Every bite of this vegan carrot cake with pineapple is truly irresistible. It’s an unforgettable recipe that’s loaded with satisfying flavor; whether you make one cake or go for the double stack, you’ll be left with the feeling you can’t wait to make it again.
This plant-based recipe also contains instructions for making a classic dairy free cream cheese frosting. Spread it between layers of your cake or just on top to add a rich depth of flavor! Don’t have vegan cream cheese? No problem. See below for three options to make your own icing!
This recipe makes one single cake layer and needs to be doubled if you want a stacked cake, shown in the pictures. Toggle the serving size in the recipe card up to 24 servings to double the amount!
Skill: Intermediate | Time: 1 hr 5 min | Servings: 12
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Is Carrot Cake Vegan? Make this Recipe Plant-based
Traditional carrot cake recipes often contain eggs and dairy-based ingredients like milk or cream cheese. Since these are not vegan, you’ll need alternatives to create a decadent dessert that fits within your plant-based lifestyle. Fortunately, you can make easy substitutions that lead to a delicious result.
Eggs used within the carrot cake batter can be replaced with a “flax egg”, which is made from mixing water with ground flax seed until it gels. This binding effect will help the batter hold together and eliminate the need for eggs.
Likewise, non-vegan carrot cake icing generally contains milk and dairy cream cheese. Since these ingredients are not vegan, you’ll need to make some simple swaps. Icing can either be made with water or plant-based milks, and while there’s vegan cream cheeses that make it easy to get the right flavor, there’s certainly homemade versions you can whip up too.
If you don’t have access to vegan store-bought cream cheese or just want to make your own frosting from scratch, check the “substitutions and variations” section below for three unique options.
Ingredients to Make Vegan Carrot Cake with Pineapple and Walnuts
Before you start making vegan carrot cake, make sure you have the following on hand:
Carrot Cake Ingredients:
- Flax seed: When added to water, flax seed creates what’s known as a “flax egg” and helps bind ingredients together in vegan baking recipes.
- Brown sugar: To sweeten the cakes and add more fluffy moisture, use some brown sugar. Firmly pack your sugar into the measuring cup to make sure you get the right amount.
- Vegetable oil: Adding deliciously satisfying fats to the carrot cake, you’ll use a little bit of vegetable oil. It’s mild in flavor so you won’t taste it, but you’ll be happy it’s in there when it comes time to eat!
- Pineapple: Crushed pineapple is a star ingredient in this recipe. Before adding it to your mixing bowl, you’ll need to strain juice out of the pineapple so that all you’re using in the recipe is pineapple pulp. This controls the liquid content and helps produce the best pineapple flavor possible.
- Carrot: You couldn’t really call it carrot cake without the headliner ingredient, right?! Shredded carrot provides a mild taste and that varied texture you expect from a decadent dessert like this.
- Flour: Much of the carrot cake volume will be made up of flour. I’ve tested with both all purpose flour and whole wheat flour and couldn’t tell the difference when it came time to eat it. Now I always use whole wheat flour; may as well get in a bit of extra fiber!
- Baking powder and baking soda: Since carrot cake with pineapple tends to be dense with heavy ingredients, a combination of baking powder and baking soda helps provide lift in the batter. This creates a perfectly fluffy and soft texture.
- Cinnamon: There aren’t any added spices in this recipe aside from cinnamon, so you’ll definitely taste it. A little goes a long way in perfectly complimenting the flavors of carrot and pineapple.
- Walnuts: Looking for a little nutrition-loaded crunch to your carrot cake? Crushed walnuts are great for topping your cake and offer a great texture inside the cake as well. This is technically an optional ingredient but really goes a long way to making an irresistible cake with lots of texture contrast!
Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
- Vegan cream cheese: Could you even call it carrot cake without cream cheese frosting? Using store-bought vegan cream cheese is absolutely the most convenient option, but below I list some homemade options that are equally as tasty if you can’t find any vegan cream cheeses to use.
- Vanilla extract: While the vegan cream cheese is where most of the icing flavor comes from, vanilla extract also plays a big role. Its depth of flavor makes for an epic frosting.
- Icing sugar: Time to give your frosting some sweetness! Icing sugar (powdered sugar) combines with liquid to create a perfect icing that can go on top of your cake or between layers for added deliciousness.
- Plant-based milk: This helps mix all the ingredients together into a smooth and creamy frosting! I like to use unflavored, unsweetened soy milk because I keep it on hand, but other varieties can work in this recipe. Just try to keep a neutral flavor so that it doesn’t overpower others in your batter or icing. Depending on the brand of cream cheese you use, you may not need any milk at all; add it slowly and only if the frosting isn’t whipping into a smooth consistency or is too thick and gloopy without.
How to Make Vegan, Dairy Free Carrot Cake: Instructions and Video Tutorial
Let’s bake a vegan carrot cake overflowing with dairy free cream cheese frosting! I highly recommend you watch my quick instructional video, but if you’re ready to bake on your own then just follow the steps below.
Remember that the recipe as written only makes a single 9-inch cake. For a double layer stacked cake, double the recipe (and double the frosting).
Step 1: Mix Batter Wet Ingredients Including Pineapple
First, we’ll work all the liquid ingredients into an even consistency in a large mixing bowl. Start by making your flax egg, which requires combining water with ground flax seed and waiting 5-10 minutes for it to gel. This waiting time is the perfect opportunity to strain liquid from the crushed pineapple!
Once the flax egg is thickened, pour in vegetable oil, brown sugar (which dissolves so is technically a wet ingredient in baking), and strained, crushed pineapple.
When you’ve added all these ingredients to a mixing bowl, use a whisk to break up the pineapple and brown sugar, evenly mixing everything together.
Step 2: Add In Batter Dry Ingredients
Add whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Use a wooden spoon to mix these dry ingredients in until mostly mixed.
It’s fine if you still have a few areas with exposed dry flour because you’ll continue to mix when adding the carrots and walnuts. Focus on removing any large clumps of dry ingredients or pockets of wet ingredients; a rough, mostly mixed batter is okay at this point.
Step 3: Stir in Carrot and Walnuts
For the final carrot cake ingredients, dump in your shredded carrot and crushed/chopped walnuts. Mix well at this point to ensure everything’s incorporated into the batter and is ready for adding into baking pans.
Step 4: Bake Cakes
Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray. If making a double batch, grease 2 pans. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Scoop the cake batter into the baking pan. If you’re creating a layered carrot cake (ie. a double batch), divide the batter evenly between two baking pans. Use the back of your wooden spoon to spread the batter to the edges of the pan(s) and flatten the top of the batter so there’s nothing sticking up.
Your batter should be quite thick as you pour it into the pan(s) so it can take a little work to spread and have it form to the pan’s shape. Take your time to ensure it’s well spread out.
Add your cake(s) to the oven (preheated to 350 F) then move onto preparing dairy free frosting while it bakes.
Step 5: Prep Frosting
First, start with vegan cream cheese in a large mixing bowl. Then add icing sugar and vanilla extract. Use an electric hand mixer to blend all these ingredients together, starting on a slow speed until mostly mixed, then increase the speed to high until completely smooth and creamy.
If needed, add up to 2 tablespoon plant-based milk, only if the icing isn’t whipping into a smooth consistency or if you want a thinner frosting.
It’s usually helpful to chill the cream cheese frosting in your refrigerator prior to adding it onto the carrot cake. The colder the icing is, the easier it is to use. If you have extra time while the cake(s) bakes and cools, pop the frosting into the fridge.
Step 6: Spread Frosting onto Cake(s) and Serve
Take your vegan carrot cake(s) out of the oven and allow to cool completely before icing. If the cakes are still warm, the frosting will melt and become runny.
When you’re ready, spread the icing over your cake(s), either just to the top or also frosting the sides. If you have extra chopped walnuts around, use these to garnish the top of the cake.
You’re ready to serve! This recipe should easily provide 12 slices of cake but cut as needed and enjoy.
Dairy Free Frosting Substitutions and Variations
There are a few options for making vegan carrot cake frosting. In this recipe I make a classic dairy-free cream cheese frosting, but some people may not have access to vegan cream cheese substitutes. In this case, there are three other options to use:
- Cashew or other nut-based frosting: There are lots of recipes for how to do this, but essentially you blend cashews or other nuts/ seeds with icing sugar, vanilla and some plant-based milk. The cashews or other nuts/ seeds provide a rich and creamy base for the icing. The tangy flavour of cream cheese may be missing unless you add some acidity from lemons or vinegar (some recipes call for this, others don’t).
- Make a vegan cream cheese substitute: If not wanting to use a store-bought vegan cream cheese base or don’t have access to any, make your own first and incorporate into this recipe. It’ll likely produce a delicious flavour but take more time.
- Whipped coconut cream: Again, there are many recipes for this. I personally find this is a lighter option, more like a whipped cream. I’ve also found, in making whipped coconut cream frosting in the past, that it tends to become watery or not hold its shape/ start to run off from the cake when left to sit for too long (even in the fridge).
Whichever option you choose, I hope you enjoy the vegan carrot cake with a rich and creamy frosting!
How to Store Vegan Carrot Cake: Refrigerating and Freezing this Recipe
Especially if you choose to make a double-layered carrot cake, this recipe makes a lot of dessert. It’s quite possible that, even if you serve it to many people, there’s going to be leftovers.
If you have some servings left over, just put them into an airtight container and refrigerate for up to a week.
If you want to freeze a few pieces, it can stay frozen for up to 3 months. Just take out of the freezer and allow to thaw in the refrigerator for about a day prior to serving again.
I hope you enjoy this recipe! If you make it, please rate and comment below so others benefit from your experience.
More Intermediate Vegan Recipes
Vegan Carrot Cake with Dairy Free Frosting
- 4 ounces vegan cream cheese
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup icing sugar
- 1 teaspoon plant-based milk , or water (if needed)
- Preheat the oven to 350 °F.
- In a small bowl, mix together the 2 tablespoon ground flaxseed with the 6 tablespoon of water. Set aside for 5 minutes.
- Once the flaxseed has sat for 5 minutes, add it to a large mixing bowl along with the ¾ C packed brown sugar and ¼ C vegetable oil.
- Strain the liquid from the crushed pineapple then measure out ¼ C of the pineapple pulp. I recommend using a mesh strainer and pressing the pineapple down with a spoon to release excess liquid. Add the drained pineapple to the large bowl. Whisk these ingredients together.
- Next, add 1 C whole wheat flour, 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder, ¼ teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon cinnamon to the mixing bowl.
- Stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients. When it's mostly mixed, add the 1 ½ C grated carrot and ¼ C crushed walnuts. Stir the batter together but don’t over-stir. Mix just until there are no dry ingredients left.
- Pour into a greased 9-inch cake pan.
- Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
- Place 4 oz of vegan cream cheese into a deep bowl. Add ½ teaspoon vanilla and 1 C icing sugar. Use a hand-mixer to whip the ingredients together.
- You may find the icing is too thick depending on the brand of vegan cream cheese used. If required, add 1 teaspoon plant-based milk or water to thin it out. Be careful when adding liquid to any frosting recipe as it can become very thin with a small amount of liquid.