Vegan Carrot Cake

I make this vegan carrot cake recipe for Jack's birthday each year. Moist, cinnamon-spiced, and slathered in frosting, it's perfect for celebrations.

Vegan Carrot Cake

This vegan carrot cake recipe is a riff on my mom’s traditional recipe. That cake is Jack’s all-time favorite dessert, so she makes it whenever she comes to visit. Then, I make it again for Jack’s birthday. This year, instead of making her recipe as written, I adapted it to make a vegan carrot cake instead!

My mom’s recipe calls for applesauce, which makes her cake super moist and light. Using applesauce, you can actually veganize carrot cake relatively easily. Along with the shredded carrots, it adds enough moisture to eliminate the need for flax eggs or other unconventional ingredients. As a result, the cake batter comes together with pantry ingredients like all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, sugar, and melted coconut oil.

The results are fantastic. The cake is moist, tender, and filled with warm, spiced flavor from cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla extract. Enjoy it on its own, or take it to the next level by slathering it in rich, creamy vegan frosting. Even Jack – a total carrot cake traditionalist – fell for this vegan carrot cake recipe. I think you’ll love it too!

Vegan cream cheese frosting ingredients Vegan cream cheese frosting

Vegan Carrot Cake Recipe Tips

  • Grate your carrots finely. Finely grated carrots meld seamlessly into the cake, while larger pieces create a chunkier, less uniform texture. For tender, cohesive cake slices, grate the carrots on the small holes of a box grater or on the smallest setting of the grating attachment on your food processor.
  • Don’t overmix! This rule applies to baked goods across the board. Mix your batter until just combined – and not any longer – or your cake will be dense.
  • Let the cake cool completely before you frost it. The hardest part! Make sure your cake is at room temperature before you slather on the frosting. Otherwise, the frosting will melt.

Vegan carrot cake recipe

Vegan Carrot Cake Recipe Variations

  • Let’s talk frosting. The frosting recipe below is a cream cheese-like blend of macadamia nuts, cashews, lemon juice, coconut oil, and almond milk. Instead of using powdered sugar, I sweeten it naturally with maple syrup. I love this frosting, but you do need a high-speed blender to get it really smooth and creamy. If you don’t have one, or if you prefer a more traditional vegan cream cheese frosting, find one here.
  • Or skip the frosting! This vegan carrot cake is delicious plain. We also love it with a dollop of coconut whipped cream.
  • Add a mix-in. If you like your cake with raisins, chopped walnuts, or pecans, gently fold 1/2 cup into the cake batter when you add the carrots.
  • Or sprinkle something on top. Sprinkle the frosted cake with chopped toasted pecans or walnuts for crunch, or use shredded coconut for extra warm, buttery flavor. Yum!

Vegan carrot cake slices

More Favorite Vegan Desserts

If you love this vegan carrot cake recipe, try one of these vegan treats next:

Then, check out this post for 30+ vegan dessert recipes!


4.8 from 159 reviews

Vegan Carrot Cake

 
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Cook time
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The BEST vegan carrot cake recipe! Applesauce makes it super moist, and cinnamon and nutmeg give it a delicious spiced flavor.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 12
Ingredients
Cake:
  • 2¼ cups flour (half spelt or wheat, half all-purpose)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder (*see note below)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • 1 cup almond milk or oat milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • ½ cup melted coconut or canola oil
  • 2 cups grated carrots
Frosting** (see note)
  • ½ cup raw macadamia nuts (soaked, drained and rinsed)
  • ½ cup raw cashews (soaked, drained and rinsed)
  • ¼ cup almond milk
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9x13 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 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cake cool completely before frosting.
  7. Make the frosting: combine all frosting ingredients into a high speed blender. Blend until very smooth for 1 to 2 minutes or more, scraping down the sides occasionally. You can add an extra tablespoon of almond milk if necessary to get your blade moving.
  8. Chill for at least 30 minutes before spreading. (It will firm up a bit).
  9. Store 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.

**Soak your cashew and macadamia nuts for at least 3 to 4 hours, preferably overnight, then drain and rinse before using. I recommend using a very high speed blender (vitamix, blendtec, or similar). For a more traditional frosting, use the frosting in this recipe using vegan butter and vegan cream cheese (such as Kite Hill).

626 comments

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Rate this recipe (after making it):  

  1. Nasa Sivarajah
    11.30.2022

    Hi
    Can I use only cashews for the frosting? My son has dairy and nut allergy and i don’t think he can have macadamia.

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      12.02.2022

      Hi Nasa, All cashews would work fine.

  2. Abby
    09.27.2022

    Did with all white flour and it’s a beautiful cake. Also added ground cardamom and cloves :). Mine cooked for 36 minutes and was perfect in a glass pan.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.27.2022

      I’m so glad you loved it!

  3. Isobel wood
    09.22.2022

    Could I use chia seeds instead of flax please

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.23.2022

      Hi Isobel, I haven’t tried it with chia so I’m not sure.

  4. Eugenie
    09.11.2022

    My utmost gratitude for this recipe! I’ve been baking it for my non-vegan family since 2015 and they gobble it up. So nice to show them how unnecessary eggs and dairy are in baking.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.13.2022

      I’m so glad they enjoyed it!

  5. Emma
    09.10.2022

    This is an amazing carrot cake! Everyone I served it to at a birthday celebration thought it was wonderful (and no one knew it was vegan). I hate to mess with perfection–have you tried to make muffins with this recipe instead of your carrot muffin recipe?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.13.2022

      Hi Emma, I’m so glad everyone enjoyed it! I haven’t made these into muffins.

  6. Nick
    08.30.2022

    Hi – just an off beat question; my grandfather’s best friend was a lawyer, whose last name was Donofrio. His office was on 149th Street, in The Bronx. I remember him from the 1940s to 1952, when my grandfather passed away. Any relation?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.02.2022

      Hi Nick, I don’t think so, but it is surprising how common the name Donofrio actually is 🙂

  7. Sheep
    05.22.2022

    Hello! I was wondering if I could use 1/2 brown sugar in the cake for more flavor?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      05.23.2022

      I think that would be fine.

  8. Shelly
    05.02.2022

    This has been my go to carrot cake since my niece changed from vegetarian to vegan.
    If I’m making for non vegan then I use skim milk. And regular light cream cheese icing.
    Either way everyone I’ve served this cake to loves it! Just wondering have you ever made it in a bundt pan?
    Thank you

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      05.04.2022

      I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying it! I’m not sure if it’s too moist to come out of a bundt pan, but I haven’t tried.

      • Shelly
        05.15.2022

        I made the carrot cake in Bundt pan and it turned out perfect!
        Thanks again for this recipe!
        Shelly

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.