This light and fluffy vegan carrot cake has a traditional cream cheese frosting, as well as an optional buttercream frosting if you want to decorate it to look like a cute fox. This would be a perfect cake for a woodland-themed birthday party or a baby shower. This recipe has modifications to make it gluten-free or lower in sugar.
This carrot cake recipe will make a 2-layer 8” or 9” round carrot cake with cream cheese frosting (12-16 servings).
Table of Contents
(click the links below to skip to the section you’re looking for)
- Vegan Carrot Cake Recipe
- Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting
- Buttercream Decorating Frosting
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Ingredient Substitutions
- Nutritional Information
- Comments or Questions
♫ Listening to ♫
SOur Music by Livetune, Miku Hatsune
This carrot cake recipe is a mashup of 2 of the best carrot cakes I’ve ever had (as I remember them): the one my mommy used to make me and the first vegan birthday cake anyone ever baked me who wasn’t my mom (my friend Melissa). You can bake the carrot cakes in advance and wrap them in plastic wrap and freezer bags to freeze them until you’re ready to assemble the cake.
(jump to the substitutions section to see ingredient details and suggestions for substitutions)
- 4 large (440g) grated carrots (or 8 small or 6 medium grated carrots)
- 1 cup (240mL/240g) nondairy milk
- 3 tablespoons (45g) apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup (160g) pitted dates
- ⅔ cup (130g) sunflower or safflower oil
- 1 tablespoon (12g) vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups (320g) sucanat
- 2 ½ cups (325g) unbleached white flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons (10g) baking soda
- 1 teaspoon (5-6g) baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon (2g) salt
- 2 teaspoons (6g) cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon (1g) nutmeg
How to Make Vegan Carrot Cake
prep time: 30 minutes | bake time: 35-40 minutes
Use a food processor to quickly grate your carrots.
Grate your carrots. I use a food processor (fitted with the grater blade), because it makes grated carrot in a fraction of the time. You want to end up with 4 cups (440g) of grated carrots, so use however many carrots you need to get that amount. You might think this is an excessive amount of carrots, but like sweet potatoes and pumpkin, carrots are super high in vitamin A, so the more you can stuff into this cake, the better.
Add the wet ingredients to the food processor fitted with the S blade. The blendtec blender works even better, but if your food processor is already dirty from grating your carrots, you may as well use that. The wet ingredients are ⅔ cup (130g) oil, 1 cup (240g) soy milk, 1 tablespoon (12g) vanilla extract, 1 ½ cups (320g) sucanat, and 1 cup (160g) pitted dates.
Blend or process until it looks smoothish (small pieces of dates are okay).
Heat oven to 350°F (175°C).
Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl: 2 ½ cups (325g) flour, 1 ½ teaspoons (10g) baking soda, 1 teaspoon (5-6g) baking powder, ¼ teaspoon (2g) pink sea salt (any kind of salt is fine), 2 teaspoons (6g) cinnamon, and ½ teaspoon (1g) nutmeg.
Whisk together the sifted dry ingredients.
Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, using a baking spatula to scrape the sides of the food processor or blender, until you can no longer see any dry ingredients.
Stir in 4 cups (440g) grated carrots until ingredients are well-combined.
Check the oven temperature. You want to wait for the oven to be almost preheated before adding the vinegar.
Stir 3 tablespoons (45g) apple cider vinegar into the carrot cake batter.
Divide the carrot cake batter evenly into the two 8" round cake pans and use your baking spatula to smooth out the top.
Bake at 350°F (175°C) for 35-40 minutes (until you insert a toothpick into a few places into each carrot cake, and it comes out clean). I used 9” round cake pans and baked the carrot cake for 35 minutes, and it was perfect. I think it could take 40 minutes if you have 8-inch round cake pansinstead of 9-inch, but the best way to know is just to check them using a toothpick, and if they’re not ready, bake for 5 more minutes and check again. This cake is going to be moist, even if you overbake it by a few minutes.
Remove the carrot cake from the oven and let cool in the cake pans for at least 10 minutes.
Shimmy a baking spatula around the sides of both pans, all the way around the circle to loosen the carrot cake from the sides of the pan.
Flip the cakes upside down over a cooling rack to cool to room temperature (takes around an hour). They should fall right out of the cake pans easily.
Slice each cake layer in half to make 2 thin cakes, once they have cooled completely.
Note: I usually bake the cakes and make the cream cheese frosting the night before, and then slice the cakes, assemble them, and decorate them the next day. If you’re planning to decorate your carrot cake like a fox, then you’ll also want to make the ears ahead of time.
(jump to the substitutions section to see ingredient details and suggestions for substitutions)
Buy 2 tubs of Miss Jones Organic Cream Cheese Frosting instead of following the recipe below.
- 1 cup vegan butter or margarine
- 8 ounces (226g) vegan cream cheese
- 1 tablespoon (12g) vanilla extract
- 5-6 cups organic powdered sugar
Vegan Cream Cheese Icing Directions
prep time: 10 minutes | chill time: 4 hours
Whisk the first three ingredients using a stand mixer or a handheld electric mixer.
Slowly whisk in the powdered sugar one cup at a time.
Transfer the cream cheese icing to a tupperware with a lid and chill in the fridge for as long as you can (ideally between 4 hours and overnight, but in a pinch, an hour is better than none).
Assembling the Vegan Carrot Fox Cake with Cream Cheese Icing
Place the first layer onto a plate or cardboard circle.
Scoop around a third of a cup of cream cheese icing onto the top of the first cake layer.
Smooth the icing all over the top of the first layer of cake spreading with an offset spatula .
Place the second cake on top and repeat the steps with each of the 4 layers.
Chill the assembled cake in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes, while you prepare the decorations.
Vegan Fox Cake Ears
Make your ears in 1 of 2 ways: with a yam or with cookie dough.
Yam Fox Ear Method
Wash your yam.
Slice it lengthwise into thick slices.
Choose 2 slices you like best.
Cut them into ear shapes.
Dehydrate them overnight.
Cookie Fox Ear Method
Shape cookie dough into fox ear shapes and set onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Bake according to the cookie dough instructions.
Turn off the oven once they’re done baking, but leave the cookies in the oven for an extra 10 minutes to make sure they get stiff enough to not fall over once they’re on your cake.
Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely. While I didn’t use cookie ears for this fox cake, I’ve successfully used this method on other cakes. You can also just make ears out of felt if you’re okay with having parts of your cake be inedible.
- ¾ cup vegan butter or margarine (I like the organic whipped earth balance)*
- ¾ cup organic palm shortening (I use spectrum, because it’s sustainable)*
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 5 cups organic powdered sugar*
- orange vegan food coloring
How to Make Vegan Buttercream Frosting
prep time: 20 minutes | frosting time: 10 minutes | total time: 30 minutes
Leave the vegan butter at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before starting, if you have time. This isn’t mandatory, but it helps the consistency.
Whisk the spectrum sustainable organic palm shortening , vegan butter, and vanilla for at least 1 minute using a stand mixer or a handheld electric mixer. Use a silicone spatula to scrape the sides, and mix again until light and fluffy.
Sift in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing for at least minute between each addition. Start the mixer on the lowest setting so the powdered sugar doesn’t fly everywhere and then gradually increase the speed to high. After mixing in the third and fifth cups, scrape the sides with a silicone spatula, and mix again. It’s important to not use any confectioners sugar and to find organic or vegan powdered sugar if you want the cake to be vegan.
Decorating the Vegan Carrot Fox Cake with Buttercream Frosting
Frost the entire outside of the cake with the white frosting using an offset spatula while spinning the cake. I use this cake decorating turntable and wilton also makes a plastic one that’s cheaper, but it doesn’t work as well.
Chill the cake while you prepare the rest of the decorations.
Take apart a few chilled Newman Os cookies.
Wipe any remaining cream filling residue off of the 3 cleanest cookie halves using a wet paper towel.
Cut a short piece off of a straw (approximately half an inch long).
Press the straw into the filling of one of the cold Newman O cookies.
Remove the circle of filling from the straw by inserting something into the straw to push it out. I used a coffee stirrer, but you can use a chopstick or whatever you have in your kitchen.
Press the white circle onto one of the cleaned chocolate cookies. Repeat the process with the other eye.
Pipe the orange fur all over the top and sides of the cake, leaving the white parts white and piping extra where the ears will go.
Press on the eyes, nose, and ears. I piped extra around the ears to make sure they wouldn’t fall. If they seem like they might still fall, you can stick toothpicks or skewers into the cake right under where the ears are. Just don’t forget to remove them before serving the cake.
Chill the fox cake until 30 minutes before you’re ready to eat it.
Can I make this carrot cake gluten free?
Yes! Just use a gluten-free flour blend in place of the all-purpose flour, and use gluten-free cookie dough for the ears (if you’re making cookie ears).
Can I make this carrot cake with less sugar?
Yep. If you want to serve it to muggles (non-vegans), then keep the sugar the same so it tastes like the carrot cake they’re used to. But if you want this to be less sweet, you can reduce the sugar all the way down to a cup of sugar, especially if the nondairy milk you use is sweetened. I’ve made this cake with 1 ¼ cup (270g) sugar, and it’s delicious.
Can I make this carrot cake recipe into carrot cake cupcakes?
Sure! This recipe will make around 24 cupcakes. Fill the cupcake papers ⅔ of the way full, and bake them for 18 minutes before doing the toothpick test.
Do I have to use two pans to bake a vegan carrot cake instead of just one pan?
This recipe can be easily baked as a sheet cake. Just pour the batter into an oiled lasagna pan and if the toothpick doesn’t come out dry after the initial baking time, bake it for 5 additional minutes. This way also saves time because you can skip the buttercream frosting recipe and only use the cream cheese frosting to cover the cake. When I bake this recipe in a rectangle oven safe pan, I don’t need to adjust the baking time at all.
Can I use 6-inch cake pans if they’re all I have?
Can I add chopped walnuts, chopped pecans, or shredded pineapple to this carrot cake recipe?
Sure. Fold them in when you add the grated carrot.
How do I store this cake? Can you freeze vegan cake?
I usually make my cakes in advance since they often take a whole day or more to make and decorate. Here’s a little cheat sheet for this cake once it’s fully covered in frosting.
- 1 day in advance: you can store the (uncut) cake in the fridge uncovered, because the frosting acts as a barrier to protect the cake from drying out
- up to 1 week in advance: you can store the (uncut) cake in the fridge uncovered or in a cake carrier
- up to 3 months in advance: freeze the (uncut) cake uncovered until it hardens to the touch and then wrap it completely in cling wrap to keep it from drying out or taking on any weird freezer smells. Move it from the freezer to the fridge a day before you want to serve it, but don’t remove the cling wrap until 15 minutes before you’re ready to serve it.
- leftover cake: I store my cut carrot cake in a tupperware that is large enough to fit it, in the fridge for up to 1 week. If you don’t plan to eat the leftover cake within a week, you can cut it into individual slices and wrap those slices in cling wrap before placing them in a freezer ziplock bag and storing them in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- Nondairy Milk: If you don’t have a cup of nondairy milk for the cake recipe, you can substitute any amount with water, nondairy creamer, or coconut water. You can also mix and match different nondairy milks. I do this a lot when my macadamia milk only has a little bit left at the bottom and I use it up, and then I open a new container of almond milk, oat milk, or soymilk. Just remember if you use soymilk, make sure it’s organic or non-GMO. This will ensure that the cake is vegan.
- Dates: Medjool dates are the best dates in my opinion, but in cake, it doesn’t really matter, so you can just buy whatever is cheapest. If you don’t have dates, replace them with 1 cup (160g) of raisins.
- Oil: I recommend using safflower, sunflower, or coconut oil for baking cakes because those oils are made for high heat, which helps you avoid transfats. However, you can use any other oil such as vegetable oil, canola oil, grapeseed oil, etc. People even make cakes with olive oil, but I don’t recommend it.
- Vanilla Extract: Vanilla flavoring and vanilla extract can be used interchangeably. The only difference is that vanilla extract is in a base of alcohol and vanilla flavoring is in a base of glycerin. Make sure you use 100% pure vanilla extract or flavoring. If the ingredients don’t specifically say vanilla bean, then it may not be vegan. Vanilla flavoring is often made from the anal glands of beavers. I know, the world is a disgusting place.
- Sucanat: I know sucanat can be hard to find and can also be quite a bit more expensive than other kinds of vegan sugar. Replace the sucanat in this recipe with any number of sugars, as long as they’re vegan: brown sugar, coconut sugar, raw sugar, organic sugar, or demurara. If you’re not sure if your sugar is vegan, you can contact the company and ask, but basically, just avoid conventional white sugar or granulated sugar, and you should be ok. Sometimes, if I use vegan sugar instead of sucanat or brown sugar, I’ll add a dollop of molasses to give it that brown sugar flavor.
- Flour: If you prefer to use whole grain flours, you can replace the white flour in this recipe with wheat flour, spelt flour, or whole wheat pastry flour. It will taste healthier if you make this substitution though.
- Baking Soda: If you are out of baking soda, replace the 1 ½ teaspoons (10g) baking soda in this recipe with an additional 1 ½ tablespoon (24g) of baking powder.
- Baking Powder: If you’re out of baking powder, replace the 1 teaspoon (5-6g) baking powder in this recipe with an additional ¼ teaspoon (1-2g) baking soda.
- Vinegar: For the 3 tablespoons (45g) apple cider vinegar in this recipe, you can replace it with white distilled vinegar or lemon or lime juice. You just need some sort of acid to interact with the alkaline baking soda to make the cake rise.
- Vegan Butter: I usually use organic whipped earth balance because I like the flavor and the consistency. It always works great in every recipe. If you avoid soy, they make a soy-free version too. You can use any brand of vegan butter or margarine that you prefer, but results do vary depending on the brand you choose. For instance, Miyoko’s vegan butter doesn’t work well in my opinion. The frosting comes out grainy and not creamy. If you buy a vegan butter or margarine that contains soy or corn, make sure you buy organic or non-GMO.
- Vegan Cream Cheese: I have used Kite Hill vegan cream cheese and Trader Joe’s vegan cream cheese. Both work well, but the TJ one is cheaper, so get that. If you don’t have access to vegan cream cheese, you can use my cream cheese frosting recipe from my humming bird cake recipe, which is a sneaky trick to make frosting taste like cream cheese frosting without actually using cream cheese.
- Vegan Shortening: You can replace vegan butter or margarine with spectrum sustainable organic palm shortening if needed.
These nutrition facts are based on just the cake without the frosting or the decorations.
- Servings: 16
- Calories: 266
- Total Fat: 9g
- Saturated Fat: 1g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
- Sodium: 213mg
- Total Carbohydrate: 45g
- Dietary Fiber: 2g
- Total Sugars: 27g
- Protein: 3g
- Calcium: 60mg
- Iron: 1.3mg
- Potassium: 208mg
- Vitamin A: 240µg
- Vitamin E: 4mg
Other Cute Vegan Cakes
Another spiced kawaii cake is my biscoff reindeer cake.
If you make this recipe, snap a pic, post to instagram, and tag me @vegandollhouse. I love to see your creations! You can also message me through instagram or email me if you have any questions or feedback about the recipe.
* I use mostly organic ingredients when I cook. I realize that not everyone has the disposable income to buy only organic ingredients. So, I only specify organic on the ingredients that matter: when buying the organic (or non-GMO) version is the only way to ensure that an item is vegan.