My ultimate dairy free carrot cake and cream cheese frosting is the perfect dessert. Filled with warm spices and topped with decadent cream cheese icing, you will be reaching for another slice and wondering if this is in fact the BEST carrot cake you’ve ever eaten. (Updated Oct 24, 2022 to include US Cup measurements)
Why I Made This Recipe
Carrot cake is one of those bakes that you just can’t be without. Whether you prefer them as a layered cake or a deep sponge, like this recipe, the combination of spices, fruit and carrots make for a very moist and satisfying cake that is so delicious. In fact, my kids are not normally a fan of veggies in baked goods but they will gobble up a slice of this cake in no time. The plant based cream cheese frosting finishes the cake off perfectly and is so versatile that it can be used with a variety of baked goods, such as red velvet cupcakes and donuts.
Why You Need to Make This
This recipe is a classic, easy to make, and is also easily adaptable to suit many dietary requirements. Using simple every day ingredients, you house will smell so good while it bakes and the taste is even better! Can’t wait? Jump straight to the recipe.
Whether you are baking for Easter, a Spring event, or Fall, this cake is a showstopper and a crowd-pleaser. The flavours even continue to develop over time, that’s assuming you can resist eating it as soon as it’s baked.
Ingredients and Substitutions
To ensure this carrot cake recipe is dairy free, I am using plant based butter. Not dairy free or have other dietary requirements? Check out my comprehensive substitution guide below and read my FAQ section for more suggestions. US Cup measurements are now included in the recipe card.
Flour: due to the denseness of this case, we need flour that will also help it rise. Self raising flour works perfectly as it includes baking powder and salt. For gluten free options, I also have a handy GF self raising flour hack. (can be made with wheat flour as well). Prefer a visual? Check out this handy video to learn how to make your own self raising flour: how to make self raising flour.
Baking Powder: this is a deep cake and as such, we need to add extra baking powder to help it rise.
Spices: cinnamon and nutmeg provide that warm spiciness to our cake. You can swap out the spices depending on your taste preferences.
Sugar: for that rich caramelly colour and flavour, I recommend using brown sugar in this cake. Demerara, golden (yellow) or light brown sugar will also work equally as well.
Eggs: eggs are the main binding agent for this cake and also provide structure, richness and moisture. I usually use large eggs in my baking, which are equivalent to approximately 50g once removed from their shell. You can also use medium eggs in this recipe. I have not tried this recipe with an egg replacement but it should easily work well with 3 flax eggs, 2 ripened bananas or 150 grams of unsweetened apple sauce (my go-to ratio is 50 grams of apple sauce per egg). I recommend adding an extra half teaspoon of baking powder if you are using one of these vegan egg replacements to help with the stability of the cake.
Carrots: grated carrots are an essential component of this cake. When prepping the ingredients for this cake, grating the carrots definitely takes the longest time if you are grating them by hand. I recommend using a food processor with a grating attachment if you have one. I used two large carrots, which gave me roughly 250 grams of shredded carrots. (Carrots are huge here in Canada!)
Butter: I am using unsalted plant based melted butter to add fat to the cake. You can substitute with a light oil such as canola if you prefer or regular unsalted butter if you’re not dairy free or vegan.
Orange Zest: for an extra pop of flavour, I like to add orange zest to my carrot cakes. You could use lemon zest instead if you prefer.
Frosting Ingredients and Substitutions
My tangy cream cheese frosting is vegan as we are using vegan cream cheese and plant based butter. You can easily swap out the ingredients if you are not vegan to use dairy based alternatives.
Icing Sugar: I use pre-sifted icing sugar. If yours is not pre-sifted, I highly recommend sifting it before making this frosting to ensure that there are no lumps.
Cream Cheese: I am using a coconut-based cream cheese, which is the perfect dairy alternative. While it is made with coconut, that does not overpower the taste of the icing. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it actually compliments the flavour of the cake wonderfully. Sub with your preferred cream cheese if you are not vegan.
Butter: I am using room temperature unsalted plant based butter. If you want to cut down on the sweetness of the icing, you could either add a pinch of salt or use salted butter instead. I do not recommend using tub butter as it can have a tendency to be too oily for frostings. Sub with dairy butter if you are not vegan.
Flavouring: I like to add a dash of vanilla bean paste to enhance the flavour of the cream cheese frosting. Feel free to omit if you do not want to include it.
How to make Ultimate Dairy Free Carrot Cake
Before starting baking, I always recommend that you preheat your oven and gather your equipment and ingredients so that you’re not scrambling around trying to find things while mixing your cake batter. Eggs should be at room temperature and your oven should be preheated to 330°F.
Grease the sides and bottom of an 8 inch round deep cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper.
Add 225g self-raising flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1.5 tsp cinnamon and 0.5 tsp nutmeg to a mixing bowl and stir together.
Add 225g brown sugar and the zest from one orange to the mixing bowl. Mix together to combine.
Don’t worry if there are lumps in your sugar at this point. They will dissolve while the cake is baking.
Make a well in the middle of the mixing bowl and add 3 eggs, and 250g grated carrots.
And pour in 150g melted butter.
Mix until fully combined. The mixture will be thick, with a deep golden colour and smell amazing.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake pan. Tap on the counter a few times to level the cake batter.
Bake at 330°F for 60 minutes. The cake should be well risen, golden and firm in the middle. Check with a cake tester or toothpick. The cake may need a few extra minutes depending on your oven.
Remove the cake pan from the oven and allow it to cool on a cooling rack. If you want to ice to cake on the same day, remove it from the pan after 20 minutes and allow it to cool completely before icing it.
I decided to bake this cake in a deep pan but you could easily split it between 2 8-inch layer pans and adjust the baking time to around 30 minutes. Fill with lashings of cream cheese frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting?
Yes, please. Ok, so I’ll admit that I’ve never been a huge fan of cream cheese frosting but this recipe is just divine. And I AM HOOKED! I also love that plant based cream cheese is so much easier to find these days and can be used in so many ways for allergy friendly baking.
My cream cheese frosting recipe is easy to make and compliments the carrot cake perfectly with just the right amount of tang. This is a spreadable cream cheese icing that glides onto the cake like a dream. If you want to pipe it on cupcakes or add fancy swirls to your carrot cake, add an extra 50 grams of icing sugar and pop the frosting in the fridge for 20 minutes for it to firm up and hold its shape.
How to make Cream Cheese Frosting
Before making your cream cheese, ensure that your icing sugar is lump free and that your cream cheese and butter are at room temperature. I am using a whole tub of coconut based cream cheese (227 grams). If your tub of cream cheese is a different size, adjust the recipe accordingly. Add the cream cheese and 50g plant based butter to a mixing bowl.
Add half of the icing sugar and the vanilla bean paste.
Mix with a hand mixer until smooth.
Add the remaining icing sugar and mix until smooth.
The cream cheese icing will be slightly runny and easily spreadable. Don’t worry as we want it to be thin enough to spread on the cake. If you want to thicken it up more, add extra icing sugar. It will also firm up once refrigerated.
Spread the cream cheese icing on the cake then decorate with extra orange zest, nuts or shredded coconut.
Oh my! Would you just look at how divine this cake looks. From the soft crumb to the little specks of orange zest and carrot dotted throughout this. I told you this one is the ultimate recipe!
Absolutely. Simply replace the 3 eggs with 3 flax eggs, 150g of apple sauce or 2 ripened bananas. I recommend adding an extra half teaspoon of baking powder if you are using one of these vegan egg replacements to help with the stability of the cake.
To make this cake gluten free, check out my handy GF self raising flour hack. (the flour can be made with wheat flour as well if you are not GF).
This cake will freeze well and I highly recommend cutting it into slices, wrapping each slice in plastic wrap then freezing the slices in a freezer safe container for up to 3 months. Allow to defrost at room temperature before unwrapping.
Carrot Cake Options
My ultimate dairy free carrot cake recipe is so versatile and can be easily adapted to your taste preferences. Feel free to add nuts and coconut to this cake. Shredded coconut is a perfect addition, as are toasted walnuts, especially if you turn this into a layer cake and add these items to the frosting in between the layers. So good!
Want to make a layer cake instead of a deep cake? No problem. Just evenly distribute the cake batter between 2 8-inch cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes. You could even use this recipe to make gorgeous carrot cake muffins. Bake for 18-20 minutes.
As this cake is topped with cream cheese frosting, I highly recommend storing it in the fridge. I usually cover the cake loosely with plastic wrap (cling film). This cake will last for up to a week in the fridge. Slice while cold then allow it to come to room temperature before eating. Look how inviting that freshly cut slice looks. Amazing!
If you love cream cheese, check out my red velvet donuts recipe. This frosting is perfect to spread on top of donuts and compliments the red velvet flavour really well.
If you’ve enjoyed reading the recipe for my ultimate dairy free carrot cake and feel inspired to try it, let me know in the comments below.
Ultimate Dairy Free Carrot Cake
For the Carrot Cake:
- 225 grams Self Raising Flour (2 US Cups)
- 1 tsp Baking Powder
- 1.5 tsp Ground Cinnamon
- 0.5 tsp Nutmeg
- 225 grams Brown Sugar (1 US Cup plus 1 tbsp)
- Orange Zest
- 3 Eggs (large – see note)
- 250 grams Grated Carrots (2 large carrots)
- 150 grams Plant Based Butter (unsalted) melted (Use 1 & 1/3 sticks)
- Extra butter for greasing
For the Cream Cheese Icing:
- 227 grams Plant Based Cream Cheese (1 US Cup)
- 400 grams Icing Sugar (3 & 1/3 US Cups)
- 50 grams Plant Based Butter (unsalted) (3.5 tbsp)
- 1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
- Extra orange zest for topping
- Preheat your oven to 330°F and gather your equipment and ingredients. Eggs should be at room temperature.
- Grease the sides and bottom of an 8 inch round deep cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper.
Making the Carrot Cake:
- Add 225g self-raising flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1.5 tsp cinnamon and 0.5 tsp nutmeg to a mixing bowl and stir together.
- Add 225g brown sugar and the zest from one orange to the mixing bowl. Mix together to combine.
- Make a well in the middle of the mixing bowl and add 3 eggs, 150g melted butter and 250g grated carrots. Mix until fully combined. The mixture will be thick.
- Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake pan. Tap on the counter a few times to level the cake batter.
- Bake at 330°F for 60 minutes. The cake should be well risen, golden and firm in the middle. Check with a cake tester or toothpick. The cake may need a few extra minutes depending on your oven.
- Remove the cake pan from the oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack. If you want to ice to cake on the same day, remove it from the pan after 20 minutes and allow to cool completely before icing it.
Making the Cream Cheese Icing:
- Add the cream cheese, half of the icing sugar, vanilla bean paste and 50g plant based butter to a mixing bowl. Mix to combine.
- Add the remaining icing sugar and mix until smooth. The cream cheese icing will be slightly runny. Don't worry as we want it to be thin enough to spread on the cake. If you want to thicken it up more, add extra icing sugar.
- Spread the cream cheese icing on the cake then decorate with extra orange zest, nuts or shredded coconut.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
- I am using a deep cake pan for this cake. You can split the recipe between 2 shallow 8-inch pans. Reduce the baking time to 25-30 minutes.
- I use large eggs in my baking, which are equivalent to approximately 50g once removed from their shell. You can also use a medium egg in this recipe. Want to make this vegan? Simply replace the eggs with 3 flax eggs, 2 ripened bananas, or 150g apple sauce.
- To make this cake gluten free, check out my handy GF self raising flour hack. (the flour can be made with wheat flour as well if you are not GF).
- This cake makes 8 generous slices but you can easily get up to 20 servings if you cut the cake up into much small pieces. Prefer muffins? Bake for 18-20 minutes.
- Store leftover cake in the fridge for 4-5 days. I usually cover mine with plastic wrap or foil. The icing will crust over when refrigerated. To serve after it has been in the fridge, slice the cake while cold then bring back to room temperature before serving. For freezing instructions check out my FAQ section.
- Additional icing should be stored in the fridge in an airtight container. This icing recipe makes 500g of cream cheese icing.