This Healthy Carrot Cake recipe lightens up the classic recipe without skimping on all the good stuff. Moist. Delicious. Totally satisfying.

A slice of healthy carrot cake on a plate with a fork.

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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.”

Healthy Carrot Cake with Greek Yogurt Cream Cheese Frosting on a blue serving tray

5 Star Review

“Wow! This is superb.”

— Carla —

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. (Want further proof? I’ve even made a Gluten Free Carrot Cake).

TIP!

For another excellent carrot cake, check out The Well Plated Cookbook. It has my best version of it yet!

Cutting a slice of Carrot Cake with Greek Yogurt Cream Cheese Frosting

How to Make Healthy Carrot Cake

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.


The Ingredients

  • Buttermilk. Buttermilk makes this cake moist and adds a little tang.
  • Crushed Pineapple. Not only sweetens the cake naturally but adds vital moisture.
  • Finely Grated Carrots. I included as many as I could responsibly stuff into the batter (2 1/2 cups!) to give this cake awesome texture and color.
  • Whole Wheat Pastry Flour. I replaced a good portion of the all-purpose flour with whole-wheat pastry flour to make this healthy carrot cake also whole grain.
  • Greek Yogurt. Lightens up the cream cheese frosting by cutting some of the fat while adding a bit of protein.
  • Mix-Ins. A shower of chopped nuts, toasted coconut, and whatever else makes your heart happy makes for a beautiful grand finale.
Mixing batter for carrot cake containing pineapple, coconut, walnuts, and golden raisins

The Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine dry ingredients.
  3. Beat together all of the wet ingredients but the buttermilk. Then add the grated carrots, pineapple, and shredded coconut.
  4. Gradually add the dry ingredients and buttermilk, alternating between the two. Gently fold in the walnuts and raisins.
  5. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. While the cake bakes and cools, prepare the frosting.
  6. Spread the frosting evenly over top of the cooled cake and then sprinkle with toasted nuts and serve. ENJOY!

How to Store and Freeze Healthy Carrot Cake

  • To Store. Cover the cake and place it in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Let come to almost room temperature before serving.
  • To Freeze. Wrap and freeze individual slices in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Remove and thaw in the refrigerator as desired. You can also freeze the entire cake.
Overhead shot of carrot cake with icing on a blue platter

More Delicious Cake Recipes

A slice of carrot cake with skinny cream cheese frosting

Extra mix-ins means extra slices, yes? I think we all agree.

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

Healthy Carrot Cake with Light Cream Cheese Frosting

4.89 from 9 votes
The best healthy carrot cake recipe with pineapple, whole wheat flour, and light cream cheese frosting! Moist, delicious and perfectly spiced!

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 40 mins
Total: 1 hr 30 mins

Servings: 10 servings

Ingredients
  

For the Cake:

  • 1 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup 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 walnuts or pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 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

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray a 10-inch springform pan with nonstick spray.
  • In a medium bowl, stir together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Notes

  • This cake may be stored in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 1 week. Let come to almost room temperature before serving.
  • Wrap and freeze individual slices of this cake in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Remove and thaw in the refrigerator as desired. You can also freeze the entire cake.

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 10)Calories: 460kcalCarbohydrates: 71gProtein: 9gFat: 16gSaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 30mgFiber: 4gSugar: 45g

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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37 Comments

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  1. 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!5 stars

    1. Ana, I am so excited to hear that you love this cake and that it turned out as wonderfully moist for you as it did for me! Great tip about the reduced sugar too. As always, it makes my day to hear that you try and enjoy my recipes. Thank you so much for letting me know!

  2. 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!

    1. Great questions Mary! If it all possible, I would try to frost the cake the day that you serve it, though you could certainly do it several hours in advance. That way, you don’t have to put plastic wrap over it and mess up the frosting. Keep it in the fridge until an hour or so before you are ready to serve, and then you can pull it out to allow the cake to come to room temperature. I hope you all love it! Let me know if you have any other questions.

  3. 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!5 stars

    1. Toni, this comment makes my day! This is one of my all-time favorite cakes, so it brings me special joy to hear your family enjoyed it. Happy Easter, and thanks for letting me know!

      1. Can this cake be made with Gluten Free flour? I know Bob’s Red Mill has a 1:1 flour for the all-purpose flour but what could be substituted for the Whole Wheat Pastry Flour?
        My sister has to eat gluten free and I’d really love for her to enjoy this dessert on Easter without having to make something separate for her.
        Thank you Erin!

        1. Ooh, I just saw your reply to Rebecca below. I wasn’t aware the 1:1 could be swapped with the whole wheat flour. I’ll give it a try and see how that comes out.
          Thank you again!

  4. 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!

    1. Hi Rebecca! That is a great question, and I’m going to be 100% honest that I am not a very experienced gluten free baker. One product I have had success with is Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Gluten Free BakingFlour, which can be swapped for the same amount of regular all purpose or whole wheat flour. You can find it on the Bob’s Red Mill website or on Amazon here—> http://amzn.to/1LapXm0. That might not be ideal, but I hope it at least gives you an option! 

    1. Hi Maggie, I’ve never tried this recipe as cupcakes, but I know most cupcake recipes bake in 20 to 30 minutes, but this is a very moist cake, so it might turn out differently. I’d start checking at the 18-minute mark, then just keep a close eye.

  5. 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?

  6. 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

        1. Hi MJ! Whole wheat pastry flour is much finer than regular whole wheat flour, so I actually wouldn’t recommend that substitution, as the cake will probably be too dense. If you don’t have whole wheat pastry flour, I would suggest using all purpose flour instead. I hope you love the cake!

  7. 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!!!5 stars

    1. Julia, I am thrilled to bits to hear this!!! It’s exactly the kind of comment that lights up  my day :) THANK YOU!
      I’ve never tried these as cupcakes, but I think it would work just fine! To play it safest, you can keep the oven temp at 350 degrees, though they will have a flatter top, or for a more domed top try 375 (the higher temp will help them rise faster, though I’m a tiny bit worried they *might* over cook on top before the middle is done—it’s just hard to say without having tried it myself). Either way, start checking at 15 minutes and go from there. If you try the cupcake route, I’d love to hear what temp/time you choose and how they turn out!

    1. 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. :)

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

  8. Hi Erin,  I’m glad I made this and would do so again b/c the healthiness of the whole wheat pastry flour didn’t diminish the tenderness of the carrot cake and the frosting has that classic cream cheese frosting we all associate w/ carrot cake.  However, for my palate, next time I make it without the cinnamon as it had a presence I don’t associate w/ carrot cake that was a bit strong for me.  Also when almost done making the frosting I thought it tasted pretty sweet – & though I’m a I-love-a-brownie-sundae kind of a gal – I’m also one who’s trying to decrease my overall sugar intake and ratchet down my palate to be happier w/ less sugar.  Given that and wanting more frosting on my carrot cake than shown in your photos, I opted to use @ 5+ oz. of cream cheese and almost an entire 4 oz. yogurt serving to increase the volume of frosting produced while simultaneously cutting the sweetness.  It worked great.  The texture still smooth and still plenty sweet.  I look forward to trying other recipes of yours.  :)  Thanks, Susan Chapin Musicant4 stars

    1. Susan, thank you for sharing this wonderful review and your tweaks to the recipe. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the cake!

    1. Hi Cynthia! I would be hesitant to recommend this, as applesauce is more liquidy and not sweet enough. The pineapple is both naturally more sweet and gives the cake the right texture. I hope you love the recipe if you decide to give it a try!

  9. Hello – is this recipe low cholesterol? My father needs a LC one and I wanted to check before making it.

    1. Hi Roz! Since I don’t have a medical background, I’d check with your father’s doctor. I’d hate to give you advice that isn’t correct and want to be safe!

    1. Hi April! I’ve already cut as much fat out of this as I can, so I wouldn’t recommend applesauce, as I worry the cake would end up dry/gummy. If you wanted to experiment, you could try swapping half of the oil with the same amount of unsweetened applesauce, but it may impact the results negatively. If you decide to play around, I’d love to hear how it goes!

      1. With just a few ingredient changes(INTENTIONALLY AND NOT;) ) the cake I made was really good….moist AND full of flavour…really tasted like MORE!
        THANX FOR THE INPUT5 stars