Everyone will enjoy this vegan carrot cake whether for a special occasion or just a random Sunday afternoon. They’ll never guess that this cake is a healthy alternative to the classic recipe, and it may even become someone’s new favorite!
The Classic Carrot Cake
A moist, perfectly frosted slice of carrot cake is a classic Southern dessert. Carrot cake is perfect for any time of year and is especially lovely at Easter dinner, Mother’s Day, or any springtime celebration.
Classic carrot cakes usually come together like a typical cake recipe — with flour, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Of course, carrots are the namesake of this recipe, and thinly grated carrot works best.
Measuring flour accurately and using ingredients that add a flavorful moistness really make a huge difference in cake results. Oil, applesauce, or a carrot puree keep the cake fluffy and delicious. You can make a carrot puree fairly quickly in your food processor, but I like to use carrot baby food if I’m short on time. It may sound crazy, but it really gives the cake a fluffy, moist consistency!
The perfect blend of spices also makes a big impact. In this recipe, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger give the carrot cake its unique flavor.
Typically, the cream cheese frosting of carrot cake consists of, you guessed it, lots of cream cheese! Add in some butter, vanilla, and scoops of powdered sugar and you have carrot cake frosting.
Store-bought frosting just doesn’t compare to homemade carrot cake frosting from your kitchen. A carrot cake made from scratch is truly delicious on its own, but homemade frosting makes it spectacular!
Making a Carrot Cake Recipe Vegan
The challenge with this vegan recipe was creating a healthy carrot cake that is also delicious.
I needed an eggless carrot cake recipe so I looked for options to replace that ingredient. Applesauce is the perfect ingredient as it works double duty replacing the egg while adding moisture to the cake. Most other ingredients in a typical carrot cake are vegan, so don’t require replacement.
Keeping it as healthy as far as sugar and fat are concerned was the next challenge. I chose to use a smaller amount of unrefined sugar and added crushed pineapple to give it a more natural sweetness. And a carrot cake recipe usually includes oil but additional applesauce is used as a substitution.
The last challenge I faced in this recipe renovation was perfecting the cream cheese frosting. Luckily, Tofutti makes an amazing vegan cream cheese and I always have vegan butter in my fridge. You could always whip up your own homemade vegan cream cheese and butter to replace the store-bought options. Double-check your powdered sugar to be sure it’s a vegan variety and you should be all set!
Additions to the Vegan Carrot Cake Recipe
Here are some tasty items you can add to your carrot cake. Feel free to experiment with different mix-in options for nuts and fruits.
- chopped walnuts
- chopped pecans
- shredded coconut
If you like pecans, add some pieces on top or around the bottom edge of the cake. You could also add other frosting embellishments if you’re feeling creative. I like to add a little bit of food coloring and frosting to a pastry bag and draw a cute carrot on each slice or atop each cupcake.
Tips and Tricks
*If you’d like to make cupcakes instead of a layer cake, fill cupcake tins 3/4 full and reduce the baking time to 20-22 minutes.
*To reduce the sugar content and make this version a more healthy carrot cake, you can always leave off the frosting; the cake is still delicious without it!
*Refrigerate leftover cake and use within a week. Even though this recipe does not include dairy, keeping it cold helps maintain the frosting consistency.
*You could use gluten-free, spelt, or even almond flour to customize to your own diet.
Vegan Carrot Cake
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup crushed pineapple
- 2 cups shredded carrots heaping
- 1/2 cup carrot puree can sub with carrot baby food
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 3 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 cup applesauce
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 8 oz vegan cream cheese or regular, if not making vegan version
- 4 oz vegan butter or regular, if not making vegan version
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cup powdered sugar
Carrot Cake Instructions
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line cake pans with parchment. If the pans are non-stick, you can skip the parchment.
- In a large bowl, measure and mix the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ground ginger, and nutmeg.
- In a separate mixing bowl, stir together the sugar, carrot puree, pineapple, applesauce, vinegar, and vanilla.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix just until the flour is fully incorporated. Stir in the grated carrot. At this point, add in any optional ingredients. Stir until everything is combined but do not over mix.
- Pour the cake batter into pans so that they are equally filled and level. Place into your oven and bake for 30 minutes.
- Use your mixer to beat the cream cheese until smooth.
- Add in the butter and vanilla.
- Slowly add in the powdered sugar one-half cup at a time, blending until fully mixed.
- Let the cakes cool completely before frosting. Begin by frosting the bottom layer and then gently place the next cake on top. Complete the frosting process by making sure everything is covered and smooth using a spatula or frosting utensil of your choice.
Need a vegan recipe for dinner as well? Try our vegan chicken fried steak!