This vegan carrot cake recipe is fluffy and full of aromatic spices. It's paired with a delicious tangy vegan cream cheese frosting, with the option of flavoring the buttercream with oranges or blood oranges (depending on what's in season!).
This recipe makes a layer cake, but you can change up the cake pans and create a sandwich cake if preferred. Either way, it's the perfect vegan snack cake to enjoy with your cup of tea or coffee, or for celebrating Easter.
Reasons to love this recipe
- Easy to make.
- Fluffy cake consistency.
- Lightly spiced taste.
- Zesty and tangy cream cheese frosting.
- Perfect for Easter.
Notes about the ingredients
- Plain flour
- Soft brown sugar and granulated sugar as I find a combination of both create the fluffiest carrot cake. I tried making the recipe with just brown sugar a couple of times but the result was a little denser than I would like.
- Soy milk and apple cider vinegar are mixed together to create a vegan replacement for buttermilk. The acidity in the vegan buttermilk helps to tenderize the carrot cake. You can also use almond milk in place of soy.
- Baking powder and baking soda are the leavening agents for this carrot cake seeing as it's made without eggs. The baking powder and baking soda help the vegan carrot cake to rise and become fluffy and light.
- Sunflower oil adds moistness to the cake. I prefer using oil to vegan butter to baking as oil remains liquid at room temperature, whereas butter solidifies and I've found cakes to be less fluffy. You can use any neutral-tasting oil for this recipe, rapeseed oil, vegetable oil or light olive oil would work.
- Spices add the most delicious aromatic flavor to this vegan carrot cake. The recipe calls for ground cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. You can add a little allspice as well if you have it to hand.
- Vanilla extract adds another layer of flavor to the cake.
- Freshly grated carrots give the cake a delicious flavor and moisture.
- Chopped walnuts are folded into the carrot cake batter, you could also use chopped pecans.
- Oranges or blood oranges are used to flavor both the cake and frosting. I used blood oranges for the cake pictured. The juice is reduced down to flavor the cream cheese frosting, and the orange zest adds flavor to the cake itself.
- You also need vegan cream cheese, vegan butter, and vanilla for the vegan cream cheese frosting.
How to make a vegan carrot cake
(Full ingredient quantities and instructions can be found in the recipe card at the end of this post)
Prepare your equipment and ingredients
Before getting started on making the carrot cake, make sure you prepare everything you'll need to make them.
- Preheat the oven 30 minutes ahead of time.
- Measure out all of the ingredients.
- Prepare the ingredients including mixing the vegan buttermilk, grating the carrots, zesting the orange, and chopping the walnuts.
- Grease and line the base and sides of 3 x 6-inch cake pans with parchment paper.
Prepare and bake the cakes
Start by mixing together all of the wet ingredients. You can add the sunflower oil, vanilla extract, and orange zest to the jug with the vegan buttermilk, and mix using a fork.
In a separate large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In this cake are the flour, baking soda, baking powder, granulated and brown sugar, spices, and sea salt.
Following this, pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients and gently whisk until they form a batter consistency. Be careful not to overmix the batter.
Lastly, fold in the freshly grated carrots and chopped walnuts with a rubber spatula until just mixed through.
Pour the carrot cake batter into the prepared cake pans. You can measure the batter out using a cup measure, or using your kitchen scale to distribute the batter evenly between the pans.
Finally, bake the cakes in the preheated oven for 35 minutes. To check the cakes are baked through, use a toothpick or skewer to poke a hole through the center of the cake, it should come out clean. Once ready, allow the cakes to rest in the tins for 15-20 minutes, before turning them out onto a cooling rack.
How to make orange cream cheese frosting
Go ahead and prepare your buttercream while you wait for the cakes to cool.
You'll basically prepare this vegan cream cheese frosting recipe and flavor it with reduced blood orange juice. Or, you can just leave it plain, it will be just as delicious!
To reduce the blood orange juice, add it to a saucepan and simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until it has reduced in volume to a syrup. Then allow the syrup to cool completely before whisking it into the cream cheese frosting. The syrup can also be prepared a day in advance if preferred.
Assembling the cake
Make sure that the cakes are completely cool before attempting to frost them, otherwise, the buttercream will melt and you'll have a big mess! You can chill the cakes in the fridge for an hour or bake them a day in advance and chill them overnight.
To assemble your three-tier vegan carrot cake add a little bit of cream cheese frosting to a plate to secure the cake. Then simply assemble the cake layers with a layer of frosting between each one. Use the remaining frosting to coat around the sides on top of the cake and smooth everything out with a cake scraper.
This vegan carrot cake is best served at room temperature to ensure it keeps its fluffy consistency. If you don't plan on eating it all in a day or so, seal it in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days. Then remove the cake from the fridge about 1-2 hours before serving to bring it back to room temperature.
Alternative frosting ideas
Carrot cake is traditionally paired with cream cheese frosting as the tanginess works incredibly well with the spices in the cake. However, if cream cheese frosting isn't your thing, you can opt to frost your vegan carrot cake in a variety of different ways.
Vegan Swiss meringue buttercream or vegan Italian meringue buttercream both work really well as they aren't as sweet as traditional American-style buttercream. In fact, these frosting recipes will go with pretty much all vegan cake recipes!
Measure the recipe in grams
As with all baking, measuring with a kitchen scale will always give you the most accurate results, therefore I highly recommend that you measure the recipe in grams. If you plan on using cups, check out this guide on how to measure flour without a scale on Ambitious Kitchen.
Preheat your oven properly
It's important to get your oven to the correct temperature before baking your cakes. The oven temperature affects the texture, flavor, and browning of the cake. I usually aim to preheat the oven a good 30 minutes before baking.
Use freshly grated carrots
Ever tasted grated carrots from a bag? They are usually a little on the dry side and definitely don't taste as good as fresh. Freshly grated carrots will give you the best flavor as well as provide moisture that can be lacking from pre-packaged grated carrots.
Don't overmix the cake batter
Don't be tempted to overmix the batter, you want to mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until they are just about mixed. Then carefully fold in the grated carrots and walnuts. I also recommend that you bake the cakes immediately once the batter has been made, don't leave them sitting on the counter for too long.
Frequently asked questions
You can create a carrot sandwich cake with 2 x 9-inch pans. Just note, that the baking time may take a little longer, so keep an eye on the cakes and bake for more time accordingly. You can always reference Sally's Baking Recipes cake pan size conversions if you are working with different-sized pans.
I personally use Violife all the time, as it's readily available here in Ireland.
Yes, you can freeze the baked cakes before frosting. Make sure they are individually wrapped in plastic wrap before you freeze them. Defrost in the fridge overnight or at room temperature for a couple of hours.
You can freeze the vegan cream cheese frosting in an airtight container if you have leftovers. Defrost it in the fridge overnight, and whip it again if needed before frosting.
Absolutely, you can use any vegan buttercream of your choice, find more vegan buttercream frosting recipes here.
More vegan cake recipes
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- 300 g (2.4 cups) plain flour
- 120 g (½ cup) granulated sugar, or superfine/caster sugar
- 120 g (½ cup) soft brown sugar
- 3 teaspoons (3 tsp) baking powder
- 2 ¼ teaspoons (2 ¼ tsp) baking soda
- 1 tablespoon (1 tbsp) ground cinnamon
- 1 ½ teaspoons (1 ½ tsp) ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon (½ tsp) ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon (½ tsp) sea salt
- 270 ml (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) soy milk, or almond milk
- 1 tablespoon (1 tbsp) apple cider vinegar
- 120 ml (½ cup) sunflower oil, or rapeseed oil, vegetable oil, light olive oil
- 1 tablespoon (1 tbsp) vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon (1 tbsp) orange zest
- 225 g (7.9 oz) carrots, freshly grated
- 100 g (0.85 cups) walnuts, finely chopped
- 1 batch vegan vanilla cream cheese frosting
- 225 ml blood orange or orange juice (approx 4 oranges), optional
- orange slices or blood orange slices
- Please read over the recipe and instructions fully before getting started as well as the above blog post which contains more detailed instructions, images, and tips.
- Preheat your oven to 175°C (347°F). Line the base of three 6" cake tins with a circle of parchment paper and spray the sides with oil spray.
- Add the plain flour, granulated sugar, soft brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and sea salt to a large mixing bowl, whisk and set aside.
- To make the vegan "buttermilk" add the soy milk and apple cider vinegar to a jug, stir and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Add the sunflower oil, vanilla extract, and orange zest to the jug and mix using a fork.
- Add the wet ingredients to the bowl with the dry ingredients and whisk carefully to combine. Do not overmix the batter.
- Divide the batter into the lined cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes. Check they are ready by inserting a skewer, it should come out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the tins for 15-20 minutes and then carefully turn them out onto a cooling rack to cool further. Refrigerate the cakes in an airtight container until ready to use. Chilling the cakes for a few hours (or overnight) makes them easier to work with and decorate.
- Add the orange juice to a saucepan and simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Reduce the volume to 50ml, checking every so often by pouring it into a measuring jug. Once ready the juice will have a syrupy consistency. Set it aside to cool completely for about an hour or chill in the fridge overnight.
- Prepare a batch of vegan cream cheese frosting according to the recipe.
- Add the reduced orange syrup to the frosting, one teaspoon at a time while whisking in between each spoon to incoporate it into the buttercream.
- Using a serrated knife, carefully cut the domes from the tops of the cakes if there are any to get them as even as possible. Place a tiny amount of frosting on a cake turntable and secure the first sponge layer on top of it.
- Use an offset spatula/pallet knife to spread a layer of frosting on top of the sponge. Add the next layer of cake and repeat with another layer of frosting. Top with the final layer of cake. Use the remaining frosting to coat around the sides on top of the cake and smooth everything out with a cake scraper.
- Decorate with carrots, carrot tops, and orange slices.
- This cake is best served at room temperature to ensure it keeps its fluffy consistency. If you don't plan on eating it all in a day or so, seal it in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days. Then remove the cake from the fridge about 1-2 hours before serving to bring it back to room temperature.
- Nutritional information is based on the cake without buttercream
- As with all baking, measuring with a kitchen scale will always give you the most accurate results, therefore I highly recommend that you measure the recipe in grams.
- Preheat your oven properly as the oven temperature affects the texture, flavor, and browning of the cake. I usually aim to preheat the oven a good 30 minutes before baking.
- Use freshly grated carrots for the best flavor as well as provide moisture that can be lacking from pre-packaged grated carrots.
- You can create a carrot sandwich cake with 2 x 9-inch pans. Just note, that the baking time may take a little longer, so keep an eye on the cakes and bake for more time accordingly.
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