Layer Cakes

Vegan Carrot Cake with Cashew “Cream Cheese” Frosting

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Have you ever wanted to make an easy one bowl three layer carrot cake with cashew “cream cheese” frosting? If so, you’re in the right place! I have made this recipe numerous times over many years and it turns out so perfect each time. Humble brag – this vegan carrot cake won second place at a baking competition where it was competing against non-vegan desserts!

I love to flavour the frosting with some grated lemon zest. If you are not a lemon person, leave out the zest to highlight the vanilla extract and it tastes just as delicious. The zest really elevates the flavour profile, giving it more of a festive feel. To reflect the zestiness in the frosting, I like to decorate the top with candied lemon slices. They are so easy to make, delicious, and give the cake such a beautiful rustic feel. Add some toasted pecan halves for some extra crunch and there you go! You have the most perfect, delicious vegan carrot cake.

This recipe makes a triple layered 6″ or 7″ (depending on the size of the cake pans you have) naked vegan carrot cake.

The Cashew “Cream Cheese” Frosting

  1. I like to start off the recipe with the frosting as it needs some time to thicken up in the fridge before frosting the cake. You can even make the frosting the day before, giving it lots of time to thicken up.
  1. Begin by soaking the cashews for 30 minutes by pouring over enough boiling water to cover in a bowl. Drain and rinse the cashews with cold water.
  1. Blend the frosting by adding the soaked cashews and the rest of the frosting ingredients (milk, coconut oil, lemon zest and juice, salt, and granulated sugar) into a high-speed blender. Pulse a few times to start incorporating the ingredients together and then blend until very smooth. This may take a while, depending on your blender. It takes me about 5 minutes of consistent blending.
  1. Don’t forget to taste the frosting as you go! If you like a more tangy frosting, add some more lemon juice. For more sweetness, add some more sugar.
  1. Scrape out the contents into a bowl and chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight. If you’re in a hurry, chill in the freezer for about 1 hour. This is important as the oils in the frosting will become cold and help the frosting thicken considerably. The cashews will also continue to soak up the liquids in the frosting. Make sure the frosting is very cold before frosting the cake.
The finished cashew "cream cheese" frosting

The Cake Layers

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F)
  1. Grease three 6” or 7” cake pans with vegetable oil. Cut out circles from parchment paper to fit in the bottom of the pans. I did this by folding a piece of parchment paper into a long triangle and cutting it to fit the radius of the pan. Unfold, and you have a circle that fits perfectly into the bottom of the pan!
  1. Make a buttermilk by mixing together the milk and vinegar. Let sit while you continue to work on the batter.
  1. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl: flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cane sugar, and salt. Mix well to combine. Make a large well in the middle of the dry ingredients.
Mixing the dry ingredients fro the vegan carrot cake
  1. Into the well, add the milk and vinegar mixture, applesauce, oil, and vanilla. With a wooden spoon or spatula, start mixing together all of the liquid ingredients, then slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet and mix it all together. Mix just until the batter is almost all smooth, with some lumps remaining. Add the shredded carrots and mix just until they are incorporated. Be careful to not over mix the batter.
  1. Divide the batter evenly among the cake pans (I only had pie tins on hand so I used those). Smooth the tops and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Keep a close eye on the layers after 20 minutes. When a toothpick comes out clean, the cakes are ready.
Dividing the batter into cake tins
  1. Let the cakes cool in their pans completely. Flip the pans over a wire rack to release the layers. Trim the edges of the layers evenly if needed.
The baked carrot cake layers

Assembling the Vegan Carrot Cake

  1. Place the first cake layer on the serving plate and spread one third of the frosting onto the layer. Make sure the frosting is spread evenly to the edges. Place the second layer on top. Spread a third of the frosting evenly onto the second layer. Place the third layer bottom side up on top of the previous layer and spread the last of the frosting on top.
  1. Decorate with candied lemon slices, toasted pecans, or any other way you prefer!
Decorating the vegan carrot cake
  1. Slice and serve! This cake is best served fresh but it will keep well in the fridge for a day or two. The longer the cake sits in the fridge, the more the frosting disappears as it soaks into the cake.
Vegan carrot cake with cashew "cream cheese" frosting

Vegan Carrot Cake

This triple layer vegan carrot cake with tangy cashew "cream cheese frosting" is a dream come true! The cake layers are a one bowl recipe and turn out perfectly moist and lightly spiced every time. Not to mention that the frosting is delicious and oh so easy to make – just throw everything into a blender! To make things even easier, make the frosting the night before so that it has plenty of time to thicken before frosting your cake. This makes one 6" or 7" triple layered naked cake.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Assembly Time 5 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Baking, Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 8 people

Equipment

  • high speed blender or food processor
  • three 6" or 7" round pans

Ingredients
  

Cake

  • 2 ¼ cup flour all-purpose
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¾ cup cane sugar or sugar of choice
  • 1 cup vegan milk of choice I use oat milk
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • ½ cup vegetable oil or other light tasting oil I use grapeseed oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups grated carrots

Frosting

  • 2 cups raw cashews soaked, drained, and rinsed
  • ¾ cup vegan milk of choice I use oat milk
  • 5 tbsp virgin coconut oil
  • finely grated zest of one lemon (optional)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice add less or more to taste
  • ½ tsp salt
  • cup cane sugar or sugar of choice

Assembly

  • candied lemon slices (optional)
  • ½ cup toasted pecan halves

Instructions
 

Frosting

  • Soak the cashews in a bowl for 30 minutes by pouring over enough boiling water to cover the cashews. Drain and rinse the cashews with cold water.
  • Blend the frosting: Add soaked cashews and the rest of the frosting ingredients (milk, coconut oil, lemon zest and juice, salt, and granulated sugar) into a high-speed blender. Pulse a few times to start incorporating the ingredients together and then blend until very smooth. This may take a while, depending on your blender. It takes me about 5 minutes of blending.
  • Taste: Don't forget to taste the frosting as you go! If you like a more tangy frosting, add some more lemon juice. For more sweetness, add some more sugar.
  • Chill: Scrape out the contents into a bowl and chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight. If you’re in a hurry, chill in the freezer for about 1 hour. This is important as the oils in the frosting will become cold and help the frosting firm up. The frosting will thicken considerably. Make sure that the frosting is thick before you start frosting the cake.

Cake Layers

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F)
  • Grease three 6” or 7” cake pans with vegetable oil. I used pie tins because they were the only round pans I had on hand. Cut out circles from parchment paper to fit in the bottom of the pans. I did this by folding a piece of parchment paper into a long triangle and cutting it to fit the radius of the pan. Unfold, and you have a perfect fit for the bottom of the pan!
  • Make a buttermilk by mixing together the milk and vinegar. Let sit for five minutes.
  • Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl (flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cane sugar, and salt). Make a large well in the middle of the dry ingredients.
  • Make the batter: Into the well, add the milk and vinegar mixture, applesauce, oil, and vanilla. Start mixing together all of the liquid ingredients, then slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet and mix it all together. Mix just until the batter is almost all smooth, with some lumps remaining. Add the shredded carrots and mix just until everything is incorporated. Do not overmix.
  • Divide the batter evenly among the cake pans. Smooth the tops and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. When a toothpick comes out clean, the cakes are ready.
  • Cool: let the cakes cool in their pans completely before frosting. Once cool, flip the pans onto a wire rack until assembly. Trim the edges evenly if needed.

Assembly

  • Stack the cake: place the first cake layer on the serving plate and spread one third of the frosting onto the layer. Make sure the frosting is spread evenly to the edges. Place the second layer on top. Spread a third of the frosting evenly onto the second layer. Place the third layer bottom side up on top and spread the last of the frosting on top.
  • Decorate with candied lemon slices (recipe linked in notes), toasted pecans, or any other way you prefer!
  • Slice and serve! This cake is best served fresh but it will keep well in the fridge for a day or two.

Notes

  • This cake is best eaten fresh, but it keeps well in the fridge for a day or two and becomes more moist the longer it sits. The longer the cake sits in the fridge, the more the frosting disappears as it soaks into the cake.
  • The key to a super smooth frosting is to be patient with your blender! Use the pulse setting and don’t be afraid to stop the blender and push the frosting down with a rubber spatula.
  • Adjust the tang and sweetness of your frosting according to your own personal preference. You’re the boss here!
  • Find the recipe for candied lemon slices here.
Keyword Cake, carrot cake, dairy free, vegan

4 Comments

  • Yulia

    5 stars
    Looooove this recipe, especially the frosting. I put a splash of maple syrup instead of the sugar and roasted cashews instead of raw. Tasted like it came from a professional bakery; I could not believe I achieved the same taste at home.

    • Mary

      I am so glad you enjoyed it! The frosting is my favourite part too. It’s surprisingly easy to make! I am going to have to try it with roasted cashews, that sounds too delicious! I also love adding maple syrup when I have it on hand.

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