Vegan carrot cupcakes with cashew frosting

Vegan carrot cupcakes with cashew frosting

vegan carrot cupcakes many

Today’s recipe is another autumn classic, which I have been planning on making for a while – deliciously moist carrot cupcakes fragrant with spices and topped with luscious and pillowy cashew cream. I’ve dragged my feet as I was worried that they may sabotage a goal I’ve set myself in my personal life, but I have worked out a way to deal with it.

Inspired by a chat with my therapist, I have been on a journey of honouring commitments to myself a little more lately and I’m learning to set myself small and tangible goals – something I have not grown up with really. The goal I’m working on right now is to get fitter and to lose just over half a stone (or 3.15 kg for the metric minded amongst you) by the end of the year. It’s something I have promised myself countless times and I have let myself down every single time. This time I really want to prove to myself that I can achieve a goal if I focus on it and approach it in the right way.

While it is certainly far more challenging when making cupcakes is in your job description (that’s been a handy excuse since I started this blog), I know it is about changing my mindset and not resigning myself to the status quo or changing profession again. The truth is that I’ve been an emotional eater my whole life and that mindless instinct to grab one, another and maybe another half of a cupcake or a handful of nuts or some photoshoot leftovers is something I have felt powerless to stop, until now. I’ve always completely felt owned by that urge until after one of my therapy sessions my mindset has started to shift. Little by little, I am slowly getting better at stopping myself from opening that fridge / cupboard door. It’s like they say, it’s a muscle that you can train. The more I say ‘no’ to myself when I catch myself wanting to eat for the wrong reasons (sadness, frustration, loneliness or because I hate something going to waste), the more I am able to do it. It’s really freeing and empowering.

Aside from working on my emotional eating, I’ve also committed to my daily exercise a bit more seriously. I keep a calendar pinned to my wall and I aim for 40-50 minutes of exercise 6 times a week. It’s been almost 4 weeks since I embarked on this ‘project’ and I can see my body start to change, which is very motivating. I feel better about myself and about my ability to change things I don’t like. I am more in control. It feels good.

I was careful to set a realistic goal and quite far into the future as I don’t want to do anything too drastic – it will only make me throw in the towel sooner or later. I want to make very measured, incremental progress that is sustainable and which will allow me to weed out some bad habits I have gotten myself into over the years. I want to take this opportunity to teach myself to be consistent and patient – something I did not grow up around.

Part of the reason why I am telling you all this is so that I can feel accountable but also to let you know that if you face similar food struggles that seem to own you, you are so not alone. So anyway, don’t worry, I won’t stop making sweet desserts as I really love baking. I will learn to be more mindful and more in control around them. These cupcakes are delicious (I did have one and gave the rest away), easy to make and if you don’t want to bother with making the cream, simply stir some nuts (walnuts or pecans would be my choice) through the batter for some added texture. I hope that they will brighten up your weekend if you decide to make them.

vegan carrot cupcakes making

vegan carrot cupcakes batter

vegan carrot cupcakes baked

vegan carrot cupcakes icing

vegan carrot cupcakes one

30 min
21 min
30 min
21 min



  • 250 g / 2 cups all purpose flour or GF all purpose flour mix (I use this one)
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • 1¼ tsp baking powder
  • 1½ tsp cinnamon + ½ tsp cardamom OR 2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt



  1. Set the oven to 180° C / 355° C. Line a standard 12 hole muffin tin with paper liners or line the bottoms with circles of baking paper and grease the sides generously.
  2. In a large bowl mix together maple syrup, tahini and apple sauce until well combined.
  3. Next, mix in grated carrots.
  4. Place a sieve over the bowl with wet ingredients and sift all the dry ingredients through it. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ones using a spatula and a gentle clockwise folding motion until no flour pockets remain. If you use wheat flour, be careful not to over mix.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between 12 muffin holes. Bake for about 21 minutes (they are done when a toothpick comes out fairly clean). Let the muffins cool down completely before removing from the tin and icing.
  6. Once cool, remove from the tin and decorate with the frosting. I also decorated with a light sprinkle of cinnamon and orange zest.


  1. Place all the liquids at the bottom of your blender. Start off with 3 tbsp of plant milk, add the 4th one later (if needed).
  2. Add about half of the drained and rinsed cashews. Blend until smooth, adding more cashews as the mixture gets thicker and thicker.
  3. At some point, the mixture will become very thick and heavy and your blender may struggle to turn. To remedy this, start making circles on the surface of your mixture (in the direction of the turning blades) with a spatula to prevent air pockets forming under the mixture’s surface. Be careful not to dip the spatula in too deep as you don’t want to accidentally touch the turning blades. If you follow the technique I’ve described above, there is enough moisture in this recipe not to have to use any more liquid, which means you’ll end up with a smooth, creamy and thick frosting.
  4. The mixture will thicken a little after it’s been well refrigerated but to be able to pipe it, I recommend adding agar agar as a firming agent. Activate agar agar according to the instructions on the packet. I recommend using powder as it’s 3 times more potent than flakes and easier to activate – you need to rehydrate it in liquid (almond milk in this case) for 10-15 minutes first before bringing to the boil. Flakes need a lot of simmering and I found that they never fully dissolve.
  5. Once activated, add agar agar to the frosting and blend well and then give it another blend before putting it into the piping bag so that you break any lumps. I like to transfer it to a bowl and give it a really good whisk with a wire whisk to make sure the icing is smooth before I put it into my piping bag.

*You can skip agar agar if you wish and refrigerate the frosting overnight to firm it up. It will be firm enough to apply it to the cupcakes with a butter knife but if you were to pipe it on the frosting won’t keep it’s shape. In theory, you should also be able to firm the frosting up by blending in some tapioca starch, arrowroot or cornflour / cornstarch but I have not had the time to test this.

25 g
13 g
2 g
7 g
52 g
*per cupcake
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6 reviews, 23 comments
Laureen M.:
I have to admit that I was skeptical at first, but I'm absolutely blown away by how good these turned out!
It's so hard to find gluten-free, vegan AND sugar-free things online. So so happy this worked and the recipe is rather forgiving so there's room to even lessen the sugar in here more.
Fruity and a good level of sweetness. I saw others make this with less maple syrup though, which I'm going to try on my next batch, and rather sub more applesauce or add a mashed banana.
Fluffy and moist, despite baking it around 25-30 minutes instead of the prescribed 21 minutes. I could have really gotten away with baking it shorter, I think it would have given even better results.
(Bear in mind that I rushed this part.)
I made the cashew frosting the day before and achieved a wonderful smooth consistency and flavour. Had to use much more liquid (almond milk) as I used dates to sweeten it and not maple syrup.
I struggled to get as smooth a consistency after adding the agar agar (first time every trying it), and found that I lost my flavour balance after adding it too.
I piped it in a rush but it held its form!
I'd experiment more with agar agar to get that Instagrammable-baking-for-someone-look, but honestly would have been perfect to just top it as is for a more rustic-feel cupcake.
Anyway, trying your banana bread after this. So stoked it turned out so well! Thank you!
    Aw thank you so much Laureen, I am absolutely delighted that these have exceeded your expectations. Yes, you can reduce the amount of maple syrup but be aware that it doesn't only just contribute sweetness, it also affects the texture of baked goods and gives them a nice shine. I am currently working on 100% date sweetened muffins and while they are delicious, the texture is very different. As for the frosting, a smoothie maker (like this Ninja) is helpful in making cashew based creams as thick yet creamy as possible. Sounds like you are up for experimenting so I hope you'll nail making them just the way you like them. x Ania
      Laureen M:
      Thank you for your reply!
      Re: sugar
      Yes, I just saw from the reviews that others had success with adding more applesauce or even a mashed banana to lessen the maple syrup, so I figured I'd try it, and see how much it will affect the texture. I wouldn't want to lose the texture because it was superb, but at the same time, trying to reduce sugar and live gluten-free and vegan comes with its sacrifices haha! That said, I'm open to any other suggestions to substitute -- maybe agave syrup?
      I'm slowly getting more confident in vegan gluten-free baking (your blog is helping so much), so definitely looking into get a blender as badass as that one soon. Thank you for the suggestion!
        Yes, absolutely I completely get where you are coming from. As a person with raging sweet tooth that needs to be kept in check I understand your desire to avoid added sugar completely and yes, it does some with sacrifices but it's all a matter of what you are used to - I mean like with veganism, right? Initially it took a little getting used to but now it's a breeze and I am sure that non vegan foods we used to eat before (I don't even mean meat) would taste weird to us now. When it comes to agave, I really don't think there is any virtue to using it instead of maple syrup (unless you have it already and want to use it up) as it's not any healthier at all. I am working on a recipe for date sweetened GF muffins, which I will be realising soon so hopefully they will hit the spot and the meantime happy experimenting (that's the best way to learn!) x Ania
Alice J:
Hi! Do you think the frosting will still work if the cashews are finely ground and I use gelatin instead of agar agar?
    Hi Alice,
    I don't think it will work that well unfortunately. You want to use soaked cashews blended (with extra moisture) until they get all smooth and creamy. Grinding them will give you a gritty texture of a nut meal, which is not what you want in a frosting. Hope this helps! Ania
      Alice J:
      I mean that the cashews I have are already finely ground. I can still put them in boiling water for 20 minutes like I would with whole cashews, right? Also, regarding the agar agar, how much would I have to use if I substitute with gelatin? I know that this recipe is supposed to be vegan but I want to make something with ingredients I have on hand.
        Oh I see what you mean, in that case I would probably not soak as extracting that soaking water will be difficult without a tight woven cloth. I would simply add ground cashews straight to the blender. In terms of gelatine, I really have no experience with using it so it's hard for me to say. Here is one of the sites that came up when I googled it. Hope it works out well. x Ania
          Alice J:
          Thank you! I'll come back with the results if I don't forget :)
Hi Ania,
Can I make these cup cakes in advance? If so how long do you think they'd stay fresh in an air tight container? Or would you recommend freezing them?
Also would it work with oat or coconut milk instead of almond?
Thank you, they look delicious!
    Hi Charlotte,
    The cakes themselves should stay moist for 2-3 days in an air-tight container, you could also freeze them (but I would without the frosting would be better). Yes, oat milk will work just as well. Hope this helps! Ania
Hello, I hope you are well.
This looks amazing and I’m just wondering what I can use instead of tahini and apple sauce?
Thanks so much xx
    Hi Julia,
    That would be a lot of tahini as the recipe already calls for 1/4 cup of it so it would use 1/2 cup tahini intotal and 1/2 cup cup yoghurt or plant milk unless you really love tahini flavour :) x Ania
chocolate and figs:
I made this recipe and posted it on my insta account @chocolateandfigs and it was a hit! I do my best to not use any sugar so this recipe caught my eye as it uses maple syrup 😋 I highly recommend paisley these muffins with a cashew frosting which brings it to another level!! Thanks Ania so much, I love your recipes so much!
    Thanks so much for your kind words. I'm delighted to hear that you enjoyed these cupcakse and the frosting. And thank you so much for taking the time to review, I really appreciate it. x Ania
Eden Forstbauer:
can you use arrowroot powder instead of agar agar powder
    Hi Eden,
    Apologies for a late reply, I was on holidays... You could try but I don't think you will quite get the same amount of firmness. Agar agar is akin to gelatine so it's far more potent. However, if you don't particularly care about being able to pipe the frosting, then arrowroot should suffice definitely. Hope this helps! Ania
I had some carrots I needed to use and this recipe was exactly what I was looking for. Super simple, quick, and (most importantly) delicious!
I didn't make the frosting, as I did not have any cashews [like mentioned earlier, I just needed to get rid of some carrots before they went bad], but would love to make it again with frosting. I'm sure it takes the muffin up to a whole other level!
    Thanks so much for your kind words, Sheridan! I am delighted that you enjoyed these. Yes, the frosting does make them more indulgent but it's totally optional. PS: If you like carrot muffins, you may also like this, newer, recipe. x Ania
Ania, thank You for Your amazing recipes! They always turn out great because of Your detailed descriptions and measures!
These muffins are perfect, I could’t stop mysefl from eating all of them 😍
Now I am wiling to try one of Uour cake recipes for my baby boys 1st birthday. We both can’t consume dairy products and You are my only hope for vegan as well as tasty and correct recipe🥰
    Aw, thank you so much, Leva! I am so happy to hear that you enjoyed these so much and that you are planning to make one of my cakes for your little boy's 1st birthday - what an honour! I hope it will be enjoyed by the birthday boy and all of his guests too. x Ania
Fantastic recipe!! Will definitely be making these again.
    Great to hear, Brian! Thank you so much for taking the time to review - I really appreciate it! Ania
These look fantastic. I also just took a realistic look at myself and realized I need to make some changes to feel my best. Intermittent fasting has been great so far - it seems hard at first and then it feels natural. If I want to eat a cupcake, it feels better to say, look, you can eat it later if you want. Somehow I don't tend to want it later, afterall, or if I do, it's ony one, not three! Thanks for being so open here, this has become one of my favorite food sites. Saving the recipe for my birthday. So excited to try a cashew icing :)
    Thanks Cathy! I could not agree more and although some days I do better than others, I've made a lot of progress in the last month. Sweet stuff have less of a hold over me, which feels great. I am glad you are having a positive experience with curbing your snaking urges too. I hope you'll enjoy these once you make them. Ania
=) It will be worth It in the end.... That is so true!!!! Thank you for the reply. Oh, and I read the other recipe, the almond cookies, and I'm sorry to hear about whats happening with Duncan. I hope he will be able to take the exam soon to understand what is happening, take care and be cured! 🙏 Kisses from Brazil. Camila.
    Thank you, Camila. I am seeing the effect already and it's really encouraging. Thank you, yes, it is really frustrating and he is losing his mind despite his best efforts. I really feel for him and I hope he will get some answers / solutions soon. Thank you for your kind words. x Ania
Hello! I love this recipe... :) And I'm very happy that you shared this part of your life here. The same thing had happened to me all my life, but since the end of July I started to change and I'm so happy about It too!!! I realy know and understand what you're feeling. =) Congratulations for taken this step foward, and stay strong! Kisses from Brazil. Camila.
    Thank you, Camila! I'm so happy to hear that you are recovering from emotional eating, and that's certainly very encouraging to hear too. I am prepared for it to take a while but it will be worth it in the end. Ania
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