If you are looking for the perfect Easter/Spring dessert this is it. Moist, traditional carrot cake topped with creamy, vegan cream cheese icing. I’ve always thought it was sad that some people don’t give carrot cake a chance. Here is my PSA to those people: it doesn’t taste like vegetables. Even the carrot cake haters will love this Vegan Carrot Cake. Just enjoy the festivity!
The “Mom’s Work Cake”
When I was a kid, my mom worked for a company based in Solvang, CA. Solvang is a little quasi-Danish town in Southern California that was about a thirty minute drive from where we lived. During the Summer, my mom would put my brother and I into camps in the Solvang area where she could leave us while she was at work. Seeing as these were day camps, my mom would take her lunch break in the late afternoon to collect us and then we would spend the last two hours of her work day sitting quietly in her office.
She learned relatively quickly that the best way to keep us calm and quiet during this time was to pick up a slice of carrot cake from one of the many bakeries on our way back. There are tons of little Danish bakeries in Solvang and while they primarily serve pastries, for whatever reason, carrot cake was having a moment at the time. Everyone was selling it. I remember it being so beautifully moist and flavorful with the tangiest cream cheese frosting you could ever imagine. It is those very mid-day dessert experiences I have tried to replicate with this Vegan Carrot Cake.
Vegan Carrot Cake Ingredients
- All Purpose Flour: All purpose flour is considered to have a moderate/average amount of protein when compared to other flours. It will give your cake sturdiness without compromising the lightness you desire. Regular ‘all purpose’ if fine. No need for anything fancy.
- Sugar: Granulated sugar is great for baking because the bond that it forms with water/liquid has a moisture-locking effect. This gives us incredible texture and moistness in our baked goods. Where we rely on sugar to give delicious sweetness to our cake, it also brings out the flavor of the carrots.
- Baking Powder: Baking powder provides the leavening power when baking cake. Without baking powder our cakes wouldn’t rise appropriately. Baking powder begins releasing carbon dioxide in the batter and then expands more evenly while baking.
- Baking Soda: Baking soda needs an acidic and liquid ingredient to activate. If a sour flavor is desired in a recipe, baking soda is omitted in favor of a different leavener. Here, we are using baking powder and soda together as we need more leavening than we have acid available in the recipe.
- Spices: Lots of cinnamon is traditional in carrot cake. I like the addition of a small amount of nutmeg just to round things out a little bit.
- Sea Salt: Salt is a known flavor enhancer and baked goods are no exception. This is especially true where flour and butter are concerned. In addition to amplifying flavor, salt works to strengthen doughs/batters and provide texture.
- Applesauce: Apple sauce is an incredible staple in vegan baking. Reasonably priced and a great replacement for eggs, you should keep a jar in your fridge at all times. Applesauce is my go-to egg-replacer in carrot cake as it compliments the flavor profile really well. If you have something against apples, you can replace the applesauce in this recipe with nondairy yogurt.
- Non-Dairy Milk: Non-dairy milks resemble traditional dairy milks except they are derived from alternative sources such as nuts, coconuts, rice, oats, etc. Any will do for this recipe. Unflavored and unsweetened are ideal but use what you have available.
- Canola Oil: Canola oil is a neutral or “flavorless” vegetable oil that won’t conflict with the flavor of your cake. It delivers a nice moistness to any dessert recipe.
- Vanilla Extract: Vanilla extract is the most common extract in baked goods. It adds a beautiful dimension and flavor profile to our bakes. Vanilla chemically adds more flavor to our cake without covering up the flavor of the carrots.
- Carrots: Totally normal, orange carrots that can be found in any grocery store are what you need for this recipe. No need for anything expensive or fancy.
Vegan Carrot Cake Tips
- Having an idea of how you would like your cake to appear will help you in selecting the size of pan to use. If you would like a taller cake, use 3 6-inch round cake pans. If you would like a shorter cake with a larger circumference, use 2 8-inch round cake pans instead.
- While some cakes can be made in one bowl, this cake is best when the dry ingredients are pre-mixed in one bowl and the wet ingredients are pre-mixed in another. This will allow you to break down the applesauce prior to mixing it in with the dry ingredients. If you fail to do this, your cake may have wet/undercooked sections throughout.
- Do NOT buy pre-grated or shredded carrots at the store. I know it’s annoying but it’s totally necessary to grate your own. Pre-grated carrots are void of moisture and can be shaped a little oddly. Put on some music or a podcast and get to grating!
- Preparation is the name of the game here. If it is possible for you, I would recommend making either the cake or the frosting in advance. You can make the cake layers the night before and allow them to cool overnight OR you can make the frosting the night before and allow it to chill and firm overnight. You do you.
Please remember if you make this recipe to snap a pic and share with @censoredbaker on instagram!Print
Vegan Carrot Cake
Wonderfully moist, spicy carrot cake topped with creamy, vegan cream cheese icing.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Bake Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 2 hours
- Yield: 1 Layer Cake 1x
- Category: Cakes and Cupcakes
- Method: Bake
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegan
For the Cake
3 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 c sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp sea salt
3/4 c applesauce
1 1/2 c nondairy milk
1/2 c canola oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 c grated carrots
For the Frosting
1 8oz package nondairy cream cheese
1/4 c vegan butter
4 c powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 C) and grease and line 2 8-inch or 3 6-inch*, circular baking pans with parchment paper. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together all purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and sea salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together apple sauce, nondairy milk, canola oil and vanilla extract. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Do not over-mix.
2. Add grated carrots to the batter and gently fold in. Divide batter amongst prepared pans and place them on center rack of preheated oven. Bake for 15 minutes and then rotate the pans if necessary. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean with only a few crumbs clinging to it. Allow cakes to cool for 20 minutes before flipping out onto wire racks to cool completely.
3. While cakes are cooling, make the frosting. Add nondairy cream cheese, shortening and vegan butter to a large bowl. Beat with a hand mixer until completely smooth. Add in sifted powdered sugar and vanilla extract and beat until silky frosting comes together. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 1 hour to firm up.
4. If preparing a 2 layer cake, use 1/3 of the frosting between layers, 1/3 of the frosting on top and 1/3 of the frosting to cover the sides of the cake. If preparing a 3 layer cake, use 1/3 of the frosting between each layer and 1/3 on top. If not serving immediately, place in the fridge. Allow cake to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes prior to cutting/serving.
*When I photographed this cake I spread the batter among 3 8-inch circular pans. While this worked fine it didn’t quite create the look I was going for. Moral of the story, if you want a 3-layer cake go 6-inch and if you want a 2-layer cake go 8-inch.
**Preparation is the name of the game here. If it is possible for you, I would recommend making either the cake or the frosting in advance. You can make the cake layers the night before and allow them to cool overnight OR you can make the frosting the night before and allow it to chill and firm overnight.
***Prepared cake will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days. Unfrosted cake layers can be frozen for up to a month.
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