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.
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 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 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!
More Favorite Vegan Desserts
If you love this vegan carrot cake recipe, try one of these vegan treats next:
- Vegan Chocolate Cake
- Healthy Banana Bread
- Banana Muffins
- Best Peanut Butter Cookies
- No Bake Cookies
- Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
Then, check out this post for 30+ vegan dessert recipes!
Vegan Carrot 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
- 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
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9x13 baking pan.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the applesauce, almond milk, vanilla, sugar and oil.
- Mix the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients.
- Fold in the carrots and stir until just combined.
- Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cake cool completely before frosting.
- 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.
- Chill for at least 30 minutes before spreading. (It will firm up a bit).
- Store frosted cake in the fridge.
**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).
Hello! Is the applesauce unsweetened?
Also, can I halve the recipe and use a 5 or 6 inch round tin?
Yes, unsweetened applesauce! One half of this recipe would fit best in an 8- or 9-inch round pan, but a smaller one might work. The cake will be thicker, so the bake time might be a bit longer.
Hey is it possible to use the frosting as a frosting for a round tall cake or would it be to fluid?
We haven’t tested this, but I think this frosting would be too runny to support a layer cake.
Was wondering if this can be made into different pan sizes, like an 8×8 round for two tier if so would cooking time still be the same.
Hi Katherine, I haven’t tested it in 2 8×8’s, although I think some other readers in the comments thread have. It’s a dense cake, so I’m not sure how it would work as a two tier cake.
Hi! Is it possible to make this recipe completely with all-purpose flour (not half and half)?
Hi Mary, That should work fine!
I’m making the cake right now and after cooking it for 70min, it is still not done. Toothpicks are still coming out sticky. I’m so confused as I followed the recipe to a t! I just hope that the taste will still be ok..
I am making the cake right now and after cooking it for 70min, it is still not done. Toothpicks are still coming out sticky. I’m so confused as I followed the recipe to a t! I just hope that the taste will still be ok..
Can I use only cashews for the frosting? My son has dairy and nut allergy and i don’t think he can have macadamia.
Hi Nasa, All cashews would work fine.
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.
I’m so glad you loved it!
Could I use chia seeds instead of flax please
Hi Isobel, I haven’t tried it with chia so I’m not sure.
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.
I’m so glad they enjoyed it!
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?
Hi Emma, I’m so glad everyone enjoyed it! I haven’t made these into muffins.
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?
Hi Nick, I don’t think so, but it is surprising how common the name Donofrio actually is 🙂
Hello! I was wondering if I could use 1/2 brown sugar in the cake for more flavor?
I think that would be fine.
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?
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.
I made the carrot cake in Bundt pan and it turned out perfect!
Thanks again for this recipe!