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


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.


  • 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


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


  • 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.


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.



4.98 from 95 votes (69 ratings without comment)

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Rate this recipe (after making it)

  1. gloria

    I live in a small town and seldom get into the city (2 hours away). The local grocery doesn’t carry vegan cream cheese. Do you have a frosting recipe that mimics cream cheese frosting, but maybe uses cashews?

  2. Karen

    Can I substitute regular milk for almond milk? (Just because I don’t have almond milk on hand.)

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Yep, regular milk would be fine here!

  3. Baishakhi

    It looks delicious. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

  4. Jill

    Where is the nutritional information

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m sorry, we don’t post nutritional info, but you can plug the ingredients into a site like my fitness pal.

  5. Baishakhi

    I looks amazing. Thank you for sharing this recipe.

  6. Rachel

    Any suggestions/changes for making cupcakes instead of a full cake?

    • Michelle

      5 stars
      We did this. Came out great with no changes

      • Jeanine Donofrio

        I’m so glad you loved it!

  7. Sanaa

    5 stars
    I really would love to make this! But I’m from the UK and the measurements always throw me off! Any chance it would be possible for you to convert your measurements to UK grams? I tried to do it online but it’s all so confusing!

    • Clare

      It’s cups and tea/tablespoons! That’s not tough (I’m from the UK too)

      • Rachimah

        Yes! How much is an ounce??

    • James Russell

      Can I second this request? It doesnt need to be metric, imperial would do. I have never understood why American recipes always use volume measurements rather than weights. It would avoid the problem that you mention of compaction varying the amount of flour in the recipe.

  8. Gwen

    5 stars
    Lovely crumb and very tasty. I doubled the batter recipe as company coming for Easter and made three layers with two 8″ pans and one 6″ pan. Made single recipe of dairy free cream cheese icing. It goes a long way. Iced between layers and around all sides. Will definitely make again.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you loved it!

  9. Polina

    5 stars
    Not a big fan of carrot cake, but made it yesterday for my husband. It was sooo good! We ate half of it 🙂 Perfect level of sweetness!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you both loved it!

  10. David

    5 stars
    Great recipe for spring!

  11. Erika Anderson

    How would you make this gluten free?

    • Sarah from Holistik%20Collective

      The best option might be substituting an all-purpose gluten free flour, such as Cup-4-Cup, and perhaps adding an additional 2 Tbs. cornstarch to balance the texture to be fit for a cake. Just a thought!

  12. Kate

    Perfect timing! Have you tried a vegan variation to the cake? Curious about substitutes for the eggs

  13. 5 stars
    I love this and everything you do! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  14. Laura

    5 stars
    I made this for my brother’s birthday last night and got compliments from everybody!
    The frosting went really well with the cake because their respective sweetness levels balanced each other out. I added 1/2 tsp ground ginger (which I’ll increase to 3/4 tsp next time) and a pinch more nutmeg and the flavour turned out great!
    I ended up turning the remaining cake into cake balls by crumbling it up & mixing it with a bit of leftover frosting☺️

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Laura, I’m so glad everyone enjoyed it!

  15. Margarita

    Love all your recipes, but I just tired this one for my mothers’s birthday and came out super dense! Any idea why?

    • L

      Did you mix it too much? That’s a really common reason that muffins, quick breads, and cakes turn out dense (I say that from both research and an unfortunate amount of experience – haha). As soon as the dry ingredients have been distributed throughout the batter you should stop mixing.
      Is there anything about the recipe that you changed?

  16. Mili

    Can you replace maple syrup and sugar with organic date sugar?
    Thank you, kind regards

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Mili, I wouldn’t replace either. Changing from wet to dry sugar in the cake will change it’s consistency. And the frosting will be gritty without the powdered sugar.

  17. Anita Sabados

    4 stars
    Made this with no changes or substitutions and it was great! I think it tasted even better the next day. I’m wondering what the purpose of the butter is in the icing. I put it in but it’s such a small amount I’m wondering if it’s needed.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Anita, for flavor, and it helps keep it firm. Butter is pretty traditional in cream cheese icing.

  18. Anna

    5 stars
    Deliciously moist and flavorful cake. Not overtly sweet. Easy to make!

  19. Lucina

    Hi. This cake looks so delicious. Would like to try it, but what can I use to replace coconut oil?

    • Kay

      I would use unsalted butter.

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.