Vegan Pumpkin Spice Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
October 11, 2017

Vegan Pumpkin Spice Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting | The Full Helping

A couple weeks ago, I found myself at a vegan restaurant pondering my 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 probably the most humble, rustic dessert on the menu. And that’s why I wanted it so much. Restaurant food impresses and inspires me, but at the end of the day it’s home cooking—or food that evokes home cooking—that I really want to eat.

Vegan Pumpkin Spice Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting | The Full Helping

I’ve been hesitant to put a carrot cake recipe on the blog. It’s such an iconic dessert, and the few conversations I’ve had about it suggest that people have very strong opinions about the right way to do carrot cake: texture, sweetness, concentration of carrots vs. raisins vs. nuts, optimal choice of frosting, etc.

Vegan Pumpkin Spice Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting | The Full Helping

In the end, I didn’t quite attempt a classic carrot cake. Inspired by the first week of truly crisp, baking-worthy fall weather (which wasn’t this week, for the record: it’s been a swamp in NYC!), I decided to merge two of my favorite sweets, carrot cake and pumpkin bread. This pumpkin spice carrot cake is the very, very happy result.

Vegan Pumpkin Spice Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting | The Full Helping

I can’t speak from a place of definitive carrot cake expertise, because hey, we all like what we like. But this is my kind of carrot cake: dense, packed with juicy carrots, a little crunch from the walnuts, but not so many of them that they get in the way of a proper cake-like texture. The pumpkin adds plenty of moisture, which allowed me to use a bit less oil than most traditional recipes call for. And the spices—a mix of cinnamon, ginger, and cloves—make it especially perfect for fall.

Vegan Pumpkin Spice Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting | The Full Helping

The cloves in this recipe are courtesy of the wonderful folks at Nuts.com—pretty much my go-to destination for restocking the pantry. For a long time I thought about Nuts.com as being a storefront for nuts, legumes, and grains, but I didn’t think to rely on the site for spices or condiments.

Now I know that the site has a huge selection of the best-quality herbs and spices, so it’s perfect for stocking up (especially for those spices I use all the time). The cloves in this recipe have a deep, distinctive flavor, and even a little pinch made the cake so much richer.

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 or whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 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 grapeseed, safflower, or refined avocado
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans optional
  • 1/2 cup raisins

For the frosting:

  • 8 ounces vegan cream cheese of choice Toffuti is my favorite, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons vegan butter at room temperature
  • 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.

Vegan Pumpkin Spice Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting | The Full Helping

Is this the most elegantly frosted cake ever? No. I didn’t even frost the sides, because I typically make a giant mess when I try to do that, and I was eager for a slice of this cake to be in my belly quickly. But if you ask me, carrot cake was meant to be homey and rustic.

The frosting, by the way, is a nod to traditional carrot cake recipes, and it really is amazingly authentic. I loved cream cheese frosting as a kid, and licking the spatula after I made this batch brought me back in time. It’s rich, though, so if you prefer something lighter and less sweet, you can try my creamy cashew frosting instead!

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 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.

Categories: Recipes, Cakes, Tree Nut Free

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    32 Comments
  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