If you’re looking for a simple recipe for carrot cake topped with delicious vegan cream cheese frosting, look no further. This carrot cake is really easy to put together and makes quite an entrance! It uses commonly available, inexpensive materials and very little process. All you need to make the sponge is a large mixing bowl, a spatula and a fine sieve, and a gentle touch as you mix the batter together. No fancy mixer required.
As for the frosting, I published it as a separate recipe because I wanted to be able to include lots of pictures of the making process without making this recipe too long. The frosting can be made at least a day ahead and stored overnight in the refrigerator.
I especially love the second version of this vegan cream cheese frosting, which instead of relying on store-bought vegan cream cheese, uses just a handful of simple ingredients: vegan butter, lemon juice, cashews, and sugar.
It has a savory tang that contrasts so nicely with this sweet carrot cake, has less ‘nasties’ (preservatives that are part and parcel of making vegan cream cheese shelf stable) and is more reliable because there is no standard formula for vegan cream. Cheeses therefore each have a different composition and can therefore produce a slightly different end result.
Once I finished photographing this cake, Duncan packed it into a few boxes to share with his kayaking group, and it obviously got rave reviews despite none of them being vegan. That’s always nice to hear, but especially when the frosting is a bit unconventional so I hope this convinces you to make it and see for yourself.
More about ingredients
Vegetable Oil: This cake is based on liquid vegetable oil, which makes it easy to make and keeps it nicely moist. I recommend using a neutrally flavored oil – I tend to choose grapeseed oil in cakes – unless, like the Greeks, you enjoy the flavor of olive oil in your cakes. If using olive oil, choose a milder variety for a subtle olive oil flavor.
Vegan yogurt: I used a tub of Bog Standard Vegan Yogurt (Alfro Plain), which reacts chemically with the baking soda and helps the leavening, to keep this cake moist and add some acidity to the batter. I’ve made several recipes using applesauce in the past and although I didn’t get a chance to test it on this particular cake, I’m sure it would work just as well. Since yogurt contains fat and applesauce does not, I would increase the amount of oil to a full cup (240 ml) and use another cup (240 ml) of applesauce.
Sugar: I used sugar to give this cake sweetness, texture and flavor. I used caster sugar (which is simply superfine white sugar in baking) mixed with dark muscovado sugar. The latter contains a lot of molasses, which gives it a deep, slightly sweet flavor and helps keep the cake moist – you can find it in most baking aisles in the UK, but if it’s not available, use another type of sugar instead.
Carrots: Coarsely grated carrots are the key to a carrot cake and need no further explanation.
All Purpose Flour: I used all-purpose flour here, but if you want to make this cake gluten-free, use a good gluten-free flour mix (one that has a high proportion of starch, which helps with binding) and a teaspoon of xanthan gum to help. . with texture.
Baking Agent: The combination of baking soda and baking powder gives this vegan sponge the perfect amount of lift. I didn’t want to use too much and I baked the cakes at a lower temperature than usual so they came out as flat as possible, which is what you want when you want to layer them. Please ensure that both baking agents are used as they each work slightly differently and using only one will not give good results.
Salt: A small amount of fine salt is a common addition to cake batter, adding flavor and balance.
Spices: I used a mix of spices I enjoy in a carrot cake: cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg and cloves and none of my taste tests found it overly spicy, but that’s very subjective of course – use as much as you like. In the UK, carrot cake is often flavored with mixed spice (not to be confused with all spice, which is Jamaican pepper) along with cinnamon and ginger. Mixed spices contain a whole range of spices including nutmeg (and mace – the outer husk of the nutmeg), cloves and all the aforementioned spices. If using mixed spices, use about a teaspoon, plus two small teaspoons of cinnamon and three-quarters of a teaspoon of ginger.
Combine liquid vegetable oil and vegan yogurt in a large mixing bowl (in my photo I only made one layer so the bowl is quite small). Add sugar. If using wet sugar (like dark muscovado), break up any lumps with your fingers before adding, and don’t worry if some lumps remain – that’s the nature of this type of sugar.
Fold in coarsely grated carrots. If using cups instead of weighing your ingredients, use three small loose cups.
Place a fine sieve into the bowl with the dry ingredients and sift them (in 2-3 batches). Gently incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet by making small circles in the center of the bowl with your spatula and slowly adding more flour. I find that this method of mixing minimizes lumps.
When you mix everything well, you should end up with thick batter. Divide the batter between two cake pans and bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
- 180 ml / ¾ cup neutral oil (I used grape seed)
- 300 ml / 1¼ cups vegan yogurt (I used Alfro plain)
- 250 g / 1¼ cups sugar (I used half dark muscovado and half caster sugar)
- 280 g / 3 small cups coarsely grated carrots
- 375 g / 3 cups all-purpose flour*
- 1 level teaspoon of baking soda
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon fine salt
- 2½ teaspoons cinnamon
- 1½ teaspoons ginger
- Half teaspoon of cardamom
- Half a teaspoon of nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
Frosting and Decorations
- Set the oven to 160° C / 320° F (or 20° C / 70° C lower with the fan on).
- Grease two cake pans 20 cm / 8 and line their bottoms with circles of baking paper.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine oil and vegan yogurt.
- Stir in sugar – if using muscovado sugar, break up any large lumps with your fingers first.
- Next, stir in the grated carrot.
- Place a fine sieve over the pot and sift the dry ingredients in 2-3 batches. Gradually incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients by making small circles with a spatula in the center of the bowl to add more flavor – this method minimizes lump formation.
- Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans.
- Bake on the middle shelf until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes.
- Let both cakes cool completely.
- Place a generous layer of frosting on top of the first cake. Gently place the second cake on top and frost the top cake.
- Garnish with walnuts (I used maple walnuts from this recipe).
*Flour: If you want to make this cake gluten-free, use a good gluten-free flour mix and (unless your flour mix already has it) a teaspoon of xanthan gum for a better texture.
*1 in every 20 portions (with frosting)