vegan carrot cake (& frosting)

vegan carrot cake, macadamia frosting / loveandlemons.com

We have a carrot cake tradition around here. My mom makes one for Jack whenever she comes to visit, and I make one for Jack every year for his birthday. I don’t know when the “Jeanine gets cake” tradition will ever start, but I can’t complain because, really, we both get cake and we eat it too.

vegan carrot cake, macadamia frosting / loveandlemons.com vegan carrot cake, macadamia frosting / loveandlemons.com

This year, I took some liberties with my mom’s recipe and made a fully vegan version – frosting and all. Instead of cream cheese (or tofu cream cheese), I made a cream cheese-like frosting using macadamia nuts, cashews, lemon and Almond Breeze. And instead of powdered sugar, the frosting is sweetened with maple syrup.

vegan carrot cake, macadamia frosting / loveandlemons.com vegan carrot cake, macadamia frosting / loveandlemons.com

I recommend making this frosting in a super high speed blender in order to get it really creamy. If you don’t have one, you could always make coconut whip or cream cheese frosting using a regular mixer. Or if frosting is too fussy for you, this cake is super delicious on it’s own!

vegan carrot cake (& frosting)

Yield: 12 servings

vegan carrot cake (& frosting)

Ingredients

    cake:
  • 2 1/4 cups flour (I used half spelt, half cake flour)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder (*see note below)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup original Almond Breeze Almond Milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup (melted) coconut or canola oil
  • 2 cups grated carrots (just shy of 1lb)
  • frosting:
  • 1/2 cup raw macadamia nuts (soaked, drained and rinsed)
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews (soaked, drained and rinsed)
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 and grease a 9x13 (or similar) baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the applesauce, almond milk, vanilla, sugar and oil.
  4. Mix the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients.
  5. Fold in the carrots and stir until just combined.
  6. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cake cool completely before frosting.
  7. For the frosting: combine frosting ingredients into a high speed blender. Start the blender on low and gradually increase speed (the mixture will be very thick at first). You can add an extra tablespoon of almond milk if necessary to get your blade moving. Taste and add more sugar or lemon to make it more sweet and/or tangy.
  8. Blend until very smooth.
  9. Chill for at least 30 minutes before spreading. (it'll firm up a bit).
  10. Store leftover frosted cake in the fridge.

Notes

*Make sure your baking powder is fresh in order for the cake to rise (since there aren't eggs in the recipe). If your baking powder has been in the back of your pantry for too long it may be less effective.

Feel free to sub whole wheat pastry flour for the spelt flour.

Soak your cashew and macadamia nuts overnight. I recommend using a very high speed blender (vitamix, blendtec, or similar) for this frosting.

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almondbreeze

121 comments

  1. Emma from coconutandberries.com on said:

    This looks to-die-for! Carrot cake was always my favourite and I’ve had one incredible carrot cake since going vegan but haven’t been able to replicate it at home. Is this frosting tangy like cream cheese? That’s what I’m hoping!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Emma,

      I think it’s darn close to cream cheese frosting – it’s not identical, but the hint of lemon gives it a little bit of tang (without tasting lemony).

    • Mark Neal on said:

      Just tried this recipe and it is excellent! Beautiful texture, nice, complex taste. I added about 1/2 cup of chopped raw walnuts, 1/2 cup of chopped raisins, 1/2 tsp cardamom, and 1 tsp allspice to the cake. If I make another change next time I may knock back the sugar a couple of tablespoons or so. When I tasted the frosting I wanted a little bit more tang so I added another tsp of lemon juice.
      I have really been wanting a good vegan carrot cake recipe. Thanks so much!

      • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

        I’m so glad you liked it! Thanks for sharing…

  2. I am making that frosting at the weekend. I never would have thought of it! Pinning this.

  3. Nolwenn from inner-voices.net on said:

    Hi ! can I substitute the Macadamia nuts with another kind of nuts (I don’t have some right now in my pantry) ? if yes, which would you recommend ? thanks a lot.

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Just double the cashews! (1 cup total)

      • Nolwenn from inner-voices.net on said:

        It was my first instinct but I prefered to ask. thanks !

  4. sara from ofsounds.blogspot.com on said:

    this looks fantastic! i’ve been wanting to try some vegan recipes, this one sounds like it might be my first one on the list.

  5. Wow that looks delicious. I can almost taste how moist and flavorful it must be, and one of my favorite cakes made Vegan!! The best.

  6. Kristin from blog.kristinfleming.com on said:

    Oh, this looks amazing! Carrot cake is my favorite.

  7. Stefanie from sarcasticcooking.com on said:

    Wow! I want to lick that macadamia nut “frosting” off the screen! Carrot cake is my fave! I think I need to splurge and get some macadamia nuts!

  8. Foodess on said:

    Your brilliant ideas never cease to amaze me!

  9. Rosie from theporridgepot.com on said:

    This looks and sounds amazing, I would never have thought of using macadamia nuts for a frosting, such a great idea!

  10. Adding the macadamias to the frosting was a stroke of genius. I’d love to try this in mini bundt pans!

  11. Georgina from bakeitblonde.blogspot.co.uk on said:

    I love this cake, I’m always tempted to try a vegan recipe but something always stops me – this looks so delicious though, I think ill have to try it!

    Georgina x
    http://bakeitblonde.blogspot.co.uk/

  12. My mom makes me carrot cake for my birthday every year. Now that I’m vegan, this recipe will be very helpful in adapting her version! :)

  13. Love the macadamia frosting here! And did you use whole grain spelt flour or light spelt flour?

  14. Skye from frommydiningtable.com on said:

    Oh, macadamia frosting. How dreamy. And vegan carrot cake – that’s indulgence without the guilt. Brilliant.
    PS such pretty photos!

  15. ann on said:

    The “Genie” is in the cake!! The magic you used to make it delicious to ask for seconds!!

  16. Amy from thoroughlynourishedlife.com on said:

    This looks so delicious! I love carrot cake and the fact that this is ‘mostly’ good for you makes it all the more appealing! Can’t wait to give a gluten free version a try :)

  17. chelsea from thegirlwholovedtowrite.com on said:

    ummm YES please. This looks amazing!!

  18. Bonnie from cocktailsandquinoa.com on said:

    I have been craving carrot cake recently and this is just the recipe I needed to get cooking! Thanks for posting a delicious vegan recipe for one of my absolute favorite foods!

  19. Louise on said:

    Hi there,

    How delicious looking! I had the best vegan carrot cake when I visited Seattle last year and have been dreaming about replicating it ever since, will definitely have to try out this recipe, looks fabulous.

    Just a quick question – could I use all spelt flour?

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Louise, you could – it’s a little less light, but still delicious (I’ve done it that way many times before).

  20. Glenda on said:

    This looks delicious. I was wondering if i can substitute the flour wirgluten free flour

  21. Susan G from wellseasoned.com.au on said:

    YUM! I just love veggies in cakes.

  22. This looks amazing. If only my oven would work right now..! Need a new one, now!

  23. Eva from Geschwistergezwitscher.blogspot.de on said:

    Thank you for this recipe. Allthough i’m not vegan i try to cook or bake vegan recipes every now and then. And this frosting sounds so delicious.
    Have a great week!

  24. Oh my gosh, this looks absolutely incredible! I love your recipe, and especially the frosting! So neat and healthy.

  25. This frosting sounds great – love the idea of using maple syrup!

  26. Rebecca Eide from rebeccaeats.com on said:

    This looks amazing! And healthy. Thank you! I can’t wait to try this icing.

  27. Morgan on said:

    My son is allergic to cashews. Does it work to double the macadamias?

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Morgan, We tried it with all macadamia nuts initially and it didn’t really work. If you guys do dairy, you can replace the cashews with mascarpone cheese.

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  29. Oh my gosh, this sounds amazing! Love that macadamia nut frosting. Carrot cake is my jam, so I’ll definitely be trying this!

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  32. Li on said:

    Hello! Thanks for wonderful recipe, but before I get to cooking, please tell me what is a cup. I live in the grams world but ounces will do as well. Thanks!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Li, here’s a link to a conversion chart: http://www.jsward.com/cooking/conversion.shtml

  33. Julie on said:

    So excited to bake this on Saturday! Just curious what you topped the frosting with at the end?

    Thanks so much!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      crushed pecans!

  34. Vicki from bowsessed.com on said:

    That frosting looks divine, so creamy and delicious! And I’m always up for carrot cake ( have never tried a vegan version before, only gluten-free).
    I really hope my food processor survives this because I want to try the frosting as soon as I get home! :)
    What food processor do you have, or can you recommend a good one?
    Thanks!

    Xo Vicki

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Vicky,

      I use a Vitamix Blender for creamy frostings (like this), soups, and cashew-based sauces. I have a mini cuisinart that I use for pesto’s and other recipes that don’t have to be as smooth. Hope that helps!

  35. Vicky on said:

    Cake is in the oven!! Got macadamias but no cashews in the house – what about almonds or peanuts or walnuts or hazelnuts???? Making this for my son’s birthday and the frosting sounds delicious.

  36. Carrot cake is the best! Especially when it’s vegan and topped with such a lovely frosting :)

  37. Mariana from cualquiercositaescarino.com on said:

    Hello! Looks amazing, I can’t wait to try it! Just one question… is there anything I can use instead of applesauce? It’s not easy to get that over here. Thanks!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Thanks! If you’re not vegan, you can use yogurt in place of the applesauce.

      • Mariana from cualquiercositaescarino.com on said:

        Uh, thanks for the quick response! I’m vegan though… any ideas about what I can use instead? Thanks!

        • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

          I’m not exactly sure – I haven’t tested another replacement. More almond milk might work, but it also might change the texture of the cake.

        • K on said:

          I live overseas and finding unsweetened, healthy applesauce is also either very difficult — or very expensive!! I started making my own. It’s soooo simple (assuming you can get apples! :)

          8 apples – peeled, cored and chopped
          1-1/4 c. (300 mL) water
          1/2 c. (125 mL) sugar or honey (depending on vegan or not. Also, I’ve lessened/omitted as my families tastes have changed)
          1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

          Simmer over medium-low heat until apples are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. OR put in slow cooker on high for 3-4 hours.

          • Mariana from cualquiercositaescarino.com on said:

            Thank you K! It sounds pretty easy to make, I will give it a try! :)

  38. Vicky from avocadopesto.com on said:

    Love the sound of this — especially the vegan frosting! Will have to try this for sure!

    • Vicky from avocadopesto.com on said:

      I’d love to share this post on my blog in a post where I share my favorite recipe finds of the week. Would it be ok to grab a photo from this post (with link back to your post of course)? Just wanted to double check : )

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  40. May on said:

    Hello!
    This looks delicious and i’m dying to make it. But can I use something else instead of sugar and maple syrup or can I just leave these two out? I like bananas is that okay?

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi May, I really can’t say if bananas would work as a sugar replacement without trying it (they’re not the same consistency so it wouldn’t be an equal 1 to 1 swap). I don’t think it would work to leave all sugars out because it is a dessert, so it’s going to need some sweetness!

  41. Leslee on said:

    Good Day,

    Recipe looks great. Trying to do a birthday cake for daughter. Can I freeze the icing?

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Leslee,

      I don’t think it would freeze (and thaw) well, but you could make it a day in advance and chill it in the fridge. Stir it before you spread it. If its too thick stir in a little more almond milk.

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  43. Meg on said:

    I wanted to ask if there is any way to modify this recipe for someone who is vegan and also allergic to gluten. I would love to make this as a surprise for a good friend of mine but she can’t go anywhere near gluten as she is highly sensitive. Thanks!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Meg, you could use oat flour, or a combination of oat flour and almond meal, or an all-purpose gluten free baking mix such as Pamela’s. Hope that helps!

  44. sharon weaver on said:

    Are there any comments by those who actually made this? All the comments anticipate making it, but I like to read about results!

  45. Mo on said:

    Sharon Weaver, you read my mind ha ha! I generally don’t comment until after I’ve tried the recipes. I will say that I have every intention of making this Fathers Day weekend and will be commenting after. I will say that everything I have made off of this blog has been nothing short of amazing!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      ha, let me know if you give it a try!

  46. Sustainabowl from sustainabowl.wordpress.com on said:

    great alternative to the classic carrot cake! also it is more healthy

    sustainabowl.wordpress.com

  47. Hannah on said:

    Just made this this evening. It is delicious! The nicest carrot cake I’ve ever made :-) The frosting took a while but tastes lovely… My husband says it’s a little grainy but perhaps I didn’t blend it long enough. Does it ever get totally smooth? Thank you.

  48. Mo on said:

    I made this cake tonight…and oh mee gee. It is the best carrot cake I’ve ever had. I’m not vegan, or even vegetarian for that matter but I love experimenting. I’m at my folks for the weekend so I used their blender. (an Osterizer which they received as a wedding gift 38 years ago!) I was worried about how the frosting would turn out, but I was patient and blended for quite a while, and added a splash more almond milk and it turned out beautifully. I gave my dad a nice large slice without telling him it was vegan until after he finished…he really couldn’t believe it. He asked for 2nds! We are talking about a meat + potatoes / refined sugar kind of man here. I can’t rave enough about this recipe, I had to hold back from eating half the cake!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Ha – I’m so glad you and your family liked it – I love it when I can win over the “meat & potatoes” folks :)

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  50. Joanne Kennedy on said:

    Hello. I tired this and it’s delish. I have extra frosting and just curious as to how long it will keep in the fridge. Thanks

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      glad you liked it! It’ll keep about 4-5 days, it might separate, but just stir it as you’re ready to use it again…

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  53. Erin on said:

    @ Mo, thanks for adding that you used an Osterizer blender. I was nervous about making it with my $30/older Oster blender. I might start it in the food processor and then transfer to the blender? If anyone has any other suggestions for a non-high powered blender let me know! I’ll post back later if it works out for me. This frosting just looks to yummy to not give it a try.

  54. Blake Holman from chefstoys.com on said:

    I’ve been looking for a carrot cake recipe like this one! Pure heaven in a baking dish! Thanks!

  55. Mabel on said:

    English girl here. Is one cup equal to 4oz? Many thanks

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      1 cup = 8 oz. (One day we’ll offer both forms of measurements in our recipes!)

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  57. kris on said:

    I ahve to admit i’m not an expert in baking, but i tried it, as it looked wonderful, but was a bit suspicious about the dry/wet ratio.. I put slightly more flour (like a couple of teaspoons of flour) as the mix looked really runny, but the cake was completely uncooked. It raised then collapsed, was burnt on the outside and raw on the inside. Are you guys sure that it only needs such little flour and so much liquids? Or could it be the wrong temperature? I put my fan assisted oven at 220, which is the max, you wrote it should be 325. So disappointing to throw it in the trash. Any idea what i did wrong? Thanks

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Kris, I’ve made this recipe tons of times, I would recommend following it exactly and baking it at 325 (Fahrenheit).

  58. Sarah from simpleandfunky.tumblr.com on said:

    This looks so delicious ! I’ve just always loved carrot cake, and now a vegan one ?! perfeccct

  59. Caitlin on said:

    I am going to make this for my boyfriend for his birthday! I don’t have a metal baking pan though…has anyone made it with a glass baking dish? If so, did you modify the recipe? I can try to find a baking pan from someone if necessary but I was just wondering if the glass dish would do. Thank you!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Caitlin, I usually make it in a glass pan (and the dish pictured is ceramic, not metal). Should be fine :)

  60. Danielle on said:

    My frosting stayed pretty runny after refrigerating. I think next time I’ll reduce the almond milk. Do you have any other suggestions that might work? It still tasted amazing and my dad licked his plate clean. This recipe is amazing. Thanks!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Danielle,

      Yep, just reduce the almond milk – if it becomes too thick you can always stir more in later. And/or if you soaked your nuts, you can also try soaking them for a little less time.

      Glad you liked it!

  61. Mariam on said:

    Mmmm I loved this recipe! The frosting was delicious! I only let the macadmia and cashews soak for three hours and it still worked out beautifully. What a nice treat.

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Mariam – so glad you liked it!

  62. Dora on said:

    For the frosting could I use a kitchen-aide mixer, I don’t have a high speed blender or food processor, please help

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Dora, no because it won’t process the nuts into a creamy sauce (it’ll just mix them around and sort of break them up). You’d have to go with a more traditional cream cheese frosting recipe (sub in vegan cream cheese if necessary), that can be made in a mixer. (this one: http://www.loveandlemons.com/2012/03/08/carrot-cake-jars-vegan/, or a coconut whip frosting: http://www.loveandlemons.com/2013/02/16/carrot-muffins-coconut-whip/)

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  64. Karina on said:

    My cake didn’t came right :-(… I followed the recipe step by step. The cake was raw from the inside.

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  66. Janet on said:

    Made this tonight and it was so delicious! Followed the recipe exactly and didn’t need to add a thing! I’m not into soaking things so I read that you can just boil the nuts for 15 min and that worked great! This is my first vegan recipe that actually tastes good! Thank you !

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      so glad you liked it!

  67. madJeanne on said:

    I’ve been looking for a vegan carrot cake with a traditional cream-cheesy frosting flavor, and I don’t use those disgusting (IMHO ;-) fake cream cheeses, so I’m very excited to try this recipe for a birthday celebration this week. One question though… I’ve always liked carrot cakes with nuts and raisins (one guy posted he added them with no other adjustments to recipe, do you agree?), AND crushed pineapple. Given that the pineapple is “wet”, do you have any suggested modifications I might need?

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  70. Jacqueline R on said:

    I made this recipe into cupcakes and they were amazing! My husband loves carrot cake and has high cholesterol. After 2 weeks of being very disciplined I thought I’d cheer him up with these. He loved them! I figured no eggs and no butter were one step in the right direction!

  71. Jordan Harper on said:

    I made this cake yesterday for my housemates birthday, carrot cake is her favourite and since i am vegan i of course wanted a vegan version. Well, she said it was the best carrot cake she’s ever had! and our other housemates loved it too! it was so moist and tasty, it was just perfect. Thank you so much for this recipe, i will be making it again!

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  74. Amber on said:

    I purchased roasted nuts for the frosting recipe, do I still need to soak them?

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      The nuts should ideally be raw, especially the cashews (so sorry I just noticed I didn’t specify that!). Soaking helps soften them so they’ll blend smoothly, so I wouldn’t skip that step or your frosting might be too gritty.

  75. Nee on said:

    Can I use all purpose flour instead of spelt and cake?

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  78. Susan on said:

    This looks amazing. Do you think I can use almonds in place of the macadamias, or would you suggest using all cashews instead? I have soaked almonds in my fridge right now and I quite like the taste of them so I’m wondering if that will work nicely as well?

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Susan, soaked almonds should work, I would recommend peeling the skins off though. (Or you can use all cashews).

  79. esther from topknot-diaries.blogspot.com on said:

    I made this cake for my vegan friend’s birthday and EVERYONE (vegan/nonvegan) LOVED it. I followed the recipe to the tee for the cake, and then for the frosting I used all cashews and ended up omitting the coconut oil (because… well, I forgot that I didn’t have any and I didn’t have any alternatives). It actually still held up really well and was more of a thick glaze. Definitely tastes a bit like cream cheese with the lemon tangy-ness at the end. Lovely recipe – thank you!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      so glad you (and everyone!) liked it – thanks for coming back to let me know! xo

  80. Julia on said:

    Hello:) It looks amazing but I don’t have a high-speed blender and I really want to make This frosting:( Do you think if I soak the nuts three or more days it will be easier to my blender?:/ Thanks for your answer!:) I love your blog<3

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Julia,

      I would soak for 24 hours (I don’t think beyond that is going to make it much better, also they might start to smell funky). I think some others have used a regular blender on this thread – just blend slowly and then blend a lot until it’s as smooth as you can get it.

      Or you could try this coconut whip – you need a mixer but not a blender: http://www.loveandlemons.com/2013/02/16/carrot-muffins-coconut-whip/

      Or this one with tofu cream cheese (also no blender required): http://www.loveandlemons.com/2012/03/08/carrot-cake-jars-vegan/

  81. Christina Jhee on said:

    Hi,
    Wondering if you have tried using all AP flour instead of the spelt and cake flour. Thanks! ;)

  82. Jamie on said:

    I have whole wheat flour and all purpose flour on hand. I also have cornstarch so I could mix up some cake flour if need be. Would any of these work without changing the taste of the cake? If so, which one would work the best or what blend of flours would taste best?

    Also, would unsweetened almond coconut milk work in both the cake and frosting? Is almond breeze sweet?

    When you say grated carrots, what would be better…shredded carrots or carrots thrown in a food processor?

    Thank You!!!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Jamie, you can use all purpose flour or a mix of white/wheat. Unsweetened almond coconut milk would be fine. You can put the carrots in a food processor, just don’t puree them. Hope that helps!

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