No cream cheese at home? Can't find a vegan alternative? This vegan carrot cake icing without cream cheese is such a great alternative! It's slightly tangy, super creamy and pairs really well with your favorite carrot cake recipe.
Let's talk about carrot cake
Carrot cakes are super moist and full of warming spices. They are commonly made from freshly grated carrots, brown sugar and all-purpose flour (among other things). Once baked, you frost it with some cream cheese icing or a simple powdered sugar glaze.
And yes, a carrot cake without cream cheese frosting simply isn't the same. But who never ran out of an ingredient? That's why we created this simple cashew-based carrot cake icing without cream cheese!
Why this icing is different
- Although this icing is made without cream cheese, it has a very similar texture once chilled.
- It's a really easy recipe that comes together in a blender (no electric mixer or stand mixer needed).
- This icing is made with less sugar and is an overall healthier version of your favorite cream cheese frosting recipe.
Cashews replace the full-fat cream cheese of a traditional cream cheese frosting. Once soaked in water and blended they get really creamy and make a great base for a carrot cake icing without cream cheese.
Plant-based milk is needed to blend the cashews into a cream. You can replace it with water if needed.
Lemon juice to remind of the tanginess of cream cheese. The key is to add just enough but not taste the lemon.
Cocoa butter helps thicken the frosting as it solidifies when it cools down. It provides a light white chocolate flavor that pairs extremely well with carrot cakes. If you can't find cocoa butter you can substitute it with coconut oil. We recommend "unflavored"/refined coconut oil to prevent the icing from tasting like coconut.
Vanilla extract is a key ingredient in cream cheese frosting and could not be missing in this recipe.
Icing sugar is used in this recipe to lightly sweeten the frosting. You can replace it with maple syrup if desired. If you prefer more heavily sweetened frosting, feel free to add more sugar.
Use a high-speed blender to get a perfectly smooth vegan frosting. If using a food processor, you might need to double the ingredients.
For baked carrot cakes: make the frosting before making the cake as it needs to chill for 2-3h to become spreadable. Once the cake has completely cooled down, the frosting should almost be at the perfect consistency.
For no-bake carrot cakes: pour the cashew cream right on top of the cake batter. Make sure the cake pan is lined with parchment paper up to the top. This will allow you to easily remove the cake from the pan once it is set.
Step-by-step with pictures
Soak the cashews in warm water for 2 hours. When the time is up, drain the cashews Add them to your high-speed blender with the plant-based milk and the other ingredients.
Blend until perfectly smooth. Start blending on low-medium speed and slowly increase to high speed. Blend for several minutes until there are no bit of cashews left.
If frosting a baked carrot cake, chill the frosting for 2-3 hours for it to solidify and become spreadable. On the right, you can see the texture of the chilled frosting.
If frosting a no-bake carrot cake, pour the frosting at the center of the cake and spread it out with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. On the left, you can see the texture of the frosting.
Watch the video!
Frequently asked questions
This recipe yields about 2 cups of carrot cake icing. There's definitely enough frosting to cover an entire cake.
You can definitely make a layered cake with this carrot cake icing. However, it's preferable to add only ⅔ cup of milk (rather than ¾) to make it a little thicker.
You either added too much milk or you didn't let it sit in the fridge long enough.
To obtain that perfect spreadable texture, this carrot cake icing without cream cheese needs to be refrigerated.
Transfer the icing to a small bowl or airtight container and store it in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can use it like any vanilla buttercream frosting (e.g., to frost cupcakes, to make cookie sandwiches or as a thick cinnamon roll glaze).
Store the frosted cake in the fridge before and after serving. If left at room temperature for too long, the frosting will melt and fall off the cake like a regular cream cheese frosting. You can store the whole cake uncovered. Once it has been cut, it's better to store the slices standing upright in an airtight container.
Don’t forget to join the Cooking With Elo newsletter. You’ll get gluten-free and vegan dinner ideas sent right to your inbox.
Carrot Cake Icing Without Cream Cheese (Vegan)
- Kitchen scale or measuring cups
- Drain the cashews.
- Melt the cocoa butter in the microwave or over low heat.
- Add the cashews, plant-based milk, melted cocoa butter, lemon juice, vanilla extract and powdered sugar to a high-speed blender. Blend for 2 minutes until perfectly smooth.
- If you prefer a sweeter frosting, add more powdered sugar (maple syrup would make the frosting to runny).
- If frosting a baked carrot cake, first refrigerate the frosting for 2 hours until it solidifies and becomes spreadable.If frosting a no-bake carrot cake, pour the cream on top of the cake. Make sure the pan is lined with parchment paper to be able to remove the frosted cake easily. Refrigerate the cake for at least 2 hours.
- If substituting the cocoa butter with coconut oil, we recommend using "unflavored"/refined coconut oil to prevent the icing from tasting like coconut.
- Refrigerate the frosting for at least 2 hours to obtain that perfect spreadable texture.
- If you have leftover icing, transfer it to a small bowl or airtight container and store it in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can use it as a vanilla buttercream frosting (e.g., to frost cupcakes, to make cookie sandwiches or as a thick cinnamon roll glaze).
- Store the frosted cake in the fridge before and after serving. If left at room temperature for too long, the frosting will melt and fall off the cake like a regular cream cheese frosting. You can store the whole cake uncovered. Once it has been cut, it's better to store the slices standing upright in an airtight container.
More carrot cake recipes
Loved it? Please rate it!
If you tried this recipe or any other recipe from the blog, make sure to let me know how you liked it by leaving a star rating and a comment below. Your feedback really matters! To never miss a recipe, follow me on Instragram, Pinterest and Facebook.