Though I did not start eating carrot cake until adulthood (blame the picky-eater-phase that lasted for nearly twenty years), I have been hearing about carrot cake for as long as I can remember. It is my mother’s favorite cake, and it was the wedding cake that…wasn’t. For years and years I was told stories of how my mother desperately wanted carrot cake, her absolute favorite, at her and my father’s wedding but that it was not an option amongst the catering hall packages. Her dream died a second time when my now-husband and I chose vanilla funfetti cake over carrot. Sorry Mom! But here I make it up to her with my own take on a vegan carrot cake with tangy buttercream.
As you read this, I am off with Mr. Kettle and Kale in a yurt in the middle of nowhere, celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary. What a perfect opportunity to try and make the lack of carrot cake goodness up to my mom.
No special occasion to celebrate this fall weekend? Celebrate the fact that it is October and air smells like crispy, rainbow leaves and the aroma of cozy home fireplaces! And celebrate with cake. Or simply celebrate the cake itself. No justification required.
Vegan Carrot Cake: Putting It Together
Though my anniversary leaves me with a distinct bias, Octobers have always felt magical to me. It’s the perfect time to curl up with this autumnally spiced cake that is topped with a plant-based buttercream that will not have you missing cream cheese in the slightest. Though the frosting requires the teensiest bit of extra elbow grease, you really don’t even need that much to make this recipe happen:
- Brown sugar
- Canola oil
- Shredded carrot
- Vanilla extract
- All-purpose flour
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Kosher salt
- Apple pie spice
- Vegetable shortening
- Vegan butter
- Powdered sugar
- Lemon juice
- White vinegar
Yes, I know, it seems like a lot. But it’s only 10 for the cake and 5 for the frosting. The Minimalist Baker would be proud!
I already took some shortcuts, including my use of apple pie spice. I have a feeling that, come winter, you will be seeing a lot of this ingredient pop up on the blog. Apple pie spice blends are one of my favorite tricks for reducing the amount of measuring required in a recipe.
As for the lemon juice and white vinegar, you could leave them out of the frosting. You could. I don’t recommend it, but if you prefer the mild sweetness of vanilla buttercream over the tang of cream cheese, you can cut out two ingredients more!
As for the process? It could not be simpler. Mix the wet and dry ingredients in separate bowls.
Then slowly add the dry to the wet, stirring until all of the ingredients are just combined.
I prefer to bake my cake in a 9×13′ glass cake dish and frost the top of the rectangle once the cake is cooled, but if you want to bake in two round cake tins, go for it! I, for one, am lazy. If I can get away with just frosting the top of a cake that is entirely one layer, that is 10/10 what I am going to do.
The Best Vegan Carrot Cake
- 9×13" glass baking pan
- large mixing bowl
- medium mixing bowl
- Spatula or wooden spoon
- Stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment
- 195 grams (~ 1 cup) brown sugar packed
- 130 grams (~⅔ cup) canola oil
- 200 grams (~ 1 cup) applesauce unsweetened
- 295 grams (~ 2 cups) shredded carrot
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 310 grams (~2 ½ cups) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon apple pie spice
Tangy Buttercream Frosting
- 340 grams (~3 cups) powdered sugar sifted
- 55 grams (~¼ cup) plant-based butter
- 140 grams (~¾ cup) vegetable shortening non-hydrogenated
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons nondairy milk optional, if needed
To Prepare The Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°
- Prepare the baking sheet by coating with either vegan butter or nonstick cooking spray, set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, canola oil, applesauce, shredded carrot, and vanilla. Stir until well combined.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt, and apple pie spice.
- In several smaller batches, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing each time until the dry ingredients are just combined. Do not overmix!
- When all ingredients are incorporated, pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Allow cake to cool completely before frosting.
To Prepare Frosting
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add shortening, vegan butter, and vanilla extract. Cream the butter and shortening until smooth. Slowly add the powdered sugar while beating the mixture at a low speed.
- Once fully mixed, slowly increase the speed and add the lemon juice and white vinegar, mixing until well combined.
- If the frosting feels too stiff, add non-dairy milk one tablespoon at a time, mixing thoroughly between each addition. You might not need both tablespoons.
Try having this cake with a cup of tea while sitting on the patio with your loved ones. It’s certainly my favorite way to eat it. Like Anne Shirley, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”