Bake These Vegan Carrot Cake Cupcakes and Your Kitchen Will Smell Like Fall

These cupcakes are scented with pumpkin pie spice for a fall treat anyone can enjoy.

Vegan Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Carson Downing / Food Styling by Holly Dreesman / Prop Styling by Gabriel Greco

Active Time:
45 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 25 mins
12 cupcakes

Baruch Ellsworth, pastry chef at Little Saint in Healdsburg, California, created these vegan cupcakes as part of the restaurant and coffee bar’s plant-based menu. He whips together chickpea aquafaba and vegan butter to make the creamy vegan buttercream on top.

Frequently asked questions

What is aquafaba?

Aquafaba is the starchy water leftover from cooking chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, or other legumes. It is commonly used as a substitute for eggs in plant-based recipes. We used chickpea aquafaba here; when we drained the liquid from one (15-ounce) can of chickpeas it yielded exactly 3/4 cup.

Notes from the Food & Wine Test Kitchen

The vegan buttercream may take some time to come together and whip to stiff peaks, but it will happen; just keep mixing and don't give up. And don’t rush it: The time it takes to whip the buttercream into shape depends on how quickly your aquafaba mixture cools down after it’s heated with the sugar in the first step, but if you add the vegan butter too quickly, it will melt rather than whip into a creamy frosting. If the buttercream breaks, whip it on high for about two to three minutes until it resumes its shape. We found that it firmed up a bit after sitting for five to 10 minutes.



  • 1/3 cup (about 1 3/4 ounces) flax meal

  • 1/2 cup hot water (about 115°F)

  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar

  • 1/4 cup (2 3/8 ounces) unsweetened applesauce

  • 2 1/2 cups (about 10 7/8 ounces) all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

  • 3 cups (12 ounces) finely grated carrots (from 1 [1-pound] package fresh peeled carrots)

Vegan buttercream

  • 3/4 cup aquafaba

  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

  • 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

  • 1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum

  • 2 cups vegan butter, softened (about 1 pound)

  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Prepare the Cupcakes

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tray with 12 paper liners; set aside.

  2. Whisk together flax meal and hot water in a medium bowl until combined. Add brown sugar, granulated sugar, and applesauce, and whisk until combined; set aside.

  3. Combine flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add flour mixture to flax mixture, alternately with oil, stirring to combine after each addition. Fold in shredded carrots until evenly distributed. Spoon batter evenly into prepared liners; about 1/3 cup in each liner. Bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted into centers of Cupcakes comes out clean, about 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to let cool completely, about 1 hour.

Prepare the vegan buttercream

  1. Stir together aquafaba, sugar, cream of tartar, and xanthan gum in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar is dissolved, stirring often, about  4 minutes. Transfer mixture to a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and beat on medium-high speed until slightly thickened and cooled slightly (about 5 minutes). Reduce speed to low and gradually add softened butter, about 2 tablespoons at a time, until combined. With mixer still running on low speed, add salt, lemon juice, and vanilla. Increase mixer speed to medium-high and beat until mixture is thick, glossy, and holds its shape, about 10 to 15 minutes. ( Mixture may break or appear grainy after a couple of minutes; keep whisking and it will come together and become glossy.) Spoon or pipe buttercream onto cooled Cupcakes and serve.

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