With a delicious, moist crumb and a creamy, velvety vegan cream cheese frosting, this is truly the best vegan carrot cake recipe you will make and eat. Walnuts add wonderful crunch in every bite.
Who doesn't love carrot cake? Especially when it has a soft and silky crumb and melts in your mouth in a pool of cinnamon-scented sweetness? This vegan carrot cake is all that and so much more.
I've had this vegan carrot cake recipe on the blog for years now and it is the dessert I make most often for guests because everyone who eats it raves about it. Many have told me it's the best carrot cake they've ever eaten.
There's so much to love about this recipe, and I don't just mean the deliciousness of it. As the baker you will love the ease of making it, and the fact that you likely already have most of these ingredients on hand.
Go on, make it one of your recipes this Easter or just make it for a cozy anytime treat because why not? Be sure to come back for seconds!
Table of Contents
Why you will love this recipe
- Utterly delicious. If you remember grandma's carrot cake with oodles of nostalgia, you will love this cake because it has that classic carrot cake flavor, only minus the dairy and eggs. The cake has a super-moist texture and is perfectly sweet with just the right amount of carrot flavor to make you go yum! The soft, creamy cream cheese frosting is beyond delicious.
- Healthy-ish. This is a dessert so I am not going to make outrageous claims about how healthy it is, but there are carrots in this recipe and walnuts, both great-for-you ingredients, along with applesauce. If you want to you can make this recipe with whole wheat pastry flour. I often use it instead of all-purpose flour and it makes an equally magnificent cake.
- Easy recipe. This two-layer carrot cake recipe is quite straightforward and simple and if you follow instructions and use the right ingredients you just cannot go wrong. I've made this cake dozens of times and it turns out perfect each time!
- Dairy-free, soy-free and can be nut-free. The cake is friendly to most diets. If you are nut-free just skip the walnuts.
Scroll down to recipe card for exact quantities of each ingredient.
- Unbleached all-purpose flour. You can also use whole wheat pastry flour or substitute half the all-purpose flour with regular whole wheat flour.
- Leavening agents: Baking soda + Baking powder
- Ground cinnamon. Cinnamon alone adds incredible flavor but you can also add nutmeg and/or a dash of ginger for more yum.
- Sugar. I used turbinado sugar but any granulated sugar is great here. You can also use brown sugar.
- Coconut oil. Or any vegetable oil. If using coconut oil make sure it is melted and not solid before adding it to the batter. The coconutty flavor of virgin coconut oil is fabulous in this recipe and the oil also keeps the cake extremely moist.
- Applesauce. Applesauce contributes to making the cake very tender and moist and helps bind the cake without any eggs or flax eggs (which, albeit healthy, add a flavor I don't love in this cake). Applesauce will also provide the acidity needed to combine with the baking soda and make the cake airier, no need for apple cider vinegar! You can replace ½ a cup of the applesauce with vegan yogurt.
- Carrots. These are the stars of the recipe.
- Pure vanilla extract. Although not purely necessary, vanilla adds a nice depth to the sweetness of the cake. Skip if you'd rather.
- Walnuts. Pecans are a fine substitute.
- Vegan cream cheese. Use any brand of your choice. I used two 7.1 oz tubs of Violife. I've made this frosting with other brands like Tofutti in the past and they work equally well.
- Vegan butter
- Powdered sugar
How to make vegan carrot cake
Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl.
Whisk in the salt and cinnamon and any other spices, if using.
In a smaller bowl, place the wet ingredients: grated carrots, applesauce, sugar, pure vanilla extract and melted coconut oil.
Mix the wet ingredients.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
Fold the wet ingredients into the dry with a spatula until the batter comes together and there is no dry flour in the bowl. Stir in toasted and chopped walnuts.
Divide the batter evenly between two greased and floured 9- or 8-inch cake pans. Preferably line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper for easy unmolding.
Bake the cakes in a preheated 350-degrees Fahrenheit/175 degrees Celsius oven for 35 minutes or until a toothpick or skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the pans stand on a rack to cool for 15 minutes, then unmold and continue cooling on wire racks.
To make the cream cheese frosting, place the vegan cream cheese and vegan butter in a bowl and use an electric mixer to beat until soft and fluffy, about a minute. Add 1 cup powdered sugar and vanilla and beat in.
Continue adding more sugar, ½ cup at a time, and beating, until the frosting is smooth and creamy. Refrigerate for ½ hour before frosting the cake.
Frost the cake by placing one cake on a plate or cake stand. Spread half the frosting over the cake, then place the other cake on top and frost with the rest of the cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle more toasted walnuts on top, if desired.
- You don't have to sift the flour but I strongly recommend you do because it aerates the flour, producing softer, fluffier cakes. Sifting also helps the baking soda and baking flour mix evenly with the flour.
- For an even richer cake, substitute ½ cup of the applesauce with vegan yogurt.
- Toasting the walnuts or pecans lightly before adding them to the batter will deepen their nutty flavor, making them--and the cake--even more delicious.
- Make sure the vegan cream cheese and vegan butter are both at room temperature before you begin making the frosting. Otherwise you will end up with a lumpy frosting. It won't be beyond repair, but you will get better and quicker results when you begin with room-temperature ingredients.
- If you don't have time to make frosting, serve the cake as is. It is delicious on its own.
- Refrigerate: You can store the carrot cake, covered, at room temperature for up to three days. You can also refrigerate it, again covered, for up to a week.
- Freeze: Freeze individual slices, double wrapped in freezer wrap, for up to four months.
- Thaw the cake before serving.
Yes, use an all-purpose gluten-free baking blend.
No dessert with sugar and fat in it will be totally healthy, but this vegan carrot cake has no cholesterol, unlike regular carrot cake, because it is dairy-free. Using unrefined sugar and ingredients like applesauce, in addition to the carrots and nuts, keeps it healthier than many other desserts.
You absolutely can. You can use a 9 X 13 inch rectangle baking pan to make a single cake or a 10 to 12 cup bundt pan. Just be sure to grease and flour the pan thoroughly--grooves and all.
You certainly can. The batter will make 24 cupcakes, bake them for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Or just make these amazing vegan carrot cake cupcakes.
Raisins are amazing in this recipe. Add ½ to 1 cup of raisins to the batter along with or instead of the nuts.
You can, but the applesauce will result in an incredibly moist and flavorful cake and you would lose some of that by using milk alone. If you still want to use non-dairy milk, use oat milk or soy milk, preferably, or almond milk is fine too. Add two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to it.
More yummy vegan carrot recipes
If you love this vegan carrot cake, be sure to check out more vegan cake recipes on Holy Cow Vegan!
Vegan Carrot Cake Recipe
For carrot cake
- 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup coconut oil (melted. Or use any vegetable oil. Don't use olive oil because it will impart a bitter flavor).
- 2 cups applesauce (can substitute ½ cup of applesauce with vegan yogurt)
- 2 cups grated carrots (about 3 medium carrots. Grate using medium-sized holes on the grater and measure the carrots after grating).
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup walnuts (lightly toasted, then coarsely chopped)
Make the vegan carrot cake
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit/175 degrees Celsius. Prepare the cake pans by greasing and flouring them. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper to help with unmolding.
- Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Whisk in the salt and cinnamon and any other spices, if using.
- In a smaller bowl, place the wet ingredients: grated carrots, applesauce, sugar, pure vanilla extract and oil. Mix thoroughly with a spoon or spatula.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture. Mix with a spatula until the batter comes together and there is no dry flour in the bowl. Stir in toasted walnuts.
- Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Preferably line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper for easy unmolding.
- Bake the cakes for 35 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Let the pans stand on a rack to cool for 15 minutes, then unmold and continue cooling on wire racks. Cool the cakes thoroughly before frosting.
Make vegan cream cheese frosting
- Place the vegan cream cheese and vegan butter in a bowl and use an electric mixer to beat until soft and fluffy, about a minute. Add 1 cup powdered sugar and vanilla and beat in.
- Continue adding more sugar, ½ cup at a time, and beating, until the frosting is smooth and creamy. Refrigerate for ½ hour before frosting the cake.
- Frost the cake by placing one cake on a plate or cake stand. Spread half the frosting over the cake, then place the other cake on top and frost with the rest of the cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle more toasted walnuts on top, if desired.