Plant-Based Carrot Cake With Cashew Frosting (No Oil)

top view of 4 pieces of vegan carrot cake with cashew frosting on a grey plate next to a wooden spoon and black linen

No matter the season, we’re always up for a piece or two of this scrumptious plant-based carrot cake.

Spring, fall or winter, we don’t discriminate – in our books, this healthy vegan carrot cake is fantastic any day of the year.

It’s a traditional cake in many homes and perfect for celebrations! Who doesn’t love the combination of spices with the moist batter and buttery crushed walnuts? Ah, childhood memories.

Unfortunately, traditional carrot cake recipes aren’t for us due to the eggs, dairy products and amount of oil used. That’s why we decided to make a healthier whole food plant-based version of this delicious treat, frosting and all.

This carrot cake is the perfect combination of moist, dense and crumbly, offering a hint of caramel while still being loaded with sweet cinnamon and carrots! The creamy homemade cashew buttercream frosting adds a touch of decadence you don’t want to miss out on.

Needless to say, this plant-based carrot cake is our favorite way to eat more veggies and a great idea for getting more nutrients into the belly of any fussy eater. 

Especially when you compare our healthy vegan carrot cake recipe with many other baked goods or holiday treats, it’s amongst the most nutritious choices for sure!

You know, when following a whole food plant-based diet, it’s recommended that you add only small amounts of sugar to your otherwise healthy ingredients. And most of the time, our baking recipes are totally free from all types of refined sugar and syrup (read my little sugar rant below), but this carrot cake calls for some brown sugar to make it really indulgent and caramel-y. 

It’s a great plant-based recipe that gets people curious about vegan food because it’s just sweet enough to still be able to compete with really rich cakes!

You’ll love the combination of spices and textures, especially the crunchy walnuts and the creamy dreamy goodness that is homemade cashew frosting – no worries, just using fancy descriptions here. The recipe is still totally accessible.

If you want to make a lower calorie and more portable snack version, we recommend that you just skip the added frosting – doing this will also save you some time.

But if you’re looking to create the best vegan carrot cake that’s both wholesome and irresistible, the cashew frosting is a must.

woman in grey shirt holding a white plate in her hand and holding a square piece of plant based carrot cake with cashew frosting in her other hand

It doesn’t matter if you plan to make this crowd-pleaser for breakfast, as a snack or dessert – it can be enjoyed during so many different occasions!

Bring this plant-based carrot cake with you to brunch, a picnic, or just enjoy it snuggled up with a hot beverage.

It’s a really wholesome treat made with whole grain flour, fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds – heck, there are even some legumes in the form of soy milk. How can this not be secretly healthy?

Full Vegan Nutrition Guide + Downloads

Made with affordable pantry staples and adjustable to what you have at home, this might become your favorite healthy plant-based cake recipe!

So decadent you won’t miss the eggs, butter or extra calories that come with other carrot cake recipes, this plant-based version makes it really easy for newbies to fall in love with vegan treats.

Why This Is the Best Healthy Vegan Carrot Cake

  • The most delicious way to eat your veggies
  • Omega-3 precursor-rich thanks to the flax & walnuts
  • Undetectably plant-based and healthy
  • Kid-friendly, great for snacking and sharing
  • Full of cozy, warming and fragrant spices
  • Perfect to take with you due to the squares
  • Moist, tender and topped with a luscious cashew cream frosting
  • No oil thanks to the applesauce
  • Great for meal prep or as a grab-and-go snack

You seriously won’t taste how healthy and wholesome this delectable plant-based carrot cake is. We promise it’ll leave you nourished and feeling vibrantly satisfied.

finished plant based carrot cake cut into pieces

What’s the Healthiest Cake to Eat?

If we take a look at what major health organizations around the world say about healthy food and what constitutes a healthy diet, we can see that they want us to eat plenty of whole foods and predominantly plants.

Any cake recipe can be adjusted to this advice – swap the white flour for whole grain, replace the oil with a wholesome fat source like nuts or seeds, add fruits or veg (applesauce and carrots in our case) and try to reduce the amount of added sugar as much as possible.

By the way, here’s a PSA: sugar is sugar. No matter if we call it brown sugar, coconut sugar, white sugar, maple syrup, honey or agave – they all raise the blood sugar, are devoid of essential nutrients and one is not magically healthier than the other.

If you’re looking for a healthy sweetener, you need to go for whole fruit – it can be fresh, dried or in the form of a paste. Molasses would be the next best choice.

You can find plenty of refined sugar-free vegan baking recipes on our blog. This plant-based carrot cake is made with a moderate amount of brown sugar, which can also be replaced if desired.

What’s positively true is that no one will ever guess that this vegan dessert is completely free of oil, dairy and eggs! That’s a definite plus in our books.

Find out more about the convincing reasons to skip eggs and why oil isn’t really a health food in our extensive articles.

white table with different sized bowls containing carrots, whole wheat flour, applesauce, cashews and spices

Plant-Based Carrot Cake Ingredients

  • Whole Grain Flour: we went for wheat but you can also use spelt, oat or an all-purpose flour mix (regular or gluten-free)
  • Applesauce: perfect oil replacement in baking recipes as it adds moisture without adding heaps of calories
  • Carrots: that probably doesn’t come as a surprise – we love that this moist plant-based cake makes it so enjoyable to eat more veggies!
  • Brown Sugar: for the sweetness and touch of caramel; feel free to swap for any sweetener of choice (including whole dates!)
  • Flaxseeds: replacing eggs while adding omega-3 precursors is a win-win in our books
  • Cashews: together with a minimal amount of pantry staples, they create the best wholesome and easy dairy-free frosting!
  • Spices: we went for cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger and some vanilla extract but feel free to experiment.

Unlike many of our other plant-based baking recipes, this carrot cake isn’t gluten-free – but that doesn’t make it any less healthy or tasty!

The label “gluten-free” never equals healthy, by the way – it just means that people who cannot tolerate gluten can have that food without any problem. If you’re one of them and are looking to make this recipe with a different flour, see our substitutions below.

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woman in apron standing next to a bowl with plant-based batter and putting shredded carrots on top of it

How to Make Our Plant-Based Carrot Cake

Before we start, here’s a healthy baking tip: if you want to make a fully plant-based carrot cake that doesn’t require any oil, we highly suggest you use non-stick bakeware that you don’t have to grease. 

Alternatively, you can line your baking pan with some parchment paper to be able to lift your baked carrot cake once it has cooled a bit.

Gather your ingredients and start by making your flax egg by mixing the flaxseeds with water, then let the mixture sit for a few minutes while you grate your carrots (either by hand or using a food processor).

The next step is to mix all of the dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and all of your wet ingredients in another bowl – this is a really common way to create a nice and homogenous cake batter. 

Now, fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.

Make sure not to overmix while folding in the raisins and walnuts! Now, you can pour the carrot cake batter into your prepared pan and place it into the oven for around 35 minutes.

Once the top of your batter has turned slightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, remove your baking pan from the oven and let it cool completely.

If you want to speed up the time it takes for the cake to chill, you can move the dish into the refrigerator for half an hour while you make the cashew frosting.

12 squares of freshly baked plant based carrot cake on parchment paper next to some cashew frosting

How to Make Cashew Frosting From Scratch

Don’t worry, this isn’t a super fussy frosting recipe at all! No cooking is required, and you only need one kitchen appliance that’s rather common in most plant-based kitchens.

We like to make this luscious buttercream frosting while the cake is baking and place it in the refrigerator to chill and thicken a bit.

It’s important to soak your cashews for at least 2 hours, better overnight, to make your vegan frosting really creamy.

Should you work with a non-heavy-duty blender, you can still make this method work – but the best results will be achieved with a high-speed blender.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: the stronger your blender, the shorter your soaking time can be.

Once you’re ready to start, drain and rinse your cashews, then add them together with the soy milk, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla extract into your blender jar. 

Process until creamy and smooth, slightly adjusting the components for the perfect texture and flavor if necessary.

Guide to Plant-Based Kitchen Tools
woman in white shirt holding two squares of oil free vegan carrot cake while putting some homemade cashew frosting on top of them

How to Assemble & Store This Plant-Based Carrot Cake

Once your cake has cooled completely (make sure it really has totally cooled so you don’t mess up the result!), take your cashew frosting out of the fridge and spread it on the carrot cake, using a spatula.

We then like to decorate the cake with some crushed walnuts and a sprinkle of cinnamon before cutting it in squares (any shape will do, by the way).

If you want to go for more of a traditional cake shape, simply double the recipes for both the batter and the frosting, then bake it in two circular cake pans.

Should you have any leftovers of this scrumptious plant-based carrot cake or just want to make it in advance, you can store it on the counter for about 3 days and in the fridge for up to 5 days (it never survived longer than that in our kitchen because it was just too delicious!).

It’s also freezable for a few months – we recommend you separate the carrot cake squares into appropriate servings before freezing so you can defrost them more easily when the time comes.

woman standing by a window with a place of plant-based carrot cake pieces and taking one to eat

Tips for the Best Vegan Carrot Cake

We have a couple of great ideas for you before we move on to the recipe (you’re free to skip this part if you’re just eager to start baking now!).

Since we personally follow a whole food plant-based diet and need adjustments for most recipes we find on the internet, we also wanted to offer some more options to make this plant-based carrot cake perfect for you.

Wow, that’s a lot of possible adjustments you can make! We also recommend you try James’ gluten-free and oil-free layered carrot cake, these rich and beautiful vegan carrot cake cupcakes made with aquafaba by Liren or this raw vegan carrot cake by Nutrition Refined.  

white plate with four pieces of healthy vegan carrot cake squares topped with cashew frosting

More Healthy Vegan Baking Recipes

Eager to try some whole food plant-based oil-free baking recipes? Why not start with these fan-favorites from our blog!

We hope you enjoyed all of our tips and customization ideas for this plant-based carrot cake. Let’s get to the recipe so you can enjoy this delicious treat!

Did you make our delicious carrot cake? Feel free to let us know in the comments below and give it a rating. You can also Pin it for later and tag us on Instagram so we can share! 

top view of 4 pieces of vegan carrot cake with cashew frosting on a grey plate next to a wooden spoon and black linen

Vegan Carrot Cake with Cashew Frosting

Yield: 12 squares
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

Eat more veggies by indulging in our moist plant-based carrot cake! This easy homemade treat is oil-free, featuring whole grain flour, applesauce, flax seeds and carrots along with warming spices and only a small amount of brown sugar. The easy creamy cashew frosting makes it irresistible to young and old alike! Enjoy it for dessert, breakfast or as a snack.

Ingredients

Dry Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole grain flour (240 g)
  • ½ cup brown sugar (110 g)
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp cardamom
  • ½ tsp ground ginger

Wet Ingredients

  • 1 cup applesauce, unsweetened (240 ml)
  • 2 cups carrots, shredded (220 g)
  • ¾ cup soy milk (180 ml)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp flaxseed meal
  • 6 tbsp water

Optional add-ons

  • ½ cup raisins
  • ⅓ cup walnuts, chopped

Frosting

  • 1 cup cashews, soaked for 2 hours (130 g)
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • ¼ cup soy milk (60 ml)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp vanilla

Instructions

Make the Carrot Cake Batter

  1. Let’s start by making the flax egg. Whisk together the flax seeds and water, then let it sit for about 5 minutes until it gets a thick consistency. 
  2. Preheat oven to 350° F (180° C) and prepare your 9x13 inch non-stick baking pan.
  3. Peel and shred your carrots in a food processor or using a grater. 
  4. Now, place all of the dry ingredients into a medium-sized bowl and mix them with a spoon. 
  5. In another bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients until well combined (adding the flax egg as well), then fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients without overmixing the batter. 
  6. Finally, fold in the raisins and walnuts.
  7. Pour the batter into your pan, evening the top with the back of a spatula.
  8. Bake for around 35 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted into the center and come out clean, then remove from the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes before transferring the cake to a cooling rack. 
  9. Let the cake cool completely on the counter or put it in the refrigerator to finish cooling faster.


Make the Cashew Frosting

  1. Drain and rinse your soaked cashews, then place them into a high-speed blender together with the sugar, soy milk, lemon juice, cinnamon and vanilla extract.
  2. A good rule of thumb: the better your blender, the shorter the cashew soaking time!
  3. Blend everything until smooth, adding more soy milk if needed. The end result should be thick like cream cheese. 
  4. If you have some time left until your carrot cake is cool enough to be assembled, place the cashew frosting into the fridge.

Assemble the Plant-Based Carrot Cake

  1. Once the carrot cake has cooled, remove from the fridge and start spreading the cashew buttercream frosting on top.
  2. Top with chopped nuts and cinnamon for decoration if you like, then cut the cake into squares and enjoy!

Notes

  • You can replace the brown sugar with any vegan sweetener. Make it completely whole food plant-based by using blended dates or date paste instead of the sugar and cut down on the applesauce and soy milk.
  • Shorten the soaking time for the cashews by placing them in hot water for 10-20 minutes, depending on the power of your blender.
  • You can store your plant-based carrot cake in the fridge for 5-6 days or on the counter for 3 days. If you want to freeze it, make sure to do so in single servings and let it thaw in the fridge or on the counter before eating. It keeps well in the freezer for several months.
  • Instead of walnuts, you can also use pecans or skip nuts altogether in favor of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or shredded coconut.
  • For more customization ideas, read the tips in our article above!

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 253Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 322mgCarbohydrates: 41gFiber: 3gSugar: 17gProtein: 6g

Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated automatically, their accuracy is not guaranteed. Just focus on whole plant-based foods and eat until satiety!

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

Alena enjoying a bowl of fresh plant-based food and coffe in a restaurant
Alena Schowalter is a Certified Vegan Nutritionist (CPD) who has been a vegetarian since childhood and vegan since 2012. Together with her husband, she founded nutriciously in 2015 and has been guiding thousands of people through different transition stages towards a healthy plant-based diet. She’s received training in the fields of nutrition, music therapy and social work. Alena enjoys discussions around vegan ethics, walks through nature and creating new recipes.
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16 thoughts on “Plant-Based Carrot Cake With Cashew Frosting (No Oil)”

    • Hi Kathy,
      thanks for asking. I have only ever used soy milk (because that’s the one we always have at home) but assume that nut milks work here, too. Maybe you’ll need a little less of it, though, should they be lower in fat and not as creamy.
      Hope this helps! Thanks for the lovely comment :)
      Best wishes,
      Alena

      Reply
  1. Thank you for your sharing. Thanks to this article I can learn more things. Expand your knowledge and abilities. Actually the article is very practical. Thank you!

    Reply
  2. Thank you so much for this recipe! It’s been a long time I have been looking for one, with no oil, that would taste so good!
    It is now my favorite! Will share it!
    Nata

    Reply
    • Oh Nata, so happy to hear that!
      Yes, oil-free plant-based recipes are still hard to find online so we’ve made it our mission to create them ;) I’m beyond thrilled to know you liked the carrot cake very much. Just need to find something that replaces the moisture and chewiness that the oil would add.
      Let us know if you’re looking for another oil-free recipe for something specific.
      Best wishes,
      Alena

      Reply
  3. Alena, its Nata again :)
    This weekend I want to try using your carrot cake recipe, transforming it into the banana/chocolate cake. Have you tried making oil free chocolate cake? Let me know if you have any important tips! Thank you so much again for this recipe, I have made it several times already! I also mill spelt into flour just before making the cake. Last time I tried buckwheat instead, it was good, but more dry, turned out to be a sweet bread, which was also quite delicious!
    Greetings from here,
    Nata

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for checking back in and letting me know about your experiences! We don’t make cake very often and I don’t remember making chocolate cake in a long time… but it’s a wonderful idea, thanks a lot. I’ll put it on my list :)
      So happy to know that you made this carrot cake a couple of times already! Yay for health(ish) treats.
      Warm wishes,
      Alena

      Reply
  4. Hi,
    This sounds like a great recipe, I’m so glad to find it, I’ve been looking for a healthy carrot cake recipe! I’d just like to substitute chick-pea flour instead, I just hope the cake doesn’t become completely crumbly and fall apart!

    Reply
    • Hey Lyra,
      thanks so much for the wonderful feedback! I haven’t tried making them with chickpea flour and am very interested in how they turn out – so please feel free to share. One thing I know is that you cannot substitute glutenous flour like wheat flour 1 : 1 with let’s say chickpea flour. You need something to make it sticky, too.
      Hope this helps!
      Best wishes,
      Alena

      Reply
  5. Hi!
    I made it today and substituted mashed banana for apple sauce. It works well!
    I’m searching none oil and low sugar carrot cake recipe, so I’m so happy that I found this recipe. Thank you from Japan!

    Reply
  6. My original recipe is very close with the subs. But also calls for a can of crushed pineapple. Can I get away with that in this recipe or should I cut out a wet ingredient?

    Reply

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