Healthy Carrot Cake

Our favorite healthy carrot cake recipe! Moist, warmly spiced, and topped with cream cheese frosting, it's easy to make and perfect for celebrations.

Best Carrot Cake

It’s carrot cake season! I don’t know about you, but when the weather warms up, my dessert cravings shift away from chocolate towards lighter, brighter treats. This change works out well for me, because carrot cake is Jack’s all-time favorite dessert, and we make it every year for his April birthday.

You’ll find our go-to healthy carrot cake recipe below. It’s based on my mom’s, and it uses her secret ingredient: applesauce. It steps in for some of the oil and sugar that you’d find in a traditional carrot cake recipe without compromising on taste.

This healthy carrot cake is super moist and tender, and cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla fill it with warm, spiced flavor. Tangy cream cheese frosting takes it over the top!

If you’re looking for an easy, delicious dessert for Easter, Mother’s Day, or any celebration, I hope you’ll try this healthy carrot cake recipe. We’ve made it and loved it time and time (and time) again, and I think you’ll love it too.

Healthy Carrot Cake Recipe Ingredients

Healthy Carrot Cake Ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need to make this healthy carrot cake recipe:

  • Carrots, of course! They make the cake super moist and tender.
  • Whole wheat pastry flour – A healthier alternative to all-purpose flour. If you don’t have whole wheat pastry flour, you can substitute a 50/50 mix of all-purpose and regular whole wheat flour.
  • Baking powder, baking soda, and eggs – They help the cake rise.
  • Maple syrup – Instead of making this cake with brown sugar or regular granulated sugar, I sweeten it naturally with pure maple syrup. I love the depth of flavor that the maple adds to the cake!
  • Applesauce – For more moisture and extra (natural) sweetness.
  • Almond milk – Or any milk you like! My homemade oat milk would work nicely here too.
  • Coconut oil – For richness. Free free to use olive oil or vegetable oil if you prefer.
  • Cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla extract – For warm, spiced flavor.
  • And sea salt – To make all the flavors pop!

Find the complete recipe with measurements below.

Hand using spatula to spread batter in a baking pan

How to Make Healthy Carrot Cake

You can find the complete healthy carrot cake recipe with measurements at the bottom of this post. For now, here’s a quick overview of how it goes:

  1. First, grate the carrots. Shred them on the small holes of a box grater or on the grating disk of a food processor.
  2. Next, make the batter. Combine the dry ingredients in one mixing bowl and the wet ingredients (including the carrots!) in another. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
  3. Then, bake. Pour the batter into a greased baking pan. Bake at 350°F until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 35 minutes.
  4. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool. It needs to cool to room temperature before you add the frosting.
  5. Finally, frost it. Slather the cake with cream cheese frosting (or enjoy it plain!).

So easy!

Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

Recipe Tips

Here are my tips and tricks for making the best healthy carrot cake:

  • Grate your carrots finely. Finely grated carrots meld seamlessly into the cake, while larger pieces create a less uniform texture. Finely grate your carrots for light, fluffy, and cohesive cake slices!
  • Spoon and level your flour. Anytime you’re baking, how you measure flour matters. It can easily become compacted in a canister or bag, so if you scoop it up directly with your measuring cup, you might accidentally pack too much into your scoop. Too much flour = dry baked goods. And no one likes dry carrot cake! To avoid using too much flour, try the spoon and level method for measuring flour. Your carrot cake will come out moist and tender every time!
  • Don’t overmix. Mix the batter until just combined—and not any longer—or your cake will be dense.
  • Let your cake cool completely before frosting it. If it’s still warm, the frosting will melt!

Slice of cake on plate with fork

Variations

Jack is a HUGE carrot cake fan. If he’s taught me anything, it’s that carrot cake can be a personal thing. Here are a few ways to make this recipe your own:

Feel free to add mix-ins to the cake batter. Fold in 1/2 cup shredded coconut, raisins, or chopped nuts like walnuts or pecans. You could sprinkle the coconut or chopped pecans or walnuts over the frosted cake too.

You can also choose your cake size and shape! The recipe below makes any of these:

  • one 9-inch round cake (pictured)
  • one square 8×8-inch cake
  • a 2-layer cake using two 6-inch cake pans (also pictured)

Finally, choose your favorite frosting. You can make my cream cheese frosting recipe with regular or dairy-free cream cheese (I used Kite Hill here), though the regular version will be stiffer and better for slathering between the cake layers if you’re making a layer cake. A lighter frosting option would be the cashew maple frosting from this recipe, which is more of a glaze. You could also leave the cake plain or serve it with a dusting of powdered sugar.

Let me know what variations you try!

Love carrot cake? Don’t miss my carrot cake cupcakes or vegan carrot cake recipe!

Hand using spatula to spread cream cheese frosting on layer cake; assembled layer cake

How to Store Healthy Carrot Cake

Store unfrosted cake in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Frosted cake keeps well in an airtight container in the fridge.

The cake also freezes well, with frosting or without! Once it’s cool, seal it in an airtight container or wrap it in foil or plastic wrap. Freeze for up to 3 months.

Allow frosted cake to thaw overnight in the fridge. You can let unfrosted cake thaw at room temperature or quickly defrost it in the microwave.

Carrot Cake slice on a plate

More Easy Cake Recipes

If this healthy carrot cake recipe earns rave reviews, try one of these easy cakes next:

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Healthy Carrot Cake

rate this recipe:
4.98 from 95 votes
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Serves 10 to 12
My favorite healthy carrot cake recipe! Made with wholesome ingredients like whole wheat pastry flour, applesauce, and pure maple syrup, it's moist, delicious, and easy to make.

Ingredients

  • cups whole wheat pastry flour (or half white, half wheat)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup almond milk, at room temperature
  • ½ cup melted coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups finely grated carrots

Frosting

  • 4 ounces cream cheese*
  • tablespoons butter*, slightly softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, more if a stiffer frosting is desired
  • teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9-inch round baking pan, 8x8 square pan, or two 6-inch round cake pans.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and then whisk in the applesauce, maple syrup, almond milk, coconut oil, and vanilla. Stir in the carrots.
  • Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
  • Pour the batter into the baking dish and bake for 35 to 38 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely before frosting.
  • Make the frosting: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the vanilla and powdered sugar and mix until smooth.

Notes

If you're making a layer cake, you may want to chill the frosting and the cakes so that the frosting stays firm while layering.
*To make this cake non-dairy, use Kite Hill vegan cream cheese and vegan butter in place of the regular cream cheese.

 

130 comments

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  1. Sonya H.
    05.19.2024

    Does the measurements of this recipe fit into a fluted cake pan?

  2. Denise Comer
    03.31.2024

    Good Morning, I wonder if you could add weights in ozs or grams please, I love your recipe ideas but not used to using cup measurements here in UK
    Have a very Happy Easter!

    • Sue
      04.03.2024

      Hi Denise. …A standard cup is 250ml but whatever you use as a cup is ok for this recipe – it’s either doubled or halved but if you use the same cup for all the measuring then you won’t go wrong IMO.

  3. Donna Marie Ritz
    03.30.2024

    Can I use an egg substitute and do you recommend one over the other? I have used applesauce and the liquid from a can of chick peas in some recipes.

  4. Claire
    03.27.2024

    Can I use gluten free flour?
    Thanks

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      03.28.2024

      Hi Claire, I haven’t tried but I think it would work.

  5. Lianne
    03.13.2024

    Hi I was wondering how this recipe work with spelt flour?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      03.13.2024

      Hi Lianne, I think it’ll work great with spelt flour.

  6. Char
    02.22.2024

    Hi your recipe is healthier than most others which I can find 🙂 Hovewer it is hard to find apple sauce here, wondering if I could substitute with Greek yogurt? Thank you 🙂

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      02.23.2024

      Hi Char, I think Greek yogurt would work well. Because the applesauce adds some sweetness to the cake, you may want to use 2/3 cup maple syrup and 1/3 cup Greek yogurt (instead of 1/2 cup each) when you replace it.

  7. Regina
    02.11.2024

    5 stars
    It looks so delicious

  8. Olivia
    09.04.2023

    Can we make this recipe into cupcakes?

  9. Heidi
    08.23.2023

    May be silly question… can I bake this in glass?

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      08.25.2023

      Hi Heidi, yep! You can use a glass pan here.

  10. Rachel
    03.31.2023

    5 stars
    I love the idea of using apple sauce in the mixture, I usually add yoghurt but this is a great alternative!

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      03.31.2023

      Yes we love how moist the applesauce makes this cake!

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.