Preheat oven to 350°F (175 °C) and prepare two 9 inch cake pans. Line the bottoms with a circle of parchment paper or a silicone cake pan liner and grease the sides well with some oil or vegan butter. Set aside for now away from the hot oven.
To a large mixing bowl add the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, ground flax, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Mix them together well.
To another bowl or jug add the oil, milk, vinegar and vanilla and stir them up.
Take the chopped pineapple and squeeze the juice out of it in your fist over the sink. This is important so we get the flavour and texture without all of the additional moisture. Skip this step if you aren't using the pineapple.
Put the (optional) pineapple, grated carrots, nuts and raisins in the bowl with the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Stir it all together well but gently, making sure you scrape right into the bottom but don't over mix. Do this fairly quickly and don't leave the batter sitting around once mixed. Move immediately onto the next step.
Immediately spoon into the prepared cake pans. Even out with a spatula and bake for approximately 45 minutes. All cake pans and ovens cook differently so the time might not be exact. Use your judgement and test it with a toothpick, skewer or small sharp knife. Insert it into the middle and it should come out clean, the sides of the cake will be slightly coming away from the edges of the pan and when you poke the cake gently with a finger in the centre it should spring back. If that's not the case put it back in the oven for a few minutes longer.
Remove the cakes from the oven and place them on a cooling rack in their pans. Don't remove them from the pans until they are cool. This helps keep the cakes nice and moist. Allow a good few hours for them to cool completely.
Make the vegan cream cheese frosting. Add the vegan butter to a large bowl and beat it with an electric mixer on a medium high speed until soft and fluffy. Add the cream cheese and beat again until combined and smooth.
Add the arrowroot powder, salt, vanilla and about 2 cups of the powdered sugar. Beat on the lowest speed for about 20 seconds until the powdered sugar has stopped flying around, then add another 2 cups. Beat again on low until it's mostly combined then turn the speed up to medium high again and beat until smooth and creamy, scraping down the edges with a spatula as needed to get any dry powdered sugar off and into the mix. Add the remaining powdered sugar to thicken it as needed. Using it all makes the frosting much easier to handle and the cake easier to frost and slice. Do not be tempted to add any more liquid to the frosting at any stage because it will become too runny. Once done, cover the bowl and put in the fridge until needed.
When the cake is completely cool, carefully remove one layer from its pan and place on a serving plate or cake stand, lined side up. Gently peel off the parchment paper/silicone liner.
Remove the frosting from the fridge. If it feels too firm to spread leave it to soften for 10 minutes or so. (If you keep it in the fridge any longer than that it might need another quick 20 second beat to fluff it up again). Dollop the frosting generously onto the cake, making sure you save enough in the bowl for the top and sides. Spread it out evenly with a spatula or pallet knife, taking it almost but not quite to the edges. If at any point in the process the frosting starts softening too much just pop it and the cake in the fridge until it firm up a bit.
Remove the other cake from its pan and place very gently on top of the frosted layer, lined side up. Peel off the liner gently and dollop on the remaining frosting. Spread it all over the top and down the sides if desired.
Cover leftovers tightly and store in the fridge for up to 7 days.
Oil- Do not use vegan butter instead of the oil in the cake. Oil is important in this recipe for texture and butter detracts from the other flavours.
Vegan Butter - A firmer butter like Earth Balance or my Vegan Butter recipe is recommended for the frosting. Soft vegan butter like Becel will lead to much softer/looser frosting.
Arrowroot powder - Also sometimes called arrowroot starch or arrowroot flour. This really helps keep the frosting stable, thicker and firmer. You could use cornstarch instead but arrowroot works best.
Pineapple - It appears that pineapple in carrot cake is controversial. If you want the cake to be at its absolute best I recommend leaving it in there as it adds great flavour and texture to the cake but if you don't want to use it you can safely omit it.
If piping the frosting - The frosting is pretty stable thanks to the arrowroot powder, but if you want to pipe with it I recommend chilling it in the fridge for about 30 minutes. This will ensure it holds its shape. Do not add any liquid to the frosting other than the 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (or alternative extract if desired). Any more will affect the outcome of the frosting.
PAN SIZE NOTES:
Two 10 inch cake pans - The layers will just be thinner. It should take about the same time to bake.
12 x 18 sheet pan - Grease generously and bake at 325°F for about 50 minutes until a skewer or toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean and the cake springs back when you press gently on the top with a finger. Let cool in the pan and frost in the pan.
Half the recipe if you want to bake in a 9 x 5 pan or an 8 x 8 pan. Use your judgement for the bake time as I haven't tried it. Temperature can stay the same.
Muffin pans - This full recipe will make quite a lot so you might want to reduce it by half or two-thirds. Fill cupcake liners almost to the top and bake on 350°F (175°C) for approximately 23 to 25 minutes. Check doneness with a toothpick.
Gluten-free - To make vegan carrot cake gluten-free use a good 1 for 1 all-purpose gluten-free flour like Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1.STORAGE & FREEZING: Cover leftover frosted cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.This cake can be made in advance. You can either bake the sponge layers the day before and allow them to cool in the pans as described, then cover tightly and leave at room temperature overnight. Or you can freeze the vegan carrot cake layers for up to 3 months. Simply bake, cool in the pans, then wrap really well and freeze. Defrost overnight in the fridge before frosting as per the recipe.The vegan cream cheese frosting can also be made up to 2 days in advance. Covered it tightly and refrigerate it. When you are ready to decorate, remove the frosting from the fridge and allow it to sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes so that it softens slightly, then give it a quick mix with the electric mixer to fluff it up before frosting the cake.