A healthy (ish) vegan version of a classic carrot cake topped with cashew nut icing. It’s made in traybake form with wholemeal spelt flour and less sugar than most. A healthy vegan carrot cake it may be, but it tastes just as it should. That’s to say, squidgy, spicy and altogether flavoursome.
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When I baked my first vegan cake, many years ago, I was just a tad dubious. How can a cake without butter or eggs taste like a cake and just as importantly have a cakey texture? As soon as I bit into my vegan chocolate cake though, I was completely won over. I’ve never turned my nose up at a vegan cake since.
Healthy Vegan Carrot Cake
When it comes to carrot cake, everyone has their own ideas of what it should contain. Orange, sultanas, walnuts, even coconut and pineapple are common ingredients. You can use any of these or none of them.
For me a classic carrot cake needs to incorporate orange, walnuts and sultanas. So that’s what you’ll find in my healthy vegan carrot cake recipe.
What’s less controversial though is that it contains carrots and some sort of spice. It should also be made with oil rather than butter. This makes it particularly easy to create a vegan version.
However, you don’t need to go to the bother of using egg replacers in this recipe. Carrot cakes are meant to look rustic and neatly cut slices are not required. You may get crumbs, but the cashew nut icing is soft and sticky, so you really need a fork to eat it anyway. All the best carrot cakes require a fork in my experience.
My healthy vegan carrot cake is so called as I use wholemeal spelt flour in the batter as well as less sugar than most recipes. The sugar I do use is unrefined and well, there’s also the carrot.
To flavour the cake I’ve gone with a lovely mix of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Boy oh boy, I can’t tell you just how delicious this cake is.
The actual cake mix is really easy to make. It’s pretty much a simple process of stirring the dry ingredients into the wet ones and then adding the carrot, walnuts and sultanas.
Once the cake is out of the oven and cooling, make the cashew nut icing.
When I remember, I soak my sultanas in the orange juice at the same time as soaking the cashew nuts. It makes them plump and juicy.
Cashew Nut Icing
Normally you’d top a classic carrot cake with cream cheese icing. You obviously can’t do that for a vegan carrot cake though, especially a healthy version. Luckily cashew icing makes a good substitute.
Cashew nuts are particularly good for this purpose as they contain fat and have a creamy texture when you blend them. Unlike most other nuts, they’re relatively soft to begin with and don’t have a super crunchy texture. They’re also fairly bland which means they carry other flavours well. You need to roast them to bring out their sweet nutty notes.
In addition to the cashew nuts, you need just a few simple ingredients. One of these is plant milk. I use cashew milk so as not to mix up the flavours too much, but any plant milk will do.
To sweeten the icing, I use dates. They contain soluble fibre and various antioxidants, so they’re a firm favourite with me. Medjool dates are wonderful sweeteners, but they’re also very expensive, so I tend to use Persian dates or deglet noor instead. Do check to see if your dates contain pits though and make sure you take them out before adding them to the cashew nut icing mix.
Dates give the icing a bit of a caramel flavour, colour and flecks, so if you’d rather not have these, use maple syrup instead.
For flavour and to echo the spicy notes in the cake, I add a little cinnamon. Likewise, I include orange juice, which has the additional benefit of lightening the texture.
If you really want that cheesy tang, however, omit the orange juice and add a good squeeze of lemon juice instead.
Cashew Nut Icing Preparation
The cashew nut icing is really easy to make, but you need to be prepared and you need the right equipment.
You’ll need to soak the cashew nuts in water for at least four hours before you can use them, although it’s best to soak them overnight if possible. If you miss this step, you can do a quick soak in hot water for an hour, but a longer cold water soak is best.
In order to achieve a really smooth and creamy consistency, get yourself a good food processor or blender. A power blender will give the best results. I use my Froothie Evolve* which works a treat.
Once you’ve soaked the nuts and rinsed them, it’s just a case of chucking all of the ingredients into your blender or food processor and blitzing until you get a smooth and creamy texture. I do it in bursts and scrape the mixture off the sides a couple of times.
Spread it straight over the top of the cooled cake and scatter with a few more chopped walnuts if you wish. Cut into twelve slabs. Tuck in and enjoy.
Why Soak Cashew Nuts
There are two reasons why it’s best to soak cashew nuts:
- It releases some of the phytic acid found in nuts, particularly cashew nuts. Phytic acid is an enzyme inhibitor, so it can prevent our bodies from properly digesting our food.
- The softer the nuts, the easier they’ll blend into a creamy consistency.
Other Vegan Cakes You Might Like
- Blueberry muffins
- Celebratory chocolate cake
- Chia seed muffins
- Citrus drizzle cake
- Coconut chocolate cake
- Peanut butter banana muffins
- Spicy dark chocolate cake
Keep in Touch
Thanks for visiting Tin and Thyme. If you make this healthy vegan carrot cake with or without the cashew nut icing, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. And do please rate the recipe. Have you any top tips? Do share photos on social media too and use the hashtag #tinandthyme, so I can spot them.
If you’d like more carrot recipes, follow the link and you’ll find I have quite a lot of them. All delicious, of course.
Vegan Carrot Cake. PIN IT.
Healthy Vegan Carrot Cake – The Recipe
Healthy Vegan Carrot Cake
- 125 ml plant milk (I used cashew milk)
- 75 ml oil
- 125 g unrefined sugar (I used light brown muscovado sugar)
- 1 orange – zest and half juice
- 200 g wholemeal spelt flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- ¼ tsp sea or rock salt (I used Himalayan pink salt)
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
- 125 g carrots – scrubbed, topped, tailed and grated no need to peel
- 50 walnuts – roughly chopped
- 50 g sultanas (or raisins)
- 150 g cashew nuts (soaked for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight)
- 100 ml cashew milk (or almond milk)
- 4 dates – stoned (or 1-2 tbsp maple syrup)
- pinch sea salt (I use Himalayan pink rock salt)
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- juice of ½ orange remaining from orange used in cake
- 4-6 walnut halves – chopped (optional)
- Place the cashew nuts in a bowl and cover with fresh water. Cover the bowl and leave to soak for at least four hours, but preferably overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 180℃ (350℉, Gas 4).
- In a large bowl, whisk the milk, oil and sugar together. Zest the orange and add that together with half of the juice.
- Sift in the dry ingredients and fold into the milk and sugar mixture until everything is just incorporated. It’s best to stir cake batters as little as possible as you don’t want to toughen the flour.
- Gently stir in the grated carrots, walnuts and sultanas.
- Scrape into an 20 cm (8 inch) square silicone mould or lined tin and bake in the centre of the oven for thirty minutes. It’s done when the top is firm to the touch and an inserted skewer comes out clean.
- Leave in the tin to cool for fifteen minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack lined with a tea towel. Leave to cool completely.
- Drain and rinse the cashews through a sieve.
- Place them in a blender or mini food processor along with the remaining ingredients.
- Blend until you have a smooth creamy consistency. A power blender works best for this.
- Invert the cooled cake onto a cutting board so that the top of the cake is facing upwards.
- Spread the cashew icing over the top.
- Scatter some chopped walnuts over the top if liked.
- Cut into twelve pieces.
I’m sharing this recipe for a healthy vegan carrot cake with Lavender and Lovage for #CookBlogShare.
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