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The Healthier Carrot Cake Recipe

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 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.

Healthier Carrot Cake-2

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

Healthier Carrot Cake-3

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.

Healthier Carrot Cake-7

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.

THE Carrot Cake Recipe

4.88 from 31 votes
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
The naturally sweet carrots in this Healthier Carrot Cake, combined with honey and applesauce take it to a whole new, and quite nutritional, level.
Author: Natasha of NatashasKitchen.com
Skill Level: Medium
Cost to Make: $13-$15
Servings: 10 -12

Ingredients

For the Cake Layers:

  • 3 cups carrots peeled and grated
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 eggs
  • 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 since not everyone in my family eats nuts).

For the Frosting:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 16 oz cream cheese
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract

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:

  1. Preheat the Oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour 2 round cake pans.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Add in the flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time and mix until it is just incorporated into the batter.
  5. Use a spatula to fold in the grated carrots and walnuts (if using) just until combined.
  6. 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).
  7. Tip: While cakes are in the oven make your frosting and refrigerate frosting until ready to use.
  8. 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:

  1. 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).
  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.
  3. Add 1 Tbsp vanilla and mix until combined (1 min). Refrigerate frosting until ready to use.

Assembling your Carrot cake:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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natashaskitchen

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 recipes with YOU. Thanks for stopping by! We are so happy you're here.

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  • 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

  • Johanna
    June 27, 2018

    Hi,
    Love your videos and recipes! I wanted to ask about the honey you used for the cake. Was it the loose, pourable kind or raw, stiff, spoonable kind? I have the latter on hand. I don’t even know if it makes a difference but I wanted to use the kind you did.

    Thanks! Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      June 27, 2018

      Hi Johanna, we used the loose, pourable kind. Reply

  • Aelita
    June 4, 2018

    This cake was AMAZING! Though I changed some things like whole wheat flour and excluded butter in the frosting to make it healthier, my whole family enjoyed it and ate it in less than a day (before it they all were skeptical about “veggie cake with cheese on top”). Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      June 4, 2018

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

  • Katie L
    January 3, 2018

    Hi, I am curious about how using the honey instead of sugar affects the density of this cake. I’ve tried substituting refined sugar for other sweeteners in the past (date paste in my case) and it was basically a pound cake. Based on further research, I decided that this was because the sugar granules couldn’t “cut” into the butter to create air holes and fluff up the cake as it baked. Have you noticed any density issues with this recipe? I’d love to avoid refined sugar, but not if it means everybody avoids my cake (like last time). 🙂 Thank you for your time! Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      January 3, 2018

      Hi Katie, I think you are onto something. This cake is definitely more moist and dense than my other carrot cake. I think it is a combination of factors that make it that way and honey likely contributes, but it isn’t overly dense – it’s very nice 🙂 Reply

  • Esther
    October 7, 2017

    Can you make this carrot cake in a bundt pan? Looks good, healthier & somewhat lighter than traditional carrot cake. Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      October 7, 2017

      Hi Esther, one of my readers reported great results using a bundt pan, although you may need to adjust the baking temperature. Without testing it in bundt pan myself, I can’t really give you specific timings. Reply

  • March 31, 2017

    This cake looks delicious! I am going to make it for Easter this year!
    Do you think subbing crushed pineapple instead of applesauce would work?? Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      March 31, 2017

      I have not tried that substitution, so I can’t say for sure. If I were to try testing it, I would probably purée the pineapple. If you end up testing yet, let me know how it goes. I’m so curious! I’ve been wanting to put pineapple into my other carrot cake recipe to see how it works. Reply

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