This vegan carrot cake is my best ever! It’s so soft and moist and full of rich, warming spices made even better thanks to the slathering of creamy vegan cream cheese frosting. This recipe is sure to be a favourite.
You know when you make something and it just turns out better than you ever expected? That’s what this carrot cake is for me. I mean don’t get me wrong I love carrot cake on most occasions, but THIS carrot cake I just couldn’t stop eating. It’s so dang good.
This is the cake I’m making for all future celebrations.
Even my husband, who I had to convince to give it a try, looked at me wide eyed after just one bite and said; ‘ I didn’t think I liked carrot cake’ before hoovering up a big slice.
I just can’t get enough of how soft and tender the cake is, with the most beautiful balance of the warm spices thanks to the addition of not only cinnamon, but my favourite, nutmeg.
And a cake like this needs to be paired with no ordinary frosting, so a batch of my vegan cream cheese frosting does the job to elevate this cake to one that is sweet, but spiced, and not too rich, but just rich enough.
It’s indulgent, but it’s not heavy.
Have I convinced you yet to make this cake?
Oh, and of course if you have seen my vegan carrot cake cupcakes recipe or my carrot cake pancakes recipe, then you’ll know that I simply MUST add chopped walnuts to the batter because the texture and flavour this gives is just simply a requirement of carrot cake in my opinion.
This recipe uses the same ingredients as my vegan carrot cake cupcakes recipe, only the quantities differ to create this 2 layer cake. Most of the ingredients should be pantry staples for any casual baker.
- Almond milk – you can use any dairy-free milk you prefer but I find I prefer almond milk for the best results.
- White vinegar – you could substitute with apple cider vinegar, but I prefer to use white vinegar in my baking as I find it has a more neutral flavour.
- Plain flour – or all purpose flour in the US.
- Bicarbonate of soda – also known as baking soda, this is essential to the soft texture of the cake as it reacts with the vinegar.
- Baking powder – essential for lift and a light and fluffy cake.
- Spices – I use a combination of both ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg for the best warming spiced flavour. This is the key to the best flavour.
- Canola oil – or any neutral tasting oil. This ensures a soft, moist and tender cake crumb.
- Brown sugar – used for flavour, sweetness and moisture.
- Vanilla – always for extra flavour.
- Carrot – peel and grate your carrots using a box grater.
- Walnuts – technically optional, so if you’re trying to make this recipe with pantry ingredients and don’t have walnuts, you can leave them out, but if possible definitely add them as the extra texture and flavour is so good! You could also use chopped pecans instead.
This cake follows a very similar process to all my vegan cake recipes. You’ll need a few bowls, a whisk and a spatula. For the cake tins, I’m using 3 x 6 inch round pans, but you could use 2 x 8 inch (20 cm) ones instead if that’s all you have, your cooking time may be slightly less and your cakes a little thinner.
Start by making your vegan ‘buttermilk’ that is going to make this cake deliciously soft. Simply mix the white vinegar with the almond milk and let it split. Set aside until ready to use.
Next, whisk together all of the dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl.
Finally, in your main mixing bowl, whisk together the canola oil, brown sugar and vanilla extract until combined. Add in the milk and the dry ingredients a little at a time, alternating between each addition and whisk together until a batter forms.
In this step it’s important to only mix until the batter has just formed, as overmixing can make your cake dense and almost chewy in texture which no one wants.
Add in the grated carrot and chopped walnuts and fold through the cake batter with your spatula before pouring it into the prepared cake tins.
Bake in a preheated oven for 30-40 minutes. Every oven bakes differently so start checking at the earliest time and then cook until the top is golden brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10-20 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. It’s essential that you let the cake cool in the pan first otherwise it will break when you try to turn it out, but it’s equally as important not to let the cake cool all the way in the pan as it will steam the cake and the texture may end up dry and or gummy.
Assembling the cake
Vegan cream cheese frosting is not as stable as buttercream so when using it to frost multi layer cakes, you want to follow the below tips;
- Make sure the cakes are completely cold – any residual heat and the cream cheese will just melt.
- Add the first layer of frosting and then place your cake in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before placing the top layer on. This will help stabilise the frosting and help ensure that your top layer doesn’t just slide off (yes, speaking from experience).
- If you’re struggling to get clean, smooth lines when frosting, place the cake into the freezer for a little bit. The frosting will be much easier to work with when really cold.
- Store the finished cake in the fridge, not at room temperature.
Before assembling the cake, if your cakes have domed while baking (meaning the middle of the cake is higher than the sides), then use a serrated knife to gently cut the top off so that you have a nice flat surface of cake to work with.
You also end up with a little baker’s treat which I personally love, especially when I’m serving the cake to friends or family as I can get a little taste before needing to cut into the full cake to make sure it’s delicious (and confirm I didn’t leave out the sugar or something terrible!).
Layer together your cakes with the vegan cream cheese buttercream and place more of the frosting around the edges and top doing your best with a knife or cake scraper to smooth out the sides.
To decorate, I gently pressed some crushed walnuts around the bottom of the cake and sprinkled some over the top. And then because I was feeling extra I tinted a small amount of vegan vanilla buttercream orange and green and carefully piped these adorable carrots around the outside.
To do this, you’ll need a leaf piping tip, either a #66 or #70 should work and for the carrot itself I used a small open flat tip with a slight texture similar to a Wilton #48.
For cupcakes, I recommend using my vegan carrot cake cupcakes recipe instead, however you could turn this recipe into cupcakes if you would prefer. It would probably yield about 18 cupcakes and cooking time would need to be reduced to closer to 20 minutes.
While I haven’t tested it myself, you should be able to replace the regular flour with your favourite 1-1 gluten free flour substitute without issues.
Yes, you can use any vegetable oil of your choice, such as sunflower or rapeseed oil. Coconut oil will also work but it will give the cake a slight coconut taste.
No, this recipe contains nuts, however if you need it to be nut-free you can simply omit the walnuts and use a non nut based dairy free milk substitute.
Storing and Freezing
Store this cake in the fridge, in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
You can also freeze it by tightly wrapping it with plastic wrap and freezing for up to 3 months.
My tip for making wrapping frosted cakes easier (so you don’t end up with frosting everywhere) is to snap freeze the cake first uncovered for an hour, until the frosting is set, then wrap in a couple of layers of plastic wrap.
More vegan cake recipes:
Vegan Vanilla Cake
Vegan Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
Vegan Banana Cake with Cinnamon Buttercream
Vegan Caramel Cake
Cookies and Cream Cake (Vegan)
One Bowl Vegan Chocolate Cake
Dairy Free Chocolate Cake (Vegan)
Vegan Red Velvet Cake
Vegan Coconut Cake
Vegan Carrot Cake
- 1 ½ cups almond milk
- 1 ½ tablespoons white vinegar
- 2 ⅓ cups plain flour
- ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ cup canola oil
- 1 cup brown sugar packed
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups grated carrot
- ¾ cup chopped walnuts
- 1 batch
vegan cream cheese frosting
- Preheat the oven to 180°C and line the bottom of 3 x 6 inch round cake pans with baking paper and coat well with cooking oil spray.
- In a small bowl, make your ‘buttermilk’ by combining the white vinegar with the almond milk and mixing well, it will split but that is ok. Set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, and spices and whisk together until combined.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the canola oil, brown sugar and vanilla extract and whisk together until combined. Add the flour mixture and milk mixture a little at a time, alternating between the two until your batter forms. Be careful to only mix until just combined, do not over mix as your cake will become dense.
- Add in the grated carrot and chopped walnuts and fold through the batter gently until evenly combined.
- Split the batter evenly between the three cake pans and place into the oven to bake for approximately 30-40 minutes or until a skewer when inserted comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10-20 minutes in the pan before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Once the cakes are cool, prepare a batch of vegan cream cheese frosting and assemble the cake. If the cakes have domed in the oven, gently level the tops using a large serrated knife. Place a small amount of frosting on a cake plate/stand and place the first layer down. Cover with a thick layer of frosting before placing the second layer on top and then repeating with the final layer, upside down to ensure you have a flat top.
- Cover the outside of the cake with the remaining frosting and top with extra chopped walnuts if desired. For more tips on getting the best results when frosting the cake, see the full blog post.
- Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Nutritional information is provided as a guide only and is calculated using automated online tools, therefore we cannot guarantee the accuracy. We encourage you to make your own calculations based on the actual ingredients used in your recipe.