The naturally sweet carrots in this Healthier Carrot Cake, combined with honey and applesauce take it to a whole new, and quite nutritional, level.

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Most carrot cakes I’ve tried tend to be overly sweet. I do have a sweet tooth and love carrot cake, but I wanted to eat a slice (or 3) without the associated guilt.

This was my answer. It is a “healthy” carrot cake recipe, shared with me by one of my readers, DeAnna Pavlenko. I loved how she described it: “The naturally sweet carrots, combined with honey and applesauce take this cake to a whole new, and quite nutritional, level.” I knew I had to try it! The cream cheese frosting complements it perfectly and is not overly sweet. My whole family was wowed by this cake.

The cake is best eaten the same day it’s made. The applesauce in it makes it a little more dense the next day, but it’s still super tasty even if you must wait. It’s moist, decadent, sweetened with natural goodness, and you can actually taste the carrots.

Ingredients for The Carrot Honey Cake:

3 cups carrots, peeled and grated
2 cups all-purpose flour *measured correctly
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 eggs at room temp
1 cup honey
1/2 cup canola oil, or extra light olive oil for an even healthier cake!
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup applesauce
1 cup crushed walnuts, toasted on a skillet (optional – I omitted these inside the cake since not everyone in my family eats nuts).

Carrot Cake

Ingredients for Cream Cheese Frosting:

2 cups powdered sugar
16 oz cream cheese at room temp
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened at room temp
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract

To Decorate: 

1/2 to 3/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped and toasted on a skillet
1/4 cup to drizzle over the top

Carrot Cake-2

Carrot Cake-31

How to Make the Carrot Cake Layers:

Preheat the Oven to 350˚ F. Butter and flour 2 round cake pans.

Carrot Cake-18

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt and 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon.

Healthier Carrot Cake

2. In a large bowl beat eggs on high speed until foamy (1 min), Add 1 cup honey and beat on high another 4 min. Blend in 1/2 cup canola oil, 2 tsp vanilla and applesauce.

Healthier Carrot Cake-1

(My son wasn’t happy with me about the applesauce situation..)

Carrot Cake-13

3. Add the flour mixture about 1/2 cup at a time and mix until it is just incorporated into the batter.

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4. Use a spatula to fold in the grated carrots and walnuts (if using) just until combined.

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5. Divide the batter equally among the two cake pans and bake at 350 ˚ F for 28-32 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (mine took ~30 min).

Tip: While cakes are in the oven make your frosting and refrigerate it until ready to use. 

Remove cakes from the oven and once they are cool enough to handle, remove from cake molds and let them cool completely to room temp before assembling and frosting your cake. Note: if the cakes are still warm, your frosting will melt.

Healthier Carrot Cake-4

How to Make Cream Cheese Frosting:

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat 2 sticks of butter with 2 cups powdered sugar on low speed or until combined (1 min) Don’t start on high speed or you will be surrounded in a cloud of powdered sugar (lessons learned). Increase speed to high and beat until the mixture is pale and fluffy (2 min).

Healthier Carrot Cake-5

2. Add cream cheese 1-piece at a time and mix until combined. (I waited maybe 3 seconds in between each piece; it’s one after another really. Once all of the cream cheese is incorporated. continue to beat 1 more minute.

Healthier Carrot Cake-6

3. Add 1 Tbsp vanilla and mix until combined (1 min). Refrigerate frosting until ready to use. Note: if you are refrigerating for a long period of time, you might let it soften up at room temp for easier spreading.

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Assembling your Carrot cake:

1. Place your first (fully cooled) cake layer down on a cake platter. Cover the top generously with frosting. (I used an OXO Bent Icing Knife; very handy tool for cakes!) Top with the second cake layer and frost the top and sides until smooth.

Healthier Carrot Cake-8

2. I pulled the frosting up all around the top rim of the cake (If you don’t have an icing kife, you can use a spoon) to make the “column” effect on the sides (I’m not a pro, but I’m improving. I’m sharing my technique just in case some of you are worse at this than I am! lol). I then used my WILTON 1M large frosting tip and a pastry bag to pipe the pattern all around the cake.

Healthier Carrot Cake-9

3. Top the cake (staying inside the border) with toasted coarsely chopped walnuts and drizzle generously with honey. This cake is best when enjoyed the same day it’s made, but refrigerate the cake if not serving right away and let it sit at least 1 hour at room temp before serving to give the frosting and cake a chance to soften up.

Healthier Carrot Cake copy

The naturally sweet carrots in this Healthier Carrot Cake, combined with honey and applesauce take it to a whole new, and quite nutritional, level.

The naturally sweet carrots in this Healthier Carrot Cake, combined with honey and applesauce take it to a whole new, and quite nutritional, level.

Natasha's Kitchen Cookbook

Carrot Honey Cake Recipe

4.92 from 45 votes
Author: Natasha of NatashasKitchen.com
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients 

Servings: 10 -12

For the Cake Layers:

For the Frosting:

To Decorate:

  • 1/2 cup walnuts, coarsley chopped and toasted on a skillet
  • 1/4 cup to drizzle over the top

Instructions

How to Make the Carrot Cake Layers:

  • Preheat the Oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour 2 round 9-inch cake pans.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt and 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon.
  • In a large bowl beat eggs on high speed until foamy (1 min), Add 1 cup honey and beat on high another 4 min. Blend in 1/2 cup canola oil, 2 tsp vanilla and applesauce.
  • Add in the flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time and mix until it is just incorporated into the batter.
  • Use a spatula to fold in the grated carrots and walnuts (if using) just until combined.
  • Divide the batter equally among the two cake pans and bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes; a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean (mine was closer to 30 min).
  • Tip: While cakes are in the oven make your frosting and refrigerate frosting until ready to use.
  • Remove cakes form the oven and once they are cool enough to handle, remove from cake molds and let them cool completely to room temp before assembling and frosting your cake. Note: if the cakes are still warm, your frosting will melt.

How to Make Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix the 2 sticks of butter with 2 cups powdered sugar on low speed or until combined (1 min) Don’t start on high speed or you will be surrounded in a cloud of powdered sugar. Increase speed to high and beat until the mixture is pale and fluffy (2 min).
  • Add cream cheese 1-piece at a time and mix until combined. (I waited maybe 3 seconds in between each piece; it’s one after another really. Once all of the cream cheese is incorporated. continue to beat 1 more minute.
  • Add 1 Tbsp vanilla and mix until combined (1 min). Refrigerate frosting until ready to use.

Assembling your Carrot cake:

  • Place your first (fully cooled) cake layer down on a cake platter. Cover the top generously with frosting.Top with the second cake layer and frost the top and sides until smooth.
  • I pulled the frosting up all around the cake (If you don't have an icing knife, you can use a spoon) to make the "column" effect on the sides. I then used my WILTON 1M large frosting tip and a pastry bag to pipe the pattern all around the top rim of the cake.
  • Top the cake (staying inside the border) with toasted coarsely chopped walnuts and drizzle generously with honey. This cake is best eaten the same day, but refrigerate the cake if not serving right away and let it sit at least 1 hour at room temp before serving to give the frosting and cake a chance to soften up.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Healthier carrot cake, honey carrot cake
Skill Level: Medium
Cost to Make: $$

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Natasha Kravchuk

Welcome to my kitchen! I am Natasha, the blogger behind Natasha's Kitchen (since 2009). My husband and I run this blog together and share only our best, family approved and tested recipes with YOU. Thanks for stopping by! We are so happy you're here.

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Comments

  • Anita Spasevska
    July 10, 2023

    I’ve been baking this carrot cake for 10yrs now and the only one I’ll ever bake! Best tasting and moist and not to mention healthier alternative ingredients. Thank you for sharing Natasha♥️

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      July 10, 2023

      Aaaw love it! Thanks so much for your good comments and feedback, Anita!

      Reply

  • Tin
    March 15, 2023

    Hi Natasha! Im a big fan of carrot cake. So excited to try this recipe out! Im planning to make this as my son’s smash cake for his first birthday. I will be using a 6-inch pan. Should I just use half of the ingredients? How many cups of batter does this recipe yield? 😊

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      March 15, 2023

      Hi Tin! I’m glad you love my recipes and I really do hope you love this one too. 🙂
      I have not tested this in different size pans to advise and unfortunately, I don’t have the number of cups of batter this recipe would make. You may find this cake pan conversion chart helpful. Please let us know how it turns out if you experiment with it.

      Reply

      • Tin
        March 26, 2023

        Hi Natasha! I used half of the ingredients only for a 6-inch pan. I only had 1 pan though so it was a bit taller. I cut in the middle so I get thinner layers. Baked it for a little over 25 minutes. Taste was, as everyone had already said, fantastic! Thank you very much!

        Reply

        • NatashasKitchen.com
          March 26, 2023

          That’s great to know, Tin. Thank you for sharing your experience. 🙂

          Reply

  • Alim Siddiqui
    February 1, 2023

    Hi Natasha
    This weekend I am going to make the Carrot Cake and I have one 10 inch round cake pan so I will be making it in this pan. Please tell me in your ingredients you mentioned 2 sticks of unsalted butter (How many grams each butter stick) and which brand of cheese. Is it okay if I use Philadelphia Cheese. This is what we use when making cheesecake.
    Thanks

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      February 2, 2023

      Hi Alim! 2 sticks of butter are about 226g. You can use any brand of cream cheese, just make sure it is in the form of a block of cream cheese. The Philadelphia brand is great!

      Reply

  • Tiffany Brown
    September 21, 2021

    I made this cake yesterday and it turned out fabulous! I didn’t have enough honey so I only used about a half cup, and I didn’t have enough cream cheese so I only made a half a batch of frosting. The cake is still more than enough sweet, and I would probably never make a full batch of frosting because it seems like way too much. This is my new fave carrot cake 😁

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      September 21, 2021

      I’m so happy you found a favorite on my blog, Tiffany! Thank you so much for sharing that with me.

      Reply

  • Rachel
    May 22, 2021

    This is my favorite carrot cake recipe. Thank you Natasha

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      May 22, 2021

      Aww, that’s the best! Thank you so much for sharing that with me, Rachel!

      Reply

  • Sara
    January 15, 2021

    Hi Natasha, would it be ok to split the batter in half, bake the first half and then bake the second one? I don’t have two pans in the same.size

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      January 15, 2021

      Hi Sara, I think your best bet would be to either halve the recipe or make half at a time. I worry while the first cake is baking, the second will lose its volume and consistency.

      Reply

  • Sara
    January 14, 2021

    Hi Natasha! I’m looking forward to making this recipe for my son’s birthday, I just wonder, since I don’t have two cake pans, can I bake the forst half of the cake then bake the second one later or would something happen to the batter if it wasn’t baked directly?

    Reply

    • Natasha
      January 15, 2021

      Hi Sara, I have always baked the two layers at the same time so I’m not sure how that would affect the rise of the second layer to have it out for that long.

      Reply

  • Amanda Maxwell
    April 9, 2020

    The best Carrot Cake recipe and is so moist!! I’ve made it twice in one month. I added coconut flakes to the batter and on frosting. I wish I could add a photo of it.

    Thank you for the recipe!!

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      April 9, 2020

      Sounds yummy! I loved that you added coconut flakes to it. Please do share a photo with us next time on our Facebook page. Thanks for your excellent review!

      Reply

      • Heather
        February 5, 2023

        Hey Natasha! Trying this out tonight! Just one question, what size cake pan should I be using?

        Reply

        • NatashasKitchen.com
          February 5, 2023

          Hi Heather! Thank you for pointing that out, two 9″ round baking pans. 🙂

          Reply

  • Diana Longacre
    December 31, 2019

    Oh my gosh! This cake was simply amazing!! By far the BEST carrot cake I have ever tried. This was my first time ever making a carrot cake and I will only use this recipe. So moist and just the right amount of sweetness. This is a must try!!

    Reply

    • Natasha
      January 1, 2020

      Thank you so much for the thoughtful review! I’m so happy you enjoyed this Carrot Cake.

      Reply

  • Zhanna
    September 7, 2019

    I love this recipe. I half the honey for less sweetness. Also, I use oatmeal flour instead, double the baking soda and baking powder.
    -I have made it before with pumpkin instead of applesauce and its very moist and delish.
    -I make the cream with half mascapone and half heavy cream with some condensed milk.

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      September 7, 2019

      I’m so happy you enjoyed that. Thank you for sharing those changes with us!

      Reply

  • Becky
    April 21, 2019

    I think you have to love honey to appreciate this cake. I followed the recipe completely.

    Reply

  • Trina
    April 3, 2019

    AWESOME carrot cake!
    I made this for our family and EVERYONE loved it!!! It is SO moist and not too sweet! I substituted the flour for gluten free flour and no one knew any different! I HIGHLY recommend this!

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      April 3, 2019

      That’s just awesome, Trina!! Thank you for sharing your wonderful review

      Reply

  • Paige Middleton
    November 17, 2018

    Made the healthy carrot cake for my husband a month ago. He loved it!

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      November 17, 2018

      I’m so happy to hear that! Thank you for sharing your great review!

      Reply

  • Miranda
    September 24, 2018

    I’m thinking of making this ahead of time and freezing. Have you tried that before?

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      September 24, 2018

      Hi Miranda! I’ve never tried freezing an entire cake before so I can’t really say yes or no with this one. I think it’s best fresh. I hope you love it!

      Reply

  • Natalya
    July 13, 2018

    Hey, I love this cake, and last time I made it was a few years ago, so I don’t remember much. This time I need it for tomorrow noon, and have to make it today. What recommendations would you give me to make sure it’s still amazing tomorrow. Do i refrigerate it? Or leave it out? And what other tips you have

    Reply

    • Natasha
      July 13, 2018

      HI Natalya, because the frosting has cream cheese in it, I would refrigerate overnight.

      Reply

      • Natalya
        July 13, 2018

        Thank you ! Also, I have some left over frosting and was wondering if I freeze the frosting will it pipe tomorrow (to last longer in the heat outside)? Or if I want to use it tomorrow i should just refrigerate it?

        Reply

        • Natashas Kitchen
          July 14, 2018

          Natalya, It would be best refrigerated.

          Reply

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