The best vegan carrot cake is made with freshly grated carrots, chopped pecans, raisins, and warm spices, then slathered with a tangy vegan cream cheese frosting. This is the perfect spring cake. Serve it for Easter, Mother’s Day, or whenever you need a beautiful and easy cake recipe. If you’re into raw carrot cake, try our easy vegan no bake carrot cake energy balls. Dairy-free and egg-free.
Published March 3, 2016 and updated March 31, 2021.
More vegan cake recipes you’ll love
Why carrot cake? The flavors and texture is the best!!!
The shredded carrots, crunchy nuts, chewy raisins, and tender cake are so good together!
Then there’s the flavor. Warm spices, sugar, and tangy cream cheese frosting are a match made in Heaven.
Another thing we love about this cake is that it’s easy to make. The most difficult part is shredding the carrots, and that’s not hard at all.
It’s a simple cake that makes a big impact, and we’re all about it.
Ingredients and substitutions
Freshly Shredded Carrots – There really isn’t a substitute for carrots, because this is carrot cake after all.
Chopped Nuts – We chose pecans for our vegan carrot cake recipe, because we love how crispy and slightly sweet, they are.
Substitute with hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios, or whatever nut you like. In the case of nut allergies, roasted sunflower seeds work well.
All-Purpose Flour – This or cake flour will give the cake the perfect crumb.
You can also use stone ground, whole wheat, or gluten-free flour, but please note that the cake will be denser.
Warm Spices – Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ground ginger are a must for this cake recipe.
The flavor combo is perfection. If you want to elevate it even more, go ahead and add a pinch of cloves.
Leavening – We add baking powder and baking soda, because the carrots weigh the cake batter down, and you need both to get the batter to rise as much as possible.
Salt – a pinch of salt is all you need to enhance the flavors of the spices. It adds depth and also provides a balance to the sweetness of the cake.
Applesauce – The applesauce is the egg replacer for this vegan cake recipe.
Feel free to substitute with flax eggs or your favorite egg replacer. You’ll need the equivalent of three eggs.
Sugar – We know, this is a dry ingredient, but since it’s added to the wet ingredients, we put it here.
We used coconut sugar, but you can substitute with brown sugar or half sugar and half maple syrup.
Vanilla Extract – For the best results, use pure vanilla extract, not the artificial kind.
If you like almond extract, that will work in this recipe, too.
Non-Dairy Milk and Lemon Juice – Make homemade buttermilk by combining your favorite plant-based milk with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.
We prefer oat milk or pea protein milk, as they have the mildest flavors and are creamy, although almond milk or cashew milk work, too.
Vegan cream cheese frosting recipe
Our vegan cream cheese frosting is made without dairy, and it’s just as good as the conventional kind.
We make ours with powdered sugar and vegan cream cheese and butter that are brought to room temperature to ensure the creamiest frosting.
Our preferred vegan cream cheese and butter brands are Miyoko’s, Kite Hill, and Earth Balance.
All you’ll need to do is whip the butter in a large mixing bowl until it’s light and creamy.
Add the cream cheese and beat until combined and super creamy.
The last step is to slowly beat in the powdered (confectioner’s) sugar and keep beating on medium speed until you have a thick and ultra-creamy frosting.
If you can’t find vegan cream cheese and butter where you live, we also have a homemade version for you in the recipe box.
It’s made with cashews, nuts, coconut milk, coconut butter, non-dairy milk, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and lemon juice.
You’ll need to make it at least two hours before you’re ready to frost the cake, so please plan accordingly.
Cream cheese frosting must be refrigerated, which means that once the cake is frosted, it too needs to be refrigerated.
Pro tips for success
The carrots need to be evenly shredded. You can use the grater attachment on your food processor or a box grater.
Carrot cake is a dense cake. For the best texture we suggest all-purpose or cake flour.
Whisk the lemon juice or apple cider vinegar in the plant milk to make buttermilk, and let it sit for 10 minutes.
Make sure that the oven is completely preheated, and the pans are prepped before adding the dry ingredients to the wet, because baking soda starts to degrade as soon as it gets wet, and you’ll want to put the batter in the pans and in the oven as soon as possible.
Another reason that the oven should be fully preheated is that the cake will not cook evenly if it’s not at 350˚F (176˚C) when the cakes go in the oven.
Set a timer five minutes earlier than the baking time and check the cake with a long wooden toothpick. Depending on the calibration of your oven, it may need less or more time.
Let the cakes cool in the pans for five minutes, then invert them onto a wire rack and cool completely before frosting.
For the frosting, if the powdered sugar is lumpy, sift it before adding it to the cream cheese and butter.
How to make it
Preheat the oven to 350˚F (176˚C)
This is critical to baking and cooking in general. If you put a cake the oven before it’s completely preheated, the cake will not bake evenly and probably won’t rise the way it should.
Grease and flour the cake pans or line with parchment paper to prevent sticking.
Whisk the lemon juice or apple cider vinegar into the plant-based milk to make buttermilk.
Shred the carrots and chop the nuts.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the flour, leavening, salt, and spices together until they’re evenly combined.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the applesauce, sugar, vanilla, and lemon juice and mix on medium high until light and fluffy. Approximately one minute.
Add one quarter of the flour mixture and beat on a low setting while adding one quarter of the buttermilk, continue adding the flour and milk by quarters until it’s just combined.
Remove the mixing bowl from the mixer and scrape the excess batter off of the paddle attachment into the bowl. Stir in the shredded carrots, chopped nuts, and raisins until just combined.
Evenly pour the batter into the cake pans and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until a long wooden toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the cake.
Cool for five minutes in the pans and then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Cake pans and cupcakes
Use two 8-inch round cake pans or one 9 x 13 rectangular pan.
You can also make cupcakes out of the batter. This recipe makes approximately one dozen cupcakes.
Because this is a moist cake and it’s frosted with cream cheese frosting, you must store it in the refrigerator.
It will last up to 4 days when refrigerated.
Freeze the unfrosted cakes for up to three months in a freezer safe container. Do not freeze the frosting.
Please note, freezing cakes draws out the moisture, so they will be slightly drier than freshly baked cakes.
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Vegan Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- food processor
- 3 cups shredded carrots – approximately 5 large carrots
- 1 cup pecans - finely chopped use any nut you like
- 1 cup raisins
- 3 cups all-purpose flour See Note
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp finely ground sea salt
- 1 cup unsweetened applesauce read the substitutions list in the content for other options
- 3/4 cup of coconut sugar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups unsweetened plant-based milk oat or pea protein is preferred
For the Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 tbsp vegan butter room temperature
- 8 oz vegan cream cheese room temperature
- 3 to 4 cups powdered sugar sift if lumpy
For the Nut Based Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 cup raw cashews soaked in water for at least 4 hours or boiled in water for 10 minutes
- 1 cup plus 1 tbsp coconut milk
- 1/2 cup melted coconut butter
- 1/4 cup agave nectar or maple syrup
- 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
For the Buttermilk
- Whisk the 2 cups plant milk and 1 tsp lemon juice or apple cider vinegar and let sit while you prepare the cake batter.
For the Cream Cheese Frosting
- Whip the 8 tbsp of butter until creamy, then add the 8 ounces of cream cheese and whip until light and creamy.
- Add one cup of powdered sugar at a time and beat until you get the consistency that you’re looking for.
For the Nut Based Cream Cheese Frosting
- When the cashews are soft and puffy, drain and rinse and put in a high powered blender. Add the 1 cup plus 1 tbsp of coconut milk, ½ cup melted coconut butter, ¼ cup agave nectar or maple syrup, 1 tbsp vanilla extract, and 1 tbsp lemon juice and blend until thick and creamy. You shouldn’t be able to detect any solids. If you do, scrape the sides and continue blending. Scrape out of the blender into a bowl and cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
For the Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (176˚C) and grease and flour two 8 inch cake pans, or line them with parchment paper to prevent sticking.
- Shred the carrots in a food processor or with a box grater. Set aside
- Chop the pecans with a food processor or a knife. Set aside. (You can purchase chopped nuts but they’re generally more expensive than whole nuts.)
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the 3 cups flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground nutmeg, ½ tsp ground allspice, ½ tsp ground ginger, and ½ tsp salt until combined.
- In a large mixing bowl mix the 1 cup applesauce, ¾ cup coconut sugar, and 1 tsp vanilla extract on medium high until light and fluffy. Approximately one minute.
- On a low speed add one quarter of the dry ingredients to the applesauce mixture and blend until just combined. Add one quarter of the buttermilk while blending the flour into the sugar. Continue adding one quarter of flour and one quarter of the buttermilk until all of the flour mixture and milk is combined. Don’t over beat the mixture or the batter will become tough.
- When the dry and wet ingredients are just blended, remove the mixing bowl from the mixer and scrape the batter off of the mixing paddle into the bowl, then fold the carrots, pecans, and raisins into the mixture until evenly combined.
- Pour half of the batter into one cake pan and the other half into the second cake pan.
- Tap the pans on a hard surface a few times to remove air bubbles and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the tops are firm and slightly cracked and a toothpick comes out clean. Check them at 25 minutes as some ovens bake faster than others.
- Cool in the pans for 5 minutes and then invert them onto a wire rack and let them cool completely before frosting.
- Put one cake on a platter and frost the top, then place the second cake on top and frost the top and the sides. We made 2 batches of cake batter for a 4-tiered cake.