Vegan Carrot Cake
Moist, perfectly spiced and so delicious, you will love this healthier vegan version of classic carrot cake.
Love carrot cake? You’ve got to try this delicious version made completely egg-free and dairy-free! It’s super easy to make and perfect for a special occasion, such as Easter, or everyday.
You can try it with cashew cream cheese frosting or make a more traditional frosting with store-bought vegan cream cheese and both are absolutely delicious!
Whether you do a double layer cake, cupcakes, a sheet cake or triple stack it, this beautiful cake is sure to please a crowd.
Why You’ll Love this Recipe
- Perfectly spiced and moist, just like traditional carrot cake.
- Make it as a layer cake, sheet cake or cupcakes.
- Made with simple, everyday ingredients.
- Two options for frosting: cashew cream cheese or classic cream cheese frosting.
- Completely vegan (dairy-free and egg-free).
Ingredient & Substitutions
- Flax: You’ll need ground flax to act as an egg in this recipe. Make use it’s fairly fresh (less than 6 months if refrigerated) so it works properly. I like to store ground flax in the freezer so it stays fresh longer.
- Flour: This recipe calls for all-purpose flour. You can also use half all-purpose flour and half oat flour.
- Spices: The recipe calls for cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg and I’d recommend using them all for the best flavour.
- Applesauce: We’ll use unsweetened applesauce to cut down on oil and keep the cake moist.
- Milk: You can use oat milk, cashew milk or almond milk.
- Sugar: You can use brown sugar or coconut sugar. I used coconut sugar.
- Oil: The recipe has been tested with olive oil and melted coconut oil and both work well. Other neutral oils like canola oil are also suitable. If you’re using coconut oil be sure your other ingredients are at room temperature so the coconut oil doesn’t harden when you add it to the recipe.
- Carrot: About 3 medium carrots finely grated should do the trick. The amount doesn’t have to be exact.
- Walnuts and Coconut: Both are optional ingredients. Walnuts can be added to the cake if you like or just used for a topping. Toasting them both adds more flavour and a pretty effect.
Frosting: You’ll find two options for frosting your carrot cake, a cashew-based frosting and dairy alternative cream cheese frosting. We’ll go cover those below.
Step-by-Step Instructions (with Photos)
Before You Start: Preheat the oven to 350 F and spray two 8-inch baking pans with cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment. I like to put some cooking spray under the parchment paper to help it stick.
For pans, I like springform pans or pans with removable bottoms but anything works.
Step 1: Mix the flax egg. Add the ground flax to a small bowl and add 3 tbsp warm water. Mix well and set aside to thicken.
Step 2: Mix the dry ingredients. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt to a large mixing bowl and mix well until fully combined and any clumps are broken up.
I like to use a whisk or fork here to make sure the flour is all broken up and the baking powder, baking soda and salt are distributed throughout.
Quick Tip: I highly recommend using a kitchen scale to measure your ingredients. Baking is finicky and measuring by weight will ensure everything is measured accurately. You can get a kitchen scale like this one online for $10-15 and it will make baking and cooking so much easier!
Step 3: Mix the wet ingredients. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the applesauce, milk, vanilla, sugar, oil and the flax egg until fully combined then mix in the grated carrot.
Quick Tip: Make sure you use a fine grate for the carrots. You don’t want big chunks of carrot in the baked cake. Use finely grated carrot so it “melts” into the cake for the perfect flavour and texture.
Step 4: Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Add the wet to the dry ingredient or vice versa and fold together until “just mixed”. Once the dry ingredients are incorporated, stop mixing. This is key for a fluffy cake!
If you want to add chopped toasted walnuts to the cake, see the recipe below for toasting and mix those in now.
Step 5: Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops into an even layer. Bake the cakes for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cakes cool completely in the pans.
Make the Frosting: While you’re waiting for the cakes to cool, prepare your choice of frosting. You’ll find two recipes listed, one is made with soaked raw cashews or if you prefer you can use store-bought dairy-free cream cheese and powdered sugar. Both are delicious and work well!
Step 6: Frost and decorate your cake! Start by frosting the top of the first layer on a serving plate, then adding the second layer and frosting the top of that one.
Decorate the top with toasted shredded coconut and finely chopped walnuts if you like!
Have some fun with decorating. You can go for a rustic look or get a little fancier by looking online for carrot cake decoration ideas. I kept mine simple with exposed edges and a sprinkling of coconut and walnuts around the edge of the cake.
To make toasted coconut and/or walnuts, preheat the oven to 350 F. Spread the walnuts and/or coconut on a baking pan and bake for 5-10 minutes until lightly browned. Watch them closes because they can burn quickly!
Once the walnuts cool, you can finely chop them and use for topping.
- Finely grate the carrots. Finely grated carrots combine seamlessly into the batter while larger pieces can be tough and chunky in the cake. Use the finest holes on your box grater.
- Don’t over mix. Since this cake contains gluten, it’s important not to over mix the batter. Mix until everything is “just combined” then stop. If you over mix you’ll risk a dense, heavy cake.
- Cool completely before frosting. It’s important to wait until the cakes are fully cooled before frosting otherwise the frosting will melt.
- Preheat the oven. Be sure to fully preheat the oven to 350 F before baking the cakes. Avoid opening the door until you’re testing for doneness. You can check the cakes after 30 minutes.
- Use a kitchen scale to measure ingredients. This will ensure accuracy and success!
Yes. If you don’t have two pans or prefer to make a sheet cake, a 9×9-inch square baking pan works best. You’ll need 35-40 minutes for baking time.
You can also use a 9×13-inch baking dish but the cake will be quite thin.
Yes! This recipe works well for carrot cake cupcakes. Fill cupcake lines roughly 3/4 of the way and bake for 25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Let them cool completely before frosting.
I haven’t tested it but expect you can use a 1:1 gluten-free baking flour such as Bob’s Red Mill with success.
- Choose either the cashew cream cheese frosting, traditional cream cheese frosting (made with vegan cream cheese) or skip the frosting all together.
- If you’re skipping the frosting you can serve the cake with whipped cream or ice cream, and/or this caramel sauce.
- Add-Ins: The recipe calls for walnuts as an optional add-in. Other ingredients that work well are pecan, coconut and/or raisins.
- For flour you can use all-purpose flour or half all-purpose flour and half oat flour.
How to Store Leftover Cake
- If you frost the cake, it will need to be stored in the fridge.
- Cover and store for up to 1 week.
- The frosting can be made 1-2 days in advance and stored in the fridge.
- The unfrosted cake will keep at room temperature for 2-3 days but I’d recommend storing it in the fridge. It will keep well for 1 week and is delicious cold!
- Carrot Cake Banana Bread: Similar flavours to this but made banana bread style.
- Cream Vegan Lemon Bars: Delicious, baked lemon squares that are perfect for spring, just like carrot cake.
- Vegan Lemon Loaf: Another fresh, lemony dessert that’s perfect for spring and summer.
- No-Bake Vegan Cheesecake: A tangy, zesty no-bake cheesecake.
- Carrot Cake Baked Oatmeal: If you love carrot cake, try this healthy baked carrot cake oatmeal. It’s super easy and perfect for breakfast!
- 1 tbsp ground flax (7 g)
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (340 g)
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ cup unsweetened applesauce (120 g)
- 1 cup almond milk (240 ml)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 ¼ cup coconut sugar or brown sugar (188 g)
- ½ cup melted coconut oil or other neutral oil such as olive or canola
- 2 cups packed, grated carrots (245 g, about 3 medium carrots)
- 1 cup walnuts, toasted, optional
- Toasted coconut flakes, for decorating, optional
Cashew Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 cups cashews, soaked overnight (300 g, before soaking)
- ¼ cup + 3 tbsp maple syrup
- 2 tbsp coconut oil, at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ¼ cup oat milk
- 2 tbsp lemon juice (30 ml_
- Pinch of salt
Or Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 ounces vegan cream cheese (1 container)
- 3 tablespoons vegan butter, at room temperature (35 g)
- 2 ½ cups powdered sugar (330 g)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Prepare: Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease and line the bottoms of two 7 or 8-inch round baking pans with parchment paper.
- Mix Flax “Egg”: To a small bowl, add ground flax and 3 tbsp water. Stir to combine, then set aside for 5-10 min, to thicken.
- Toast Walnuts: If adding walnuts, place the walnuts on a small rimmed baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 6-8 minutes. If you’d like to use some for topping the cake, when the walnuts are cool, finely chop half and roughly chop the remaining half; keep separate.
- Mix Dry Ingredients: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour(s), baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt.
- Mix Wet Ingredients: In a large bowl, whisk together the applesauce, milk, vanilla, sugar, oil and flax mixture until combined. Stir in carrots. Note that if you’re using melted coconut oil, to make sure the other ingredients are at room temperature. If they’re cold, they will cause the coconut oil to solidify.
- Combine: Add the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients. Stir until just combined, you don’t want to over mix. Fold in half of the finely chopped walnuts, if using.
- Add to Pans: Divide batter between prepared baking pans, smoothing the tops into an even layer.
- Bake: Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
- Cool: Let the cake cool completely in the baking pans.
- To Make Cashew Frosting: Combine all frosting ingredients into a high speed blender. Blend until very smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down the sides if needed. Chill frosting for at least 30 minutes before spreading. It will firm up a bit.
- To Make Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting: Beat all the ingredients together until smooth and creamy.
- To Frost: Remove cooled cakes from baking pans. Transfer one cake to a serving plate. Spread half the frosting over top, then top with the other cake. Spread remaining frosting over the top half, leaving the sides exposed.
- Decorate: Sprinkle remaining walnuts, or toasted coconut flakes around the outer edge or decorate to your preference.
If you want to use pans that are smaller than 7-inches, such as 4 to 6-inch pans, I’d recommend making 3 layers. Baking time will be 25-30 minutes. For a single layer cake, you can use a 9×9-inch or 9×13-inch baking dish and baking will be 35-40 minutes.
Nutrition facts is for the cake only without the frosting.
Store leftover cake in a sealed container at room temperature for 2-3 days, in the fridge for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months. If you’re freezing it, I’d recommend freezing without the frosting.
- Serving Size: 1 slice
- Calories: 337
- Sodium: 357 mg
- Fat: 12 g
- Carbohydrates: 53 g
- Fiber: 2.5 g
- Protein: 4 g
Keywords: vegan carrot cake, healthy vegan carrot cake