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!

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Vegan Carrot Cake

rate this recipe:
4.85 from 175 votes
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Serves 12
The BEST vegan carrot cake recipe! Applesauce makes it super moist, and cinnamon and nutmeg give it a delicious spiced flavor.

Ingredients

For the Cake

Frosting**

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9x13-inch baking pan.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the applesauce, almond milk, vanilla, sugar, and oil.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold in the carrots.
  • Transfer to the prepared baking dish and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cake cool completely before frosting.
  • Make the frosting: In a high-speed blender, place the macadamia nuts, cashews, almond milk, maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla, lemon juice, and salt. 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.

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, make this vegan frosting recipe with vegan butter and vegan cream cheese.

665 comments

4.85 from 175 votes (42 ratings without comment)

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Rate this recipe (after making it)




  1. Kathleen Fitzpatrick
    01.26.2024

    Wondering if this would do well for making cupcakes?

    • Steph W
      02.05.2024

      I made cupcakes and they turned out PERFECT! This recipe made 24 cupcakes. I used liners and filled the cups nearly all the way full. Baked for 25 minutes.

      • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
        02.09.2024

        Thanks for sharing this, Steph! So glad you loved the cupcakes.

  2. M E
    12.25.2023

    5 stars
    Made for Christmas. We have Gluten, Egg, Dairy and Nut allergies in our family. I substituted for King Arthur GF flour. Didn’t have applesauce, so used a fresh apple grated with 1 Tbsp Water and 1 Tbsp Flaxseed Meal with 3 Tbsp Water. Baked in two 8in rounds for about 35 min. Made basic vegan frosting (butter, powered sugar, vanilla extract, little almond milk) and made 2 layer cake. Texture was perfect and cake was very tasty! Husband (no allergies) said it’s one of his favorite! Will definitely make again! Thank you so much!

  3. Cloe
    10.23.2023

    Like other commenters, my cake turned out doughy, even after 50mins cooking 🙁 It was quite bland too.

  4. Lynne
    09.23.2023

    Would a gluten free flour work?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.27.2023

      Hi Lynne, we haven’t tested it with a GF flour but an all purpose blend like Bob’s would probably work.

  5. Jennifer
    09.19.2023

    What could you substitute the oil for? To make it more plant-based?

  6. Victoria
    08.04.2023

    5 stars
    Made this for my husbands birthday and everybody absolutely loved it! Such a great recipe, thank you ☺️
    (Used 1/3 almond flour by the way)

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      08.04.2023

      Hi Victoria, I’m so glad everyone loved the cake!

  7. Marko
    07.11.2023

    5 stars
    WOW. Amazing recipe! Cakes baked from wholewheat flour tend to be very dense, but this cake… I don’t know what is different about the recipe, but it turned out perfectly. Everyone loved it. Thank you!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      07.13.2023

      I’m so glad you loved it!

  8. Katie
    05.13.2023

    5 stars
    I’ve been making this cake for YEARS now, and to this day, I still haven’t discovered a better cake recipe—vegan or otherwise! I use a different recipe for the frosting (Tofutti + confectioner’s sugar), but the cake itself is literally perfect. 1000/10.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      05.13.2023

      I’m so glad you’ve loved it for so long!

  9. Shamini
    03.06.2023

    Hello! Is the applesauce unsweetened?

    Also, can I halve the recipe and use a 5 or 6 inch round tin?

    Thanks!

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      03.10.2023

      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.

  10. Judith
    01.25.2023

    Hey is it possible to use the frosting as a frosting for a round tall cake or would it be to fluid?

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      01.26.2023

      We haven’t tested this, but I think this frosting would be too runny to support a layer cake.

  11. Katherine
    01.15.2023

    Hello,
    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.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      01.16.2023

      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.

  12. Mary
    12.08.2022

    Hi! Is it possible to make this recipe completely with all-purpose flour (not half and half)?

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      12.09.2022

      Hi Mary, That should work fine!

      • Mary
        12.23.2022

        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..

        • Ellie
          05.20.2023

          2 stars
          The timing is wrong, especially for a cake this size it seems off. Took out after 40 mins and then the cake sunk. I put on for then another 30 mins after constantly checking.
          Also the frosting turns out too running and nutty flavoured.

      • Mary
        12.23.2022

        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..

  13. 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.

  14. Abby
    09.27.2022

    5 stars
    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!

  15. 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.

  16. 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!

  17. Emma
    09.10.2022

    5 stars
    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.

  18. 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 🙂

  19. 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.

  20. Shelly
    05.02.2022

    5 stars
    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

        5 stars
        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.