Healthy Carrot Cake

I’m a chronic suitcase over-packer. I like to have options (especially shoe options), and I inevitably have to sit on my suitcase to persuade it to zip for almost every trip. While this “be prepared” travel tendency makes me terrible at producing a bag of reasonable weight, it’s also how I created an excellent healthy carrot cake.

Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake. A healthy carrot cake recipe that's so moist. Our favorite!

When the question is, “should I?” healthy carrot cake responds with a resounding “YES!” Nuts? Of course. Pineapple? Absolutely. Spices? Mandatory. Coconut? Not even a question. Raisins? Let’s go there. This healthy carrot cake recipe took one look at the kitchen sink and said, “Of course we are including that.” It also supported my decision to pack a second pair of boots.

Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake. SO moist. This is the best healthy carrot cake recipe

Healthy Carrot Cake with Greek Yogurt Cream Cheese Frosting. So moist and delicious!

Carrot cake will forever be one of my favorite desserts—it’s homey, signals that spring is near, and is an excellent excuse to eat irresponsible levels of cream cheese frosting. It’s also one of the easiest cakes to make healthy, without sacrificing a speck of texture or flavor.

Healthy Carrot Cake with Greek Yogurt Cream Cheese Frosting

Creating stealthy-healthy desserts (treats that are lightened up but are so yummy, they leave you and your family none the wiser) is one of my passions on this site, and today’s healthy carrot cake is one of my most successful recipe makeovers to date. Most lighter cakes commit the inexcusable dessert crime of being too dry, but thanks to buttermilk, lots of crushed pineapple (which sweetens the cake naturally), and as many finely grated carrots as I could responsibly stuff into the batter (2 1/2 cups!), this cake is marvelously moist and tender.

Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake. A healthy carrot cake recipe with pineapple, coconut, walnuts, and golden raisins

This healthy carrot cake is also whole grain. I replaced a good portion of the all purpose flour with Bob’s Red Mill Organic Whole Wheat Pastry Flour. Its lightly nutty flavor blends subtly with the walnuts and warm spices, and if I hadn’t baked this cake myself, I would never have noticed the swap. Stealthy healthy strikes again.

A moist and healthy carrot cake recipe

Because a carrot cake without cream cheese frosting is but a carrot loaf—still enjoyable but not at all the same thing—I smeared it generously with a lightened-up Greek yogurt cream cheese frosting. The tangy Greek yogurt cuts some of the fat and adds a bit of protein, but it’s still the cream cheese flavor that stars.

Everything Carrot Cake. The most moist carrot cake loaded with nuts, coconut, pineapple, and spices. This is the best healthy carrot cake recipe!

The finale: a shower of chopped nuts, toasted coconut, and whatever else makes your heart happy. Slice generously.

The most moist healthy carrot cake recipe with skinny cream cheese frosting

Surely if I’m holding a plate of this healthy carrot cake, I can get someone else to lug my suitcase, yes? The extra boots were totally necessary.

Did you make this recipe?
Leave a review »

Healthy Carrot Cake with Light Cream Cheese Frosting

An ultra-moist healthy carrot cake that’s so delicious, you’ll never miss the extra calories.

Yield: 10 servings

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

  • 1 2/3 cups Bob’s Red Mill Unbleached All Purpose Flour
  • 3/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups grated carrots (about 3 large or 4 small/medium)
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup toasted and roughly chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1/4 cup raisins, golden raisins, or dried cranberries (optional)

For the Greek Yogurt Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 3 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • Toasted chopped pecans or walnuts

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray a 10-inch springform pan with nonstick spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large mixing bowl, beat together the egg, egg whites, brown sugar, canola oil, and vanilla extract on medium speed until well combined. Add the grated carrots and beat for 1 minute. Add the pineapple and shredded coconut and beat just until incorporated. With a wooden spoon, stir in half of the flour mixture, just until the flour almost disappears. Stir in the buttermilk. Add the remaining flour mixture, continuing to stir in by hand, just until combined. Gently fold in the walnuts and raisins.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (Check at the 30-minute mark—if the edges of the cake are browning too quickly, tent with foil, then return to the oven to finish baking.) Remove the cake from the oven and let cool completely in the pan. Run a dull knife, such as a butter knife, along the edge of the cake to loosen, then unmold it. Carefully transfer the cake to a serving plate.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the frosting: In a medium bowl, beat together the cream cheese, Greek yogurt, butter, vanilla extract, almond extract (if using), and salt at medium speed for 2 minutes, until fluffy and well combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar, increasing the speed to medium as you go. Beat for 1 to 2 minutes until well combined. Spread the frosting evenly over top of cooled cake. Sprinkle with toasted nuts and serve.
All images and text ©/Well Plated.

Nutrition Information

Serving Size: 1 (of 10)

  • Amount Per Serving:
  • Calories: 460 Calories
  • Total Fat: 16g
  • Saturated Fat: 3g
  • Cholesterol: 30mg
  • Sodium: 428mg
  • Carbohydrates: 71g
  • Fiber: 4g
  • Sugar: 45g
  • Protein: 9g

Did you try this recipe? I want to see! Follow Well Plated on Instagram, snap a photo, and tag it #wellplated. I love to know what you are making!

I’m sharing this post in partnership with Bob’s Red Mill. Thanks for supporting the brands and companies I value. For more tasty recipes and a coupon for $1.00 off any product, please visit BobsRedMill.com!

About Erin Clarke

I’m fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food taste incredible. Wearer of plaid, travel enthusiast, and firmly convinced that sweets and veggies both deserve a place at the table. MORE ABOUT ERIN…

73 comments

  1. This looks SO good! And I love that it’s practically guilt-free! I love stealthy-healthy desserts! Two slices for me, please! Xo

  2. This is gorgeous, Erin! I always associate carrot cake with spring too. Loved that you packed ALL the things into this cake! :-)

  3. Oh, dang! This looks good. I’m not normally a big carrot cake person, but now, I’m dying to try a slice. I’ll totally carry your luggage around if you let me have just one slice! ;) 

  4. Hey girl-That looks oh so yummy!! Now that makes me hungry!! Breakfast time!! 

  5. Ooh — carrot cake!  My favorite.  This recipe looks divine.
    I’m going to have to make this.  It also sounds like the perfect cake to make for my family Easter gathering this year.  Thanks for posting it.

  6. Carrot cake is my FAVORITE! Oh it just looks so perfect I don’t even know what to say. I want to stuff my face with it. Because it’s healthy and I can do that.

  7. Greek yogurt cream cheese frosting?! Be still, my heart!

    Plus also, we’ve got another chronic over-packer right here. After several (very embarrassing) episodes of having to unpack and repack my suitcase at the airline counter in order to get my bag down to a reasonable weight, we now always weigh our (my) bags at home the night before we leave for the airport. If no airplane is involved, forget about it…the trunk is mine! 

  8. Wow, this is amazing. It’s so pretty! That cream cheese frosting on top looks like a happy cloud. And I love that it’s got so many healthy ingredients. This is one of my favorites that you’ve done, Erin!

  9. I love desserts that are healthy and don’t taste like it!  This carrot cake looks delicious!

  10. If this masterpiece is healthy, then I can do the healthy dessert thing for reals.  It is perfect!

  11. i love carrot cake!! what a great twist on it :)

  12. I love how loaded this is with texture and flavor. Just gorgeous, Erin!

  13. Haha Erin this is so great! Tomorrow is my birthday and I always make carrot cake on my birthday!! I’m always trying different versions so tonight I’m trying this one. Excellent timing!! I’ll let you know how it turns out. :)

  14. WOW this looks amazing.  It seriously has me drooling.

  15. Yes, please. I’ll take 2 pieces. ;) Love carrot cake and this looks scrumptious!!

  16. This is incredible, Erin! I love that you made a healthy version of one of my favorite cakes. I have to make this!!

  17. Erin! This cake looks gorgeous!! I can’t get over it. Plus, the fact that it’s full of healthy additions makes it even more eye-catching. Spring, here we come…with carrot cake in hand. :)

  18. Carrot cake is my husband and dad’s favorite cake especially during this time of year! My dad is trying to watch what he eats this year so I’m loving this healthier version! Love the greek yogurt in the cream cheese frosting! It looks incredible!

  19. The use of pineapple is so clever!! Will definitely have to try this recipe out with gluten-free flour!

  20. I love carrot cake. Your recipe just sounds delicious, what a great idea. I definitely will try it. Thanks for sharing.

  21. So my boyfriend loves carrot cake and I love that I can test out this recipe on him! I am always trying to get him to eat healthier so this carrot cake is the perfect disguise!

  22. It definitely is carrot cake season! I love that you packed so much goodness into this. And it’s so thick! Looks great.

  23. This looks amazing! Love the way you frosted and decorated this baby :) Pinning!

  24. That carrot cake looks SO yummy!! And I love that it’s healthier than normal, I definitely need to try this soon!! Pinned :)

  25. I love carrot cake! As a kid, I’d always choose carrot cake over chocolate cake and it’s still that way. So I’m happy you made it healthier and you’re right- without the cream cheese it’s just a loaf or bread! Pinning. 

  26. LOVE healthier desserts — because there’s no way I’m giving them up, at least this way I don’t have to feel guilty about eating them :) So perfect for Easter!

  27. These photos are lovely!

  28. Carrot cake is my favourite ever! I just don’t understand when people call it boring… it’s so amazingly moist and flavoursome!
    Love the addition of almond extract to the frosting, I’ve never used it before and am very intrigued and keen!

    {Teffy’s Perks} X

  29. Erin, I’ve had carrot cake on the brain for a few weeks now. .  I LOVE this cake!!! I need to make this ASAP and get my carrot cake fix!!! and love that cake plate!!! so pretty! this is so perfect for Easter brunch! 

  30. Oh my, this looks so YUMMY! ♥ I love how you can see all the goodness inside of this cake when you cut off a slice ^.^ I also really appreciate how much thought you put into making delicious goodies into delicious AND healthy goodies! :)

  31. I’ve learned to be a stealthy packer after too many multi suitcase airport dashes, and it’s my excuse to go shopping when I reach my destination :) 
    When it comes to carrot cake though, more is always more – pineapple – yes! raisins – yes! walnuts – yes! cream cheese – double yes!! 
    I can’t wait to make this cake and serve myself up a big ole slice without any guilty baggage :) 

  32. I love love love carrot cake! Especially when it’s “healthified”  so fun :)  Last year, I made a vegan, gluten free version and got rave reviews!! 

  33. You must’ve read my mind… or my stomach.  I have been CRAVING carrot cake lately.  Definitely pinning this for sometime soon!

  34. I’ve been eating carrot-cake-inspired oatmeal and smoothies for a few days now. I guess I should make the real thing now, right? Of course! 

  35. Your carrot cake looks so delicious!  It’s my husband’s favorite cake…I love your take on it with the pineapple and coconut.  And healthier!  No reason left  not to make it for him. ;)

  36. Hi Erin, Just wanted to let you know I did make this cake and loved it! Like you said, MOIST is the word. But not like moist from too much oil or butter, but moist from all the juicy ingredients you include, all those carrots, the pineapple, the raisins…. so good.

    To make it a bit healthier, I reduced the sugar by half and found it tasted just fine (I reduce the sugar by half in all my sweet baking and not even my sweet tooth husband and in laws ever miss it, and i find it helps you appreciate the other flavors better), and also used unsweetened coconut. Due to all that moisture it took a bit longer to bake but that will probably depend on your oven. This might be my definitive birthday carrot cake recipe :) !

    thanks so much for sharing another great recipe!

  37. What are the nutritional values for this cake and will it turn out OK if I use a bundt pan???

  38. Hi Erin,  this cake looks scrumptious and I am so excited to make it for my in-laws’ Easter dinner! Quick question:  can I frost the cake the evening before its eaten?  Or would I need to frost it immediately before eating in case the  greek yogurt causes the frosting to soak into the cake?  If it is possible to frost it in advance, should I store the frosted cake in the fridge until its time to eat it? Thanks so much!

  39. I made this today for Easter.  Every one of my guests loved it!  The cake has such good flavor and it was so moist.  I loved how easy it was to make.  You couldn’t even tell the cream cheese frosting was “light” and had yogurt in it.  I’ll be making this again and again.  Thank you!

  40. Carrot cake is my favorite cake is my jam. Can’t resist any of these guys. It’ll perfect the imperfect of my day. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!

  41. Love the ingredients you’ve incorporated…I always love to,load up the flavors in my baked goods!  Recently discovered my daughter in gluten intolerant, so I am trying to convert some recipes to gluten free. Have found a large difference in taste and texture switching to gluten free flours, so I’m wondering if you have had any experience or suggestions on converting your recipe to gluten free?
    Thx for any help you can give!

  42. If making as cupcakes, do you have a timing suggestion?  Thank you!

  43. Not a big fan of coconut. Have you ever made this without it? If not, do you think it would still be good? Any substitutes for it?

  44. This looks absolutely wonderful and I can’t wait to try it!!! Does it matter if I just use only regular flour?Thanks a lot

  45. My sister is a die-hard carrot cake fan so when I told her I could make her a healthier version for her 26th birthday, she was all for it! Not only did this cake look beautiful (I was sad to cut into it!) but it had such great flavor! No one could tell that it was a lighter version than the typical carrot cake. It was a HUGE hit among my family and I just wanted to thank you for allowing me to eat an amazing desert and not feel guilty about it! Oh, and for giving all of us home bakers a chance to show off to our families! This will surely become my go-to carrot cake!

    P.S. Do you know how the cooking time/temperature would vary if made into cupcakes?

    Thanks!!!

  46. Because a carrot cake without cream cheese frosting is but a carrot loaf… loved that.

  47. My grandson’s favorite cake made it today for his 13. Bday. Hope he leaves a slice for me

    • YAY! Happy birthday to your grandson! I’m so honored that this is his favorite cake! I hope he leaves a slice for you too, Rita. :)

  48. Carrot cake is my fave! Can another oil be used in place of Canola? Thank You!!!

    • Hi Gina, yes, you can use another mild-flavored oil! (Don’t use your finest extra-virgin olive oil, for example.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *