Carrots, cinnamon, cream cheese frosting- what more can you ask for out of a dessert? This Healthy Carrot Cake is the perfect sweet treat to enjoy this upcoming Easter (or any time honestly) and still stay on track with your health goals!
It’s not often you will find me sharing just any cake recipe here on Organize Yourself Skinny. However, with Easter coming up soon (that’s the current excuse I’m using 😜), I wanted to share this healthy carrot cake recipe that I’m optimistic will become a massive hit at your party!
When putting this carrot cake together, I wanted to lighten it up a bit without sacrificing any delicious flavors.
Let’s be honest here. This is a dessert recipe, so no matter how you dice, slice, or chop it, this is a treat and should be treated as such. Meaning keep your portions under control, and you can still enjoy a tasty piece of this delicious carrot cake recipe!
Reasons You’ll Love This Healthy Carrot Cake Recipe
- It uses wholesome ingredients. You’ll never know this carrot cake has whole grain flour, coconut oil, and reduced sugar.
- Moist and delicious. My mom is a carrot cake expert, and she says this is the best! Just saying, the flavors and texture are outstanding.
- Easy to bake with simple pantry ingredients. I’d bet most of the ingredients are in your kitchen right now. All you have to do is mix everything and bake!
- You can make it ahead of time. Believe it or not but this healthy carrot cake gets better by the day. You can also freeze carrot cake for a portion-controlled snack later on. I’ll give make-ahead and freeze tips below.
For the carrot cake
White whole wheat flour – This wholesome flour adds more fiber and protein. You can also use wheat pastry flour 1:1. I haven’t used almond flour, coconut flour, or other gluten-free flours for this recipe, so I don’t know how those would work.
If you want to make a gluten-free carrot cake, I recommend using a specific gluten recipe to be safe.
Cinnamon and nutmeg – These spices give carrot cake its warm spice flavor.
Baking soda – helps the cake rise.
Salt – brings the flavors together.
Buttermilk powder – one of my favorite baking ingredients to keep on hand. Buttermilk Powder is the secret ingredient in this recipe. Its acidity tenderizes the gluten which creates a very soft cake. Also, does wonders for these healthy cinnamon rolls.
Eggs – gives the cake body and also helps it rise.
Brown sugar & white sugar – just enough to create a sweet carrot cake recipe.
Vanilla extract – adds to the warm flavors.
Crushed pineapple – this adds flavor, texture and keeps the cake moist.
Melted coconut oil – another secret ingredient to tender, moist baked goods.
Water – since we are using buttermilk powder, this recipe includes water instead of milk.
Grated carrot – grated carrots distribute evenly throughout the cake for a piece of carrot in every bite.
Shredded unsweetened coconut – pairs perfect with carrots and pineapple to add to the flavor and texture.
For the cream cheese frosting
Low-fat cream cheese – this is the base for our lightened-up classic cream cheese frosting
Unsalted butter – a little butter goes a long way with creating a rich, silky frosting texture.
Confectioners sugar – Many healthy frosting recipes call for maple syrup, but I find the consistency to be runny, and it’s not sweet enough for me. I prefer to use a high-quality confectioner’s sugar for this frosting.
Vanilla extract – for more flavor.
Chopped pecans – I sprinkle pecans on top for crunch.
It’s easy to think that since because it includes vegetables that carrot cake is healthy. However, even though this recipe includes healthier ingredients I’d still recommend watching your portion when enjoying a slice. It’s not a food that you can eat every day but can fit into your diet when you plan for it.
I haven’t used gluten-free flours or vegan substitutions with recipes. Although most substitutions should work fine, I do recommend researching specific gluten-free or vegan carrot recipes.
Don’t worry about carrot cake leftovers because you can freeze the cake into portions for a future sweet treat. I’ll give more make-ahead tips below.
Shredding carrots fresh is a labor of love, so I know it’s tempting to buy store-bought pre-shredded carrots. But don’t. Fresh shredded carrots add moisture and flavor that you won’t get from bagged shredded carrots.
Use grated carrots instead of shredded. I know I just talked about using homemade shredded carrots for cake, but I’m going to take it a step further and suggest grating carrots.
Both will work for carrot cake, but grated carrots add extra moisture and delicious carrots’ specs throughout the cake.
Substitute walnuts for pecans. Whenever I can I use pecans in a recipe, they’re my favorite nut. However, chopped walnuts will work too.
Add nuts to the batter. I’d love to add nuts to every bite of the carrot cake, but my family might revolt. So, I save them for the top. But if everyone loves nuts, then stir them right into the batter.
Stir the nuts into the frosting. Again, with the nuts? Sorry there are a lot of nut decisions to be made with this carrot cake. Since we are a nut-divided family, I sprinkle the nuts lightly on top of the frosting. But, if everyone loves nuts, then the frosting is delicious with the pecans stirred right into the frosting.
Leave the nuts out altogether. Don’t want nuts? No, worries the carrot cake will still be delicious without them. Or put on half for the nut lovers.
Add raisins – This is a hot topic in the carrot cake world. If you’re team raisins, add ½ cup to the carrot cake batter before baking it.
Substitute coconut palm sugar for brown and white sugar. If you want to reduce the amount of refined sugar, using coconut palm sugar is a great option.
Coconut palm sugar is an unrefined brown sugar and one of my favorite ingredients. I’ve successfully substituted it in this carrot cake recipe.
Substitute vegetable oil – Coconut oil creates a delicious tender cake, but you can substitute vegetable oil if you’re out.
Substitute apple sauce for oil. Oil is an essential ingredient for a tender cake texture. If you want to reduce the fat and don’t mind a gummier texture, you can substitute apple sauce for the oil.
Let the cake cool completely before adding frosting – It takes a lot of willpower not to dive into this cake as soon as it’s done baking, but you need to wait! Adding the frosting too soon will melt it. So, wait 1-2 hours until the cake is cool and then spread on the frosting.
How To Make A Healthy Carrot Cake
Before you start, set the temperature of the oven to 350 degrees.
Using a mixing spoon, slowly add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing until combined.
Stir in the carrots and coconut.
Pour the batter into a 9 x 13 cake pan that’s coated with cooking spray.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the center is set. It’s done cooking when you can insert a toothpick or a sharp knife into the center, and it comes out clean. Every oven is different, so check on the cake at around 25 minutes to prevent it from overbaking.
Remove the cake and let it cool completely. This can take up to 2 hours.
After the cake cools, prepare the cream cheese frosting. Place the softened cream cheese, butter, and vanilla into a large mixing bowl. Measure the confectioner’s sugar and then sift it through a mesh strainer into the bowl with the other frosting ingredients.
Sifting the sugar removes any lumps and creates a smooth, fluffy frosting. Use a hand mixer to blend all of the ingredients until smooth.
Spread the frosting on top of the cool carrot cake and then sprinkle with chopped pecans.
Supplies to Make Healthy Carrot Cake Recipe
How to Store and Freeze Carrot Cake
To make-ahead and store
If you’re planning on serving this at a party, I recommend making the carrot cake the day before. While this Carrot cake tastes great the day it’s made, I think it tastes even better the next day after the flavor had time to settle and blend.
Place the lid on the pan or use plastic wrap, and store the carrot cake in the refrigerator.
If you’re not planning on frosting the carrot cake until the day of the party, then it cake stays at room temperature.
If, by some chance, you have any of this carrot cake leftover, you can freeze it.
Just wrap each piece of cake in plastic wrap and then put it into a freezer bag. Make sure to mark it with the date!
When you’re in the mood for a piece of healthy carrot cake, take a piece out and let it thaw on the counter for about 20 minutes or so.
More Healthy Carrot recipes
- Carrot Cake Baked Oatmeal
- Carrot Muffins
- Carrot Cake Overnight Oats
- Carrot Cake Breakfast Cookies
- Roasted Carrots
Healthy Carrot Cake
For the carrot cake
- 2 cups white whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 3 tablespoons buttermilk powder
- 2 eggs
- ⅔ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 8 ounce can crushed pineapple, drained 1 cup
- 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
- ¾ cup water
- 2 cups finely shredded carrot
- ½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
For the frosting
- 8 ounces low fat cream cheese softened
- 3 tablespoons butter softened
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar sifted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 cup chopped pecans
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large mixing bowl mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and buttermilk powder. Set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl whisk together 2 eggs and both sugars until smooth.
- Whisk the crushed pineapple, vanilla, coconut oil, and water into the sugar mixture.
- Slowly stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until everything is combined.
- Fold the shredded carrots and shredded coconut into the batter.
- Pour the batter into a 9 x 13 cake pan coated with cooking spray.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until the center is set. You’ll know it’s done when you can insert a toothpick or a sharp knife into the center and it comes out clean.
- Let the cake cool completely before frosting it. This can take 1-2 hours.
- To make the frosting add the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla into a medium mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer, blend the ingredients together until smooth.
- Spread the frosting onto the cake and sprinkle with pecans.
- Cut into 16 slices and serve.
How to Store and Freeze Carrot Cake
To make-ahead and storeIf you’re planning on serving this at a party, I recommend making the carrot cake the day before. While this Carrot cake tastes great the day it’s made, I think it tastes even better the next day after the flavor had time to settle and blend. Place the lid on the pan or use plastic wrap, and store the carrot cake in the refrigerator. If you’re not planning on frosting the carrot cake until the day of the party, then it cake stays at room temperature.
To freezeIf, by some chance, you have any of this carrot cake leftover, you can freeze it. Just wrap each piece of cake in plastic wrap and then put it into a freezer bag. Make sure to mark it with the date! When you’re in the mood for a piece of healthy carrot cake, take a piece out and let it thaw on the counter for about 20 minutes or so.
Have you tried this recipe? If so, I’d love for you to rate this recipe and leave a comment below. We all learn from each other’s experiences. Also, it would be awesome if you could share a picture on Instagram and tag it #organizeyourselfskinny. I can’t wait to see it!