This Healthy Carrot Cake recipe lightens up the classic recipe without skimping on all the good stuff. Moist. Delicious. Totally satisfying.
When the question is, “should I?” healthy carrot cake responds with a resounding “YES!”
- Nuts? Of course.
- Pineapple? Absolutely.
- Spices? Mandatory (for this Pumpkin Sheet Cake too).
- 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.”
5 Star Review
“Wow! This is superb.”— Carla —
Carrot cake (including in the form of Carrot Cake Cupcakes) 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).
For another excellent carrot cake, check out The Well Plated Cookbook. It has my best version of it yet!
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.
- Buttermilk. Buttermilk makes this cake moist and adds a little tang (ditto for my popular Lemon Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting).
- 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. (It’s also in my favorite Triple Chocolate Easter Cake).
- Mix-Ins. A shower of chopped nuts, toasted coconut, and whatever else makes your heart happy makes for a beautiful grand finale.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Combine dry ingredients.
- Beat together all of the wet ingredients but the buttermilk. Then add the grated carrots, pineapple, and shredded coconut.
- Gradually add the dry ingredients and buttermilk, alternating between the two. Gently fold in the walnuts and raisins.
- Bake, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool.
- Prepare the frosting then spread evenly over the cooled cake.
- Sprinkle with toasted nuts and serve. ENJOY!
- 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.
“Healthy” means a second slice, yes? I think we all agree.
Frequently Asked Questions
I have not tried making this recipe gluten free before so it would be an experiment. If you’d like to give it a whirl, I would suggest swapping the all purpose and whole wheat pastry flour for a 1-to-1 gluten free baking alternative (or try this Gluten Free Carrot Cake).
No. Whole wheat pastry flour is more finely ground than regular whole wheat flour and also contains slightly less gluten making it ideal for more delicate bakes such as cookies, pastries, and cakes. Save your regular whole wheat flour for baking hearty loaves of Magic Multigrain Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread.
I have not tried this swap before but I can’t say that I recommend it for this cake. In testing, I cut out as much fat as I could without impacting the texture or moisture of this cake. I fear swapping the oil for applesauce would result in a dry or gummy crumb. If you’d still like to experiment, however, feel free and let me know how it goes.
Healthy Carrot Cake
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
- 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 the cooled cake. Sprinkle with toasted nuts and serve.
- TO STORE: This cake may be stored in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 1 week. Let come to almost room temperature before serving.
- TO FREEZE: 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.
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