Healthy Carrot Cake Recipe with whole wheat flour, Greek yogurt, toasted coconut and walnuts. This carrot cake is moist, tall, and fluffy with thick creamy frosting!
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Just to prove you that you are staring at the best healthy carrot cake, let me just say this – I was willing to make Instant Pot yogurt recipe 3 weeks in a row for the sole purpose of carrot cake recipe testing.
Perfect carrot cake stands tall, has texture and is moist. Its icing is thick and you can taste the creaminess with every bite. People ask you if they can have your recipe. That’s this healthy carrot cake recipe!
It’s one of the top healthy dessert recipes here on iFoodReal!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Made with whole grains: Instead of bleached all-purpose flour we are using whole wheat flour or spelt flour.
- No refined sugar in the batter: We add maple syrup or honey to sweeten this cake.
- Healthier frosting: Unlike traditional carrot cake recipes that call for 2 cups of powdered sugar and cream cheese, we will make Greek yogurt frosting with just 1/2 cup of powdered sugar.
- Less of frosting: Cake is so moist, you don’t need the frosting between the layers. But you can, if you wish.
- Other real food ingredients: Carrots, eggs, walnuts, coconut flakes, warm spices and avocado oil complete this delicious cake!
Ingredients for Healthy Carrot Cake
To make this healthy carrot cake recipe, you will need simple ingredients you can find in any grocery store.
- Whole wheat flour (spelt flour): It is crucial you use one these flours. I have not tested this recipe with white whole wheat flour or pastry whole wheat flour.
- Greek yogurt: It’s the Greek yogurt that replaces majority of oil that traditional carrot cake recipe calls for. I recommend to buy yogurt between 2% – 10% fat. 10% doesn’t need to be strained, it’s almost like cream cheese. The most ideal would be whole milk (3.5%) yogurt, 2% will do well too.
- Maple syrup or honey: Both add moisture and amazing flavour. You definitely will taste honey more. Any liquid sweetener will work.
- Carrots: Finely grated carrots and not squeezed.
- Eggs, oil and milk: Any light tasting oil like avocado, light olive oil, grapeseed oil will work. Any milk is fine too. These ingredients add moisture and act as a binder.
- Nuts and coconut flakes: My absolute favourite is a combo of toasted walnuts and coconut flakes that add moisture. Coconut flakes can be long, regular or dessicated. I use unsweetened coconut flakes but you can use sweetened ones and cake will be sweeter. Also, I sprinkled coconut chips on top.
- Powdered sugar: We need only 1/2 cup to make healthy frosting unlike traditional recipes that call for 2 or even 3 cups of icing sugar.
- Baking essentials: Vanilla extract, cinnamon, baking powder, salt.
How to Make Healthy Carrot Cake
Here is a quick overview how to make healthy carrot cake. You can find full recipe card below. We bake, frost and serve it all in the same pan.
- Strain the yogurt: Start this first. Strain Greek yogurt in a colander lined with paper towels or coffee filters to get rid of extra whey in order to have that traditional thicker icing but healthier.
- Prep for cake batter: Spray 9 x 13 inch baking dish, or you can use 2 x 6 inch or 8 inch cake pans. Grate carrots, toast walnuts and coconut flakes in a skillet.
- Make the cake batter: Whisk wet ingredients first, then add dry ingredients to the same bowl. Mix but do not overmix. Fold in carrots and toasted nuts and coconut flakes. Perfect carrot cake batter should be more runny than a muffin batter but thicker than a batter for pancakes.
- Bake the cake: Bake carrot cake in 9 x 13 inch pan for 40 minutes, in 6 inch cake pans for 25-30 minutes, and in 8 inch cake pans -for35-40 minutes. Always do a toothpick test! Let cake cool completely before frosting.
- Make frosting and assemble the cake: Combine strained yogurt, icing sugar and vanilla extract in a medium bowl. Whisk well, transfer on top of the cake, spread with a spatula and garnish with toasted coconut flakes or chips.
- Serve: Cut into 16 slices and serve.
Tips for Best Results
Here are my top tips for successful healthy carrot cake recipe!
- To grate carrots: I recommend to use the medium size holes of a box grater. I don’t recommend using a food processor for this task.
- All ovens vary: Truly ovens vary depending on brand and age. If you know your oven bakes hotter, I recommend to reduce oven temperature for baking this cake by 10 degrees F and see next tip for quick browning. If your oven is on a slower side, keep it at 350 F and see next tip as well.
- If your cake starts browning before it’s ready: If you see that edges and top of the cake start to brown before middle is ready, reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees F and cover cake pan loosely with parchment paper or aluminum foil. You can also move it to a middle rack further away from direct heat.
- Your cake is ready when: To check if your cake is done, insert a toothpick in the center. If it comes out clean without crumbs or batter, it’s ready. If not, keep baking a bit longer but don’t overbake.
- Whisk dry ingredients well: Be sure to use baking soda and baking powder without lumps. If there are any, break them first and whisk all dry ingredients well.
Here are a few ideas how to make this healthy carrot cake recipe your own based on your personal preferences, what you have on hand and the occasion.
- 10% Greek yogurt: If that is what you have on hand, thin it out with 1/4 cup milk for the batter and skip straining for the icing. It’s quite thick yogurt, almost like sour cream.
- To make powdered sugar at home: Blend cane sugar in a high speed blender until powder-y. Saves a few dollars and a trip to a grocery store.
- If you would like to make traditional round cake: Divide batter between 2 cake pans. Bake 6″ cake pans – for 25-30 minutes, 8″ cake pans – 35-40 minutes. Here is a great article about changing the pan size. Then assemble and frost as per your imagination.
- Healthier icing: You can make icing with maple syrup, it will be more runny and taste slightly different. But I have done it many-many times.
- Other batter additions: I tried adding canned and squeezed chopped pineapple and raw pecans, and not adding coconut flakes. You can also add up to 1/2 cup raisins and chopped dates.
- Carrot cake cupcakes: I have not tried these, so not sure if you will have leftover batter but in that case just use 2 muffin tins. Bake cupcakes for about 20 minutes and check with a toothpick. You can use recipe’s frosting on top or try this healthy buttercream frosting or healthy cream cheese frosting.
- Spices: Instead of cinnamon or in addition to it you can use pumpkin spice spice. You can also add up to 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger, ground cloves or nutmeg. As for ground cloves, 1/8 teaspoon would be a good place to start.
How to Store and Make Ahead
- Store: Store assembled cake covered tightly with a cake lid for up to 4 days. Airtight is important so yogurt doesn’t start to dry out.
- Make ahead: Store baked, cooled and covered with plastic unfrosted cake for 3 days. Then frost before serving.
- Freeze: I have not and would be hesitant to recommend you freeze assembled cake. Not sure how yogurt will thaw but my gut says 90% it should be fine. You can freeze unfrosted cake tightly wrapped with plastic and then foil for up to 3 months. Thaw on a counter for 6 hours or in the fridge overnight.
I tried to make carrot cake cake with applesauce but each time it turned out gummy with distinct aftertaste. So I do not recommend it.
Baking is a science. All purpose white flour, almond flour, and coconut flour act differently and need other ingredients’ adjustments.
You might be able to use all purpose gluten free flour but my worry is that cake might be a bit dry as it needs more liquid.
I have not tried shredded carrots in this recipe, so I am not sure if they would make cake moist with pleasant texture like grated carrots do.
Unfortunately not because regular yogurt is more runny and less rich than Greek yogurt.
There are some brands of dairy free Greek yogurt available which may work. You can also experiment with learning how to make a flax egg but I have not tried.
More Carrot Recipes to Try
- Healthy carrot muffins
- Carrot cake baked oatmeal bars
- Carrot cake baked oatmeal
- Healthy morning glory muffins
- Healthy carrot cake truffles
- Banana carrot muffins
More Healthy Cake Recipes
Healthy Carrot Cake
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt 2% and higher fat
- 1/3 cup any mild oil I used avocado oil
- 2/3 cup maple syrup or honey
- 1/2 cup any milk I used almond milk
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups whole wheat or spelt flour
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup walnuts chopped
- 1/2 cup coconut flakes
- 2 cups carrots finely grated
- Cooking spray I use Misto
- Line small colander with a coffee filter or paper towel and place on top of a small bowl. Add yogurt and let it strain in a fridge for a few hours.
- In one large bowl, whisk the eggs for 10 seconds. Add yogurt, oil, maple syrup, milk and vanilla extract; whisk well and set aside.
- In another large bowl, add flour, cinnamon, baking powder + soda, and salt; whisk well breaking any baking soda or powder lumps. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, spray large 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside. Preheat large skillet on low heat, add walnuts and toast for a few minutes (until fragrant), stirring occasionally. Add coconut flakes and toast another minute, stirring frequently. Turn off the heat. Grate carrots.
- Add dry ingredients to a bowl with wet, stir gently until combined (do not over mix).
- Add carrots, walnuts and coconut flakes; stir gently just enough to combine.
- Pour into previously prepared baking dish and bake for: 9 x 13 dish – 40 minutes, 6″ pans – 25-30 minutes, 8″ pans – 35-40 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and cool off completely (about 4-5 hours).
- When ready to assemble your healthy carrot cake, discard the whey and add strained yogurt into a medium bowl along with icing sugar and vanilla extract. Whisk well, transfer on top of cake, spread with spatula, garnish with toasted coconut flakes (chips) and cut into 16 slices.
- Store: Store assembled cake covered tightly with a cake lid for up to 2 days. Airtight is important so yogurt doesn’t start to dry out.
- Flour: No other flour can be substituted, baking is a science.
- Sweetener: Unfortunately you cannot use any dry sweetener because it will throw off cake batter consistency. However, you can use any liquid sugar free syrup.
- Yogurt: Unfortunately you cannot use regular yogurt because it is more runny and less rich. You cannot replace yogurt with applesauce either.