This healthy carrot cake recipe is incredibly moist and nobody will believe it’s whole wheat! Recipe includes a less sugary cream cheese frosting. Can also be made with all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour.
Please note that although the video says Gluten-free Carrot Cake – this video is also how this healthy carrot cake is made! It just uses a different flour.
I accidentally republished my whole wheat rolls recipe last week and it went out to my email subscribers. Sorry about that! I don’t normally post recipes without gluten-free options. All I wanted to do was update the photos.
Today’s recipe can be made with whole wheat but also with gluten-free flour. The gluten-free option isn’t a whole grain healthy option but it is crazy delicious. All-purpose flour also works great.
And all three versions are just as delicious! And nobody can tell the difference between the three.
I have to say that I’m not a fan of carrots. I wanted them to be undetectable in this cake, so I used the really fine grater of my food processor. I’ve also used a Microplane zester but that takes a long time.
I used to bring this carrot cake into work every Easter and the Americans recognized it as carrot cake. But nobody has ever had any idea that it was a whole wheat carrot cake!
I don’t think they have carrot cake here in Germany (it might be at Starbucks or something like that) and whenever I give this to Germans, they say it’s the “best Christmas cake ever!”
At first I thought it was absurd, but then I realized they have a point. This has cinnamon and ginger. That is kind of Christmasy.
Do we associate carrot cake with Easter because the Easter Bunny eats carrots? I’ve googled it and couldn’t find an answer. It’s because of the bunnies, right? :D
To turn this carrot cake into a healthy carrot cake, in addition to the flour change, I reduced the sugar (by quite a lot!) and used coconut sugar. You can use granulated sugar if you prefer.
Instead of all oil, you use a mix of oil + applesauce. But unlike some other recipes that use applesauce, this change didn’t make this healthy carrot cake any drier or less tasty.
I also healthified the frosting! A lot of cream cheese frosting recipes use a ton of sugar. Not this one.
I reduced the sugar by quite a bit and now it tastes more like a cream cheese tart filling than super sugary frosting.
It’s a 1.5x version of my healthier cream cheese frosting. If you just want to frost the top of each layer and nothing on the side, check out the notes below for how much to use.
By the way, if you’re wondering what else to make for Easter, this scalloped potatoes and ham recipe from A Mind “Full” Mom look incredible! And if you prefer a sheet cake, try this maple carrot sheet cake from Healthy Seasonal Recipes!
Questions about this healthy carrot cake?
- Can you taste the olive oil?
I used extra-virgin olive oil and you can taste it in the batter and while the baked cake is still hot. Once it cools, you can’t taste it. If you’re worried about it, use light olive oil (the light refers to the taste and not calories).
- Can I use another oil other than olive?
You can use canola oil, vegetable oil, grapeseed oil, etc. Anything neutral tasting. I haven’t tried coconut oil but if you do, I’d recommend using refined coconut oil unless you want some coconut taste in your cake.
- Can I use butter? I bet you could use butter in this cake but it wouldn’t be as moist (butter is 80-82% fat and oil is 100% fat).
- Can I use a different gluten-free flour?
I’ve only used the one listed in the recipe. If you have another brand that works as a sub for all-purpose flour, then you could probably use it here. I can’t say the texture would be as perfect as with the flour mix I used, though.
- Can I use a liquid sweetener?
Unfortunately not without experimenting!
- Can I reduce the sugar?
This carrot cake recipe already calls for a lot less sugar than a regular cake. Reducing sugar also reduces moistness so unless you want a dry cake, I wouldn’t recommend reducing the sugar any more.
- How can I make the frosting dairy-free?
You could use dairy-free cream cheese and butter in the below recipe or you could make my vegan cream cheese frosting (it doesn’t actually use cream cheese!).
- Does the cream cheese frosting pipe well?
You can pipe it if you double the amount of butter.
- Can I use a different sized pan?
Here’s a super handy pan conversion chart that should be able to help. Looks like a 9″x13″ should work well, though I haven’t tried it.
- Can I make this recipe into cupcakes?
Yes! This recipe will yield 24 cupcakes. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Use the smaller amount of frosting found in the recipe notes (the one that uses 12 ounces of cream cheese and not 16). This will yield about 2 cups so that means 4 teaspoons of frosting per cupcake.
- Can I freeze the layers / frosted cake?
Freezing the layers would definitely work. Freezing frosted layers, though? I’m not too sure about that. Does anyone know if freezing cream cheese frosting works well?
- Can I add pineapple, walnuts, raisins, etc.?
Walnuts or raisins wouldn’t be a problem but I’m a little doubtful of crushed pineapple or anything liquidy. The cake is already so moist that I’d be afraid that pineapple would make it soggy. I could be wrong, though!
If you try it out, please let us know in the comments and I’ll update this. :) You could also alternatively try this carrot cake with pineapple!
If you try out this healthy carrot cake, I’d love if you could leave a comment with some feedback! Thank you and enjoy. :)
Healthy Carrot Cake (gluten-free, whole wheat options)
- Prep Time:
- Cook Time:
- Ready in:
- Yield: 12-16 slices
- 2 cups (250 grams) whole spelt flour or whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour or for a gluten-free version, 2 cups (276 grams) Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-free Baking Flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 4 large (50 grams each, out of shell) eggs
- 1 cup (200 grams) coconut sugar1 or granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup (183 grams) unsweetened apple sauce
- 1/2 cup (118ml) olive oil (canola oil or another vegetable oil would work fine)
- 14.5 oz / 410 grams grated and peeled carrots2
- 18 ounces (510 grams) cream cheese, room temperature4
- 4.5 tablespoons (63 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups (180 grams) powdered sugar
- pinch of salt
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the frosting: (see note below)3
- Preheat your oven to 350°F / 175°C and grease three 8″ pans or line them with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and then add the sugar, apple sauce, and olive oil and mix until combined.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir just until combined.
- Then fold in the carrots, again only until combined.
- Bake for 13 – 17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. I accidentally had the fan on so these minutes could be off. It might be longer, but just check it at 13 and see how it is.
- Let cool for 5 minutes in the pans, and then turn onto a wire rack to cool.
- Frost when completely cooled.
- For the frosting, beat together the cream cheese and Greek yogurt. When combined, add the powdered sugar, a little bit at a time. This frosting isn't pipeable, but if you refrigerate it overnight, it it sets a little more than when first made. This recipe only makes enough to fill the two layers and the top. You can see that the layers also only had thin layers of icing. I used a little less than 1/2 cup per layer. If iced, store in the fridge. The cake stays moist for several days.
- Note that it's best to weigh coconut sugar! Some brands are light and coarse and some brands (like the one I use) are very fine and dense.
- I used the fine grater of my food processor. I can’t say if this would work if you grate them coarsely. It might lose some of its moisture. Mine was almost like a puree.
- This is enough to frost it like in the pictures, with about 2/3 cup on top of each layer and some frosting for the sides. If you just want to frost the top of each layer, use 12 ounces cream cheese, 3 tablespoons butter, 1 cup of powdered sugar, a pinch of salt and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- We have a different type of cream cheese in the US that's firmer and meant for baking, rather than for toast, like in Europe. For 8 ounces (225 grams) of cream cheese, buy a 300-gram package (the stuff at Aldi, Lidl, etc. works just as well as Philadelphia), put it in the center of a clean tea towel or cheesecloth, and squeeze out the liquid until you have 225 grams of cream cheese. You can now make cream cheese frosting without issue. So for this recipe, buy 675 grams of cream cheese and squeeze out the liquid until you have 510 grams.
- This recipe was updated on 3/14/18 with a new frosting recipe. The previous was called for 8 ounces (225 grams) cream cheese, 1 6-ounce container (170 grams) Greek yogurt, and 1/2 – 1 cup (60 – 12 grams) powdered sugar.
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. For more info, see my disclosure.
145 comments on “Healthy Carrot Cake (the most amazing texture!)” — Add one!
3 comments are awaiting moderation!
I’m a semi-professional baker (I recently sold my bakery in the States and moved to Belgium), so I usually bake for flavor and texture and don’t think too much about the amount of sugar or less-healthy flour is in a recipe. That being said, I’m a hit of a fanatic when it comes to ingredients in my own home, and I strictly avoid processed foods, refined oils, etc. so, I’ve been thinking about refining my baking habits and including more “healthy” options into the mix. This was my first go, and I was skeptical. I’m SO glad I started with this cake! It is awesome! Even my (very picky) 8 yr old LOVED IT. It’s true what she says about the texture. Amazing.
A few comments – in the notes it says 1.5 cups of sugar. In the recipe it says 1 cup or (200g). I think this is a typo because 1 cup of coconut sugar is not 200g according to my scale. Anyway, I went with a cup and figured whoever wants a sweeter taste can spread some honey on a slice (which is delicious by the way).
I grated the carrots on the normal side (bigger, I guess?) of my box grater and the cake was still amazing and moist.
You can definitely taste the olive oil. I think I will try with coconut oil next time. I would prefer to taste coconut in my cake. Also, coconut is more stable at higher temperatures. (Just thinking of my health and avoiding burned oil).
Finally, the baking time says 13-17 minutes. In the notes it says cupcakes will take 18-20 minutes, so I think this is another typo. I used a 9” round and baked it for close to 40 minutes at 350 and my oven tends to bake things quickly. I always have to reduce baking times. I did cover it halfway through baking and then removed the foil for the last 5-7 minutes.
Hello! Thanks for your comment. I’m so glad you and your kid loved it! The recipe calls for using three round 8″ pans. When you only use one 9″ round pan, it’s normal for it to take a lot longer to bake. So that’s why you needed 40 minutes instead of 13-17. I’m surprised it baked through at all! That’s great.
The recipe post says to bake cupcakes for 15-20 minutes (not 18-20). I’ve made this recipe using three 8″ pans and cupcake pans 2-3x a year for 14 years, so I can attest to the baking times being correct. :)
Thanks for pointing out where I said you can reduce the sugar to 1 cup from 1 1/2 cups! I originally posted this recipe in 2012 with 1 1/2 cups of sugar. I’ve since updated the recipe to use 1 cup, but forgot to change the post. I’ve also added a note saying to weigh the coconut sugar, if possible. The brand I have is 200 grams per cup. Several brands say 1/4 cup = 50 grams on the pack of their coconut sugar packages. It really depends on the brand and how finely ground it is.
What kind of olive oil did you use? I ask because I always use the organic extra-virgin olive oil from Aldi and Lidl and have never tasted any olive oil in this cake. If you use a very expensive, very intense olive oil, then I can imagine you’d be able to taste it.
If you’d like to avoid coconut flavor (I know you said you’d prefer coconut flavor to olive oil flavor, but if you wouldn’t like any additional flavor from the oil at all), you can use refined coconut oil. Or just a lighter, less intense olive oil. I haven’t tried coconut oil in this cake, but I find that with cakes in general, the result is often firmer and less fluffy when at room temperature than cake made with a liquid (at room temp) oil.
Hi to make this diabetic friendly, how can I substitute the sugar ( should i use a blend of xylitol, erythritol and stevia like you did in the chocolate chip cookie?)
I’m so sorry for just now seeing this! That blend I use isn’t a 1:1 blend for regular sugar, so I wouldn’t do that. I would recommend using a sweetener that’s a 1:1 sub for regular granulated sugar. I don’t use sugar subs, so I can’t recommend one. Sorry that I’m no help!
I made these into cupcakes and adjusted for high altitude. I also added about 1/4 cup med shredded unsweetened coconut for a bit of the carrots and then some! I almost halved the icing recipe and thought it was the perfect amount to add just a small layer on top of the cupcakes. I also used homemade applesauce—just cooked! Thanks for the yummy recipe!
I’m sorry for just now seeing your comment! Your changes sound great and I’m glad that the cupcakes came out well at high altitude. :) And homemade applesauce – yum! Thanks a bunch for your feedback.
YUM!!!! Looks delicious Erin!
Thanks! Hope you’ll get to try it out. :)
Delicious! I made this with the gf flour mix recipe on your website, the children really enjoyed them! We also finely grated the carrots… The cake is moist and delicious! Thank you for another great recipe!
You’re welcome! Do you mean the Bob’s Red Mill GF Baking Mix or the one that I use in a few recipes with white rice flour, potato starch, etc.? Thank you again for your feedback. It’s always nice to hear from you. :)
I can’t make this for my family due to many reasons but it really bothers me that you don’t yet know that canola oil is not a healthy oil. I used it for many years but stopped 5 years ago when I learned the truth about it. I won’t bother you with all the details, but please check it out. There are lots of expert sources that will tell you that.
I do already know that canola oil is not healthy. I list olive oil as the oil to use but people don’t always want to use that so I list as many options as I can because people always ask. I get emails telling me how one shouldn’t bake with olive oil. I get angry emails about how coconut oil is just terrible and causes this and that. If I used ghee or butter, I’d get angry emails about that. If I used lard or palm oil, I’d get angry emails about that, too. Someone always has issues with something. So I’ve learned to just offer people choices and let them decide themselves what to use. :)
Freedom of choice, with everyone sick these days we all need to experiment on what works within our own environment.
Coconut oil takes time to adjust one’s taste buds.
Just apply what a person likes.
Thanks! I agree. :)
This really was the best gluten free carrot cake I have ever had – added chopped pineapple & toasted walnuts to top-notch will absolutely make again & again!!
Yay! I’m really happy to hear that! Thanks for your comment. :) And yum to pineapple and walnuts!
Wonderful recipe and so easy to follow! I’ll be checking what other recipes of yours I can try!
– Novice Baker ;)
I’m sorry for just now seeing your comment! I’m so glad that you liked the cake. :) I hope you’ll find some other recipes that look good. Thanks for your feedback!
Hi there! :) will this recipe work if I want to bake it in one pan and then cut it in half/thirds? I don’t have two round pans of the same size and I don’t want to buy just for one recipe :/ Thanks !
Yes, that’d work! Just keep a close eye on the baking time. :)
This recipe was great! I made this for my sons first birthday. I’m about to make it for the second time in a week! I used whole wheat flour, I added shredded coconut, raisins and walnuts to the mix and substituted 1/4 cup of oil with yogurt. my parents and I were fighting over the last peice so I figured I would just make another cake and send some back home to TX with them! Thank you for sharing your recipe!
I’m so sorry for just now seeing your comment! I love that you made another cake to send your parents back home with. :) Your additions sound great. Thanks for your feedback and sorry again!
excellent recipe. made in a 13×9 pan. used coconut sugar and added sultanas and walnuts. perfectly sweet. frosted with maple cream cheese frosting from another site and it was a perfect match. will make again as half recipe in an 8×8 pan.
I’m so glad that you enjoyed it! I bet it was amazing with the maple cream cheese frosting. Yum! Thanks for your comment. :)
How long and at what temp did you bake this recipe in a 13×9 pan!!!? :) Let me know, thanks!
That person didn’t have the email notification option selected so they won’t see your comment unless they come back to this page and reread their old comment. I haven’t tried it but I’m guessing 350 degrees F but have no idea of the baking time. Just keep a close eye on it. :)
Thank you so much for sharing this low sugar carrot cake recipe. HEre 1 Teaspoon means flat or heaped teaspoon?
ALso one more doubt, the weight of the carrot is before peeling or after peeling?
I’m so sorry for just now seeing your questions! Measurements are always flat unless the recipe specifically says heaped. :) The weight of the carrots is peeled. Hope you’ll enjoy the cake!
Thank you for your reply. Before getting your reply, I tried as a sheet cake by doubling the recipe by replacing the apple sauce with equal cups of greek yoghurt (since i didnt want to add much oil) , but it was so yoghurty, still it tasted awesome after 2 days. Is there anything else i can add to replace the applesauce?
As you can probably tell, I’m having issues with the comments. :( Sorry again for just now seeing this. There’s not really a good sub for applesauce. You could do oil or a mix of sugar and oil but I don’t think that’ll help you. Sorry I can’t be more helpful.
do I need to put applesauce In an earlier comment, you said substitute with oil but along with the olive oil, would it be too oily?
You can use either applesauce or oil. It wouldn’t be too oily with more oil. That’s how I used to make it!
Delicious! I used one cup of brown sugar and it turned out great! Thanks for the recipe :)
Awesome! Glad to hear that it worked out well with less sugar. Thanks for your feedback. :)
Hello, I am wondering if this would do well in sheet pan? Also would I most likely double the recipe for a sheet pan? Thanks so much!
Hello! I haven’t tried it but here’s a pan conversion chart that you might find useful. :) Hope you’ll enjoy the cake!
This recipe looks delicious from the description and reviews. I am in Denver and could use some ingredient adjustments for high altitude. Any suggestions? Thanks. :)
Hi there! I unfortunately have zero experience with high altitude baking but I think this guide might be helpful! Sorry I don’t have a better answer for you. :(
This cake is absolutely delicious! I have made it multiple times over the past couple of years. I’ve made it as a sheet cake, as a layer cake, and most recently, as cupcakes. Per a comment I saw, I added 1 tsp. of baking powder to the recipe when making this recipe as cupcakes and it was perfect! Thank you, Erin for sharing this lightened yet decadent treat!
You’re welcome! I’m so happy that you’ve been enjoying it over the years. :) Thanks for the tip with the baking powder and cupcakes! I’ve made them often as cupcakes and they’re always so fluffy so I’m curious how they are with the extra baking powder! Thanks again for your comment. :)
Hi, this recipe looks delicious! Is there a way we could get nutrition facts on it? Thank you!!
Hi there! You could use this recipe analyzer if you’d like for that info. :)
I did the recipe, and the cake was amazing! I did a few shorcuts thou and it worked out amizingly : I mixed all the ingredients together, along with chunks of carrot in the blender, and just blended everything together. Used the spelt flour. The mix was really liquid but I added some shredded coconut and some walnuts. Took about 30 minuts to bake and was amazing. I topped it whit whipped coconut cream and slathered with maple syrup. Next I am trying it without eggs and sub them for flax eggs. It was amazing the flavour and texture. :) Thank you
I also baked this on Easter Sunday. Everyone loved it, especially my German husband 😉
Thank you for the recipe!
Haha. Happy your German enjoyed it. ;) Thanks again for your feedback!
Do you know if I can use almond flour instead? I cant eat gluten so was wondering. Thanks!
You can’t but I have a super delicious paleo carrot cake recipe that uses almond + coconut flour. :)
Thanks will check it out :)
Hi! These sound delicious!
Would I be able to sub butter in place of oil?
Also I’m planning on making cupcakes, do you think this recipe will yield around 24?
Hi! I haven’t tried it but I think it’d work. But the cake would be less moist so I definitely recommend some kind of oil. :) And it will yield 24 cupcakes. Hope you’ll enjoy them!
Thank you! I’ll stick with oil.
Also, do you think I could sweeten the cream cheese- Greek yogurt frosting with maple syrup (as your other recipe does) instead of sugar, or would it be too runny? I could of course skip the yogurt, but it sounds like such a yummy addition!
I think it’d be too runny. Which recipe of mine uses maple syrup? I have so many I many I’ve started to forget. :D This one just uses maple, but it’s based on mascarpone and heavy cream. And it’d be amazing on this carrot cake!
Oh my word!! LOVE carrot cake and this heathier version. I will be making this with my scalloped potatoes for sure!
Woohoo! Hope you’ll enjoy it. :)
I found your website today while looking for a spelt carrot cake recipe. Made this and loved it! I halved the recipe and baked it in my cast iron skillet. I didn’t have regular Greek yogurt, so I subbed coconut Greek yogurt. It was amazing! I can’t wait to try some of your other recipes.
Awesome! I’m so happy that it came out well and cooking it in a cast iron skillet sounds like a great idea. Thanks for your comment. :)
Hey would love to try these, any substitute for applesauce?
Hi there! Oil should work. That’s what the original recipe used and I subbed applesauce for it. :) And sorry for my slow reply!
Thanks! Will make it today!
Awesome! Hope you’ll enjoy it. :)
Made these today, 5 stars for taste. I really don’t like too sweet desserts and this was great. Really like that the ingredients are simple and had half the sugar of other recipes I read. Made them as cupcakes, 22 total. Would have preferred they rise more but I’ve never had cupcakes rise well. Would try it again as a round cake and might add nuts. Thanks for including the grams, made measuring much easier. Also like the icing, used 3/4 cup sugar and can actually taste the cream cheese instead of store bought sugary stuff.
Hmm. That’s interesting about them rising. Were they still fluffy? I remember them being nice and fluffy as cupcakes, but I don’t remember exactly if they rose a lot. Either way, I’m so happy that you enjoyed the recipe! Thanks for your comment. :)
This recipe was a bit of a disaster! I checked and rechecked the amounts but my batter was waaaay too wet. No way these would be done baking in the timeframe given as a cake (I did cupcakes and still had to bake longer). I added more flour to second batch to help remedy them. It also seems like way too much oil, as the cupcake papers ended up saturated in oil. Good flavor though.
I’m sorry it didn’t work out! If you click on “older comments” at the bottom of the page, you’ll find several reviews and they’ve all been positive. I’m afraid something must have gone wrong. They definitely shouldn’t be oily! Did you make any changes or subs at all to the recipe?
Made these as cupcakes this morning and they turned out incredible! The flavor is fantastic and the texture is awesome! They are moist yet light. The flavor reminds me a lot of Morning Glory muffins, which are my favorites but I have never found a good recipe for them. The only things I did differently was adding some vanilla because I love vanilla and adding one tsp baking powder for extra fluffiness. I am so glad to have found this recipe. My son loves it as much as my banana muffins and thus far those have been undefeated favorites. Thanks for a wholesome alternative to the traditional cake. Serving these with cream cheese frosting on Easter and I don’t think anyone will miss the sugar. Excellent job!
Thanks so much! I’m so happy that they worked out well as cupcakes for you and that you’ll be making them again for Easter. I’ll have to try these with extra baking powder and see how they are! Thanks a bunch for your thoughtful comment. :)
Hey! This looks amazing and I am thinking of making it for Easter. I always want to use whole wheat flour in cake but have found that it requires a recipe intended to be that way for it to turn out well. So I am really excited to try this. I was wondering if you have any idea how many cupcakes this might make? I look forward to making it and letting you know how it turns out.
It’ll make 24 cupcakes (each mold filled 3/4 full). Bake for 12-18 minutes. :) I hope you’ll enjoy them!