Best Carrot Cake

My favorite carrot cake recipe! It’s moist, it’s easy, and it’s a little healthy too, made with whole wheat flour, applesauce, and maple syrup.

Best Carrot Cake

It’s carrot cake season! This week, I feel like I’ve eaten carrot cake for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We had one last weekend for Jack’s birthday, followed by a few more cakes made (and consumed) while creating this post. I would say that I’m carrot caked out, but we really just love it! We even had it at our wedding because it’s Jack’s favorite thing ever.

This carrot cake recipe is based on my mom’s. Her secret ingredient is applesauce, which makes the cake super moist. Before the frosting is added, it’s even healthy, but with its rich texture and perfectly spiced flavor, you wouldn’t know it.

Best Carrot Cake Recipe Ingredients

Key Ingredients in my Carrot Cake Recipe:

  1. Lots of carrots! The cake itself is not overly sweet so the carrot flavor really shines.
  2. Whole wheat pastry flour swaps in for traditional all-purpose flour. Ground from soft wheat berries, whole wheat pastry flour has more nutrients than regular white flour, but it’s great for giving baked goods a light, fluffy texture. If you don’t have whole wheat pastry flour, you can use a 50/50 mix of white and regular whole wheat flour.
  3. Maple syrup takes the place of granulated sugar, making this carrot cake recipe (before the frosting) refined sugar-free.
  4. Applesauce adds moisture and a little sweetness.
  5. Coconut oil steps in as a healthier alternative for butter. You can also use olive oil, or any neutral-flavored oil, if you prefer.

Best Carrot Cake Recipe

How To Make Carrot Cake – My Best Tips & Tricks!

Since marrying Jack, I’ve had a lot of practice making carrot cake. Here are my tips & tricks for making the best carrot cake around:

  1. Grate your carrots finely. Finely grated carrots meld seamlessly into the moist, spiced cake, while larger pieces create a less uniform texture. Finely grate your carrots for light, fluffy, and cohesive cake slices!
  2. Don’t overmix. This rule applies to baked goods across the board, but it holds true here. Mix your batter until just combined – and not any longer – to avoid making a dense cake.
  3. Let your cake cool completely before frosting it. Yes, this is an easy recipe, but there is one hard part: waiting for it to cool! If you don’t, the cake will melt and absorb the frosting, and you won’t get that thick, perfect layer on the outside.

Easy Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Carrot Cake Variations

Choose your cake size. The recipe below makes:

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

Optional Mix-ins:

I live with a true carrot cake enthusiast (Jack), and if he’s taught me anything, it’s that carrot cake can be a personal thing. If you like your cake with chopped walnuts or raisins, feel free to fold ½-1 cup into the batter. Or, if you’re someone who likes your cake with coconut, fold ½ cup into the batter or sprinkle shredded coconut over the frosted cake. I like mine just plain, although I think it’s pretty with a few chopped pecans sprinkled on top.

Healthy Carrot Cake Recipe

The Frosting:

You can make the frosting recipe below with regular or dairy-free cream cheese (I used Kite Hill here), though the regular version will be stiffer and better for slathering between 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. Of course, this cake is also delicious on its own without frosting!

Moist Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting on a cake stand Best Carrot Cake slice on a plate

Serve this cake for brunch alongside a veggie frittata or shakshuka and mimosas!

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Best Carrot Cake

rate this recipe:
5 from 8 votes
Prep Time: 25 mins
Cook Time: 35 mins
Total Time: 1 hr 3 mins
Serves 10 to 12
My favorite carrot cake recipe! It’s moist, it’s easy, and it’s healthy too, made with applesauce, whole wheat flour, and maple syrup.


  • cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 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 temp
  • ½ cup melted coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 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 pan, 8x8 square pan, or two 6-inch round 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 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.



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  1. Monika

    This looks so delicious! I have never tried it with apple sauce or cream cheese as frosting.

    Did you know it’s a national dish from Switzerland? 😀
    It’s a bit different from the traditional one I know, but I can totally imagine the benefits of apple sauce in it, I’ll definitely try it!

  2. Hollie

    This looks very good….. you didn’t mention, but I am assuming flax eggs would work as a replacement for the eggs???

  3. Natalie from

    5 stars
    I love carrot cake! Looks so deliciosu and festive!

  4. Tawnya

    I’m eager to try this! Do you think it could work as cupcakes??

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      yes – they won’t puff up very much, but it should taste the same! I’d check them after baking for about 20 minutes.

  5. Annie

    5 stars
    This recipe is incredible! I just made this for my husband today for Father’s Day as carrot cake is one of his favorites. His exact words were “The more you eat, the better it gets!” It’s moist, perfectly sweet, and I feel like you can eat a lot of it without feeling guilty considering the ingredients. Bonus…the frosting does this beautiful slow drip down the sides of the cake that make it look like something you bought in a shop! Can not recommend it enough! This is going to be made on repeat in our house from now on :).

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Annie, yay! I’m so glad you both loved it!

  6. Emily Sherwood

    5 stars
    Outstanding cake!!! Made it for my birthday. Was looking for a recipe that used maple syrup and a healthier oil. This was perfect…moist, just sweet enough, spiced right. I also subbed in 1/2 cup sprouted whole wheat pastry flour. Two thumbs up from picky mom and teen son.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Emily! I’m so glad you all loved it! xoxo

  7. Kristine

    Hi, maybe can change applesauce into mashed banana? Thank you!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Kristine, I haven’t tried that so I can’t say. It might be a bit dense and/or affect the rise.

  8. Jill

    Looks amazing and can’t wait to try this recipe. Do you have a recipe for a frosting with maple syrup as the sweetener?

  9. Jodi Bright

    So glad that I found your recipes

  10. Abigail

    5 stars
    This is the best carrot cake ever! I’ve made it several times now; it’s delicious and wonderfully moist. Do you think it would be possible to sub puréed pumkin for the apple sauce? I have some in my fridge that I’d like to use up.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I think that could work! I’m so glad you’ve been loving the cake!

  11. Ellen

    5 stars
    This is the best! I have been making with Bob’s Red Milk Paleo flour for amazing GF (grain free, too) version that is a bit in my family (I am only one who is GF). Thanks!

    • Ellen

      Bob’s Red Mill Paleo flour

  12. Maggie

    5 stars
    This has to be hands down the BEST carrot cake! I made it for a friend’s birthday and have been requested to make it for every dinner party since!

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.