Scrumptious yet easy vegan carrot cake cupcakes with lots of beautiful spices, walnut pieces and the dreamiest dairy-free cream cheese frosting. Just like your corner bakery!
The cupcake portion can be made refined sugar-free and gluten-free. If you're a frosting-less kind of person, make my vegan carrot muffins instead!
These delightful treats are just like your traditional carrot cake but in cupcake form! They are moist, tender and are so nostalgic.
Perfect as a vegan Easter dessert in April, easy Spring recipe or for any celebrations throughout the year. This is my favorite carrot cake recipe and I bet they'll become yours too!
Ingredients to make vegan carrot cupcakes
These cupcakes use only everyday pantry staples which you probably already have! You'll need:
Notes about the ingredients
All-purpose plain flour, which can be substituted with whole wheat or spelt flour for healthier vegan carrot cake cupcakes. You can also make these cupcakes gluten-free. Check out the notes of the recipe card below.
Brown or coconut sugar (instead of regular cane sugar) for depth of flavor.
Dairy-free milk. I'd recommend using a full-bodied milk such as soy milk, oat milk or almond milk.
Grated carrot (coarse or fine). For ease, I used a food processor to grate my carrots but a hand-held grater will work too!
Any light-tasting vegetable oil such as sunflower, rapeseed or even some olive oils. You may use melted coconut oil but coconut oil tends to solidify when it's cold which might make the cupcakes feel dry.
Optional add-ins include chopped walnuts and raisins
Even though these are eggless carrot cake muffins, we don't need any egg replacers such as flax eggs!
A complete list of ingredients, quantities and instructions are in the gray recipe card at the bottom of this post.
How to make vegan carrot cake cupcakes
The carrot cake cupcakes come together in just ONE BOWL! You don't have to whip any aquafaba or mix separate ingredients in different bowls.
So, simply add all the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl and mix. Add the wet ingredients then mix again!
The batter should be quite thick and shaggy (like image 4 below). When we bake the cupcakes, the carrots will leak their natural juices so a thick batter is perfect!
When you spoon your batter into your cupcake liners, I'd recommend using an ice cream scoop. This allows you to get evenly sized cupcakes and it's SO much easier and less messy than using spoons!
The batter fills each cupcake mold about ¾ of the way. This is just enough for you to have decent-sized cupcakes but not enough for the cupcakes to overflow.
How to make vegan cream cheese frosting
First, it's important to use room temperature cream cheese and vegan block butter! Mixing cold ingredients makes it difficult to create a smooth lump-free frosting.
To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and vegan butter. The aim is to remove any lumps!
Then add your powdered sugar and mix through. I'd recommend using a spatula or electric hand beaters rather than a stand mixer. It's important to not over mix cream cheese frosting as it can make it too runny or it will split!
Tips for making a stable dairy-free cream cheese frosting
Cream cheese frosting is notoriously soft. However, I have a few tricks to make cream cheese frosting firmer and a pipeable consistency that won't just melt within 5 minutes:
- Make sure you use a vegan block butter that is firm when chilled. Vegan spreadable margarine is too soft for cream cheese frosting.
- Add 3 tablespoons of melted vegetable shortening or refined coconut oil. I'd recommend adding this with the butter and cream cheese and then whipping the mixture before adding the sugar.
- Use 4 cups of powdered sugar in the frosting.
- Add 2-3 tablespoons of corn starch (corn flour) to the frosting. This absorbs any additional liquid (from the cream cheese and butter) and makes it more firm.
For more tips, check out Sally's Baking Addiction post for (non-vegan) cream cheese frosting.
Other ways to decorate carrot cake cupcakes
Dare I say, I actually LOVE these vegan carrot cupcakes without frosting.
Alternatively, skip the frosting and sprinkle the unbaked batter with walnuts to make vegan carrot cake muffins!
Expert tips and customizing these cupcakes
I'd recommend substituting plain flour for whole wheat flour or spelt flour. This will make heavier muffin-like cupcakes but they'll still be delicious!
Regarding the sweetener, my top recommendation is coconut sugar. I do not recommend using liquid sweeteners such as maple syrup as this will weigh down the cake
I haven't tried substituting the oil with applesauce or something similar, though it may work.
Yes, I'd recommend substituting the all-purpose plain flour with 50% gluten-free all-purpose and 50% almond flour by weight (check out the notes of the recipe card for the exact quantities).
Alternatively, you can use a high-quality gluten-free flour such as Bob Red Mill's 1:1 flour.
Try substituting the dairy-free milk for orange juice to make orange carrot muffins or cupcakes!
More easy vegan cupcake and muffin recipes
Vegan Carrot Cake Cupcakes
- 2 ⅓ cups (290g) all-purpose plain flour, (note 1 for alternatives)
- 1 cup (190g) light or dark brown sugar, or coconut sugar
- ½ cup (60g) walnuts, chopped roughly (optional, note 2 for raisins)
- 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- Pinch of any good-quality salt, optional
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line a cupcake pan with liners.
To make the cupcakes:
- Add all the dry ingredients to a large bowl and mix until combined or until there are no more big lumps except the walnuts. Add all the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
- Divide the batter amongst your cupcake tray.
- Bake the cupcakes in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer can be inserted into one and it comes out clean. The cupcakes will still be moist from the carrot.
- Cool the cupcakes in the tray for 5 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack. If you can't help yourself and eat the cupcakes at this point (no judgement), they will be very moist. However, when they cool, they will be perfect!
To make the frosting:
- Add the cream cheese and butter to a bowl. Cream or mix with a spoon until there are no lumps and the mixture is just combined. Add the sugar and mix until just combined. If you overmix the frosting, it will become loose and may not hold up. Add more powdered sugar for a firmer frosting (note 4).
- When the cupcakes have completely cooled, use a piping bag, knife or spoon to top the cupcakes with the cream cheese frosting. Sprinkle with the remaining chopped walnuts.
- Serve immediately. Leftover frosting cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Allow them to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.
- For healthy vegan carrot cake cupcakes, use whole wheat flour or spelt flour. To make vegan GLUTEN FREE cupcakes, substitute the flour with 1 cup (160g) gluten free flour blend and 1 ¼ cups (125g) almond flour OR a high quality 1:1 gluten free flour. All brands of flours work differently so you may need to make minor adjustments to the amount of plant-based milk.
- If you'd like to add raisins instead, I'd recommend adding ¼ - ½ cup to taste. If you'd like to add raisins in addition to the walnuts, I'd recommend adding only ¼ cup.
- This can be substituted with buttercream, coconut whipped cream or omitted to make healthy vegan carrot muffins.
- More powdered sugar will create a firmer frosting whereas less sugar will create a softer frosting. If your frosting is a little too soft for piping, I'd recommend chilling it until it's a little firmer. Also, see the post above for extra tips on creating a firmer frosting.
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