening at the start of baking, indicating to me that there was not enough baking powder. Baking powder gives you that longer action leavening, whereas a soda reaction takes place all at once (I’m thinking somewhere between 2-3 tsp. baking powder, and 1 tsp. baking soda instead of what’s written). For muffins this is fine because they are baked less time, but with cake it doesn’t work so well. Unfortunately I would not use this recipe again. Cheers.

  6. 3 stars
    Flavors are good (I think I could’ve added even more spice), but mine is pretty dense. It was a very thick batter.

  7. This was delicious! I didn’t have white sugar so I used all brown sugar, and it turned out exactly how I like carrot cake to be!

  8. This recipe is just so great for this season.. I never tried carrot cake but I’ve been willing to for a while. This will be the perfect opportunity. Thank you

  9. 5 stars
    I love this simple yet creative toast idea Gena! It’s refreshing at the end of summer to get back to simple things, after the overwhelming amount of produce selections pair down a bit. Happy first day of fall sweet friend!

  10. Awesome. I’m going to give it a whirl with GF flour (Celiac here) and Kite Hill cream cheese, which I haven’t tried yet, but I love their yogurt.

    My husband LOVES carrot cake (not a fan here) and I love pumpkin, so this might be the perfect thing. Minus the walnuts, because of nut allergies.

  11. I seriously had a dream the other night about pumpkin carrot cake! And hey, classic smashic.. as long as you love it, that’s all that matters, right?! I finally came to that conclusion years ago when learning about making carrot cake… some had pineapple and/or coconut, others not, some used walnuts, others pecans…. I’ve yet to try Tofutti, but have used their sour cream! I’ll give it a go! Delicious and beautiful work Gena – love the naked cake too!

  12. Kind-of funny reading your post about “traditional” carrot cake. I’ve been reading American Cakes, and there is a carrot cake recipe from colonial times, no cheese cake frosting, and the carrots were cooked and pureed. I am still trying to nail down a recipe for a veganized version of it.

  13. Yes, a thousand times yes xD Carrot cake is my absolute favorite dessert. I’ve been hoping for a great recipe from you! ♡ I make your raw version from time to time, but sometimes you want the real thing 😀 Thankyou! So excited for this!

  14. What a clever combination, Gena! The cake looks absolutely perfect in these photos and I love the way you frosted it- it’s unpretentious and completely inviting. I love restaurant inspiration as well, but feel similarly drawn to home cooking when I really think about what I want to eat. A perfect fall afternoon would be to go on a long walk through the woods with a friend and then come home afterwards to a cup of tea and a big slice of this cake. 🙂

  15. HI Gena! What an inspired combination! I love this idea, and look forward to experimenting with it for a special occasion. The photographs are mouth-wateringly beautiful, too. I felt like I was tasting the cake! xoxo