This healthy carrot cake is the perfect way to satisfy your sweet tooth. It's moist, infused with sweet spices, and topped with a homemade maple frosting. This healthy sweet treat is gluten-free, dairy-free, and refined sugar-free!
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This healthy carrot cake is about to be your new favorite carrot cake recipe. It has all the flavors of a classic carrot cake but with lightened-up, healthier ingredients.
This carrot cake is perfect for special occasions or just when the carrot cake lover in your life is craving something sweet. I always make it for Mr. Peel on his birthday.
And while Mr. Peel was devouring his healthy carrot cake the dogs got some birthday cake too. Yep, Pumpkin Dog Cupcakes for my little guys. Now back to our cake at hand...
Why This is a Healthier Carrot Cake
- Gluten-Free. We're swapping regular all-purpose flour out with a 1:1 gluten-free flour blend.
- Dairy-Free. This recipe uses coconut oil instead of butter to keep it dairy-free.
- Naturally Sweetened. Our cake is made plenty sweet with a combination of coconut sugar, molasses, and applesauce. No refined sugars are needed!
🧾Ingredients for Healthy Carrot Cake
This simple carrot cake recipe has many of the ingredients of a traditional carrot cake, but with a few healthier swaps! Here's what you'll need:
Flour - Use your favorite gluten-free flour blend. Just be sure it contains xanthan gum, otherwise, add ¼ teaspoon.
Baking Powder and Baking Soda - Using both leavening agents yields a lighter, fluffier texture.
Spices - Our spice blend consists of a combination of ground cinnamon, kosher salt, ground ginger, ground cloves, and nutmeg.
Eggs - Eggs bind everything together so the cake can hold its shape. You can also use flax eggs in this recipe to make it egg-free and vegan.
Coconut Sugar - Our natural sweetener of choice!
Molasses - Molasses adds a little extra sweetness and flavor depth. You can skip it but just a tiny bit makes a big difference without adding much sugar.
Applesauce - Applesauce adds even more natural sweetness and a ton of moisture. I recommend using unsweetened applesauce to avoid the added sugar in sweetened applesauce.
Coconut Oil - Be sure to melt the coconut oil before adding it to the batter so it doesn't seize up in the cake.
Carrots - I recommend hand-grating your carrots rather than grating them with a food processor.
Walnuts - Don't have walnuts? Try pecans or hazelnuts instead!
Raisins - An optional, but classic addition to a delicious carrot cake.
Maple Frosting - I love to slather the top of the cake with a homemade maple frosting made up of coconut cream, maple syrup, and pure vanilla extract.
I have also included a vegan buttercream with maple if you prefer a sturdier textured frosting.
See the recipe card for exact quantities and the full recipe.
⏲️How to Make Healthy Gluten-Free Carrot Cake
This really is the best healthy carrot cake. It's made with super simple ingredients and takes a quick 15 minutes to prep!
Step 1 - Make the Batter
In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, clove, and nutmeg.
In another large bowl, mix together eggs, vanilla, sugar, molasses, and applesauce. Mix until creamy, then leave the mixer running and slowly pour in the melted coconut oil.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, then mix until the batter is well combined. There should be no lumps.
Lastly, use a spatula to gently fold the carrots, walnuts, and raisins into the batter so that everything is well distributed throughout.
Step 3 - Bake and Cool
Preheat the oven to 350ºF and pour the mixed cake batter into a greased 8x8 baking dish. Bake the carrot cake in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes. The baking time can vary depending on the pan you use and your oven.
To check that it is done cooking, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, then it's done. If it comes out with moist crumbs on it, then it needs a few more minutes.
I recommend checking for doneness early, then adding time only as needed for the best results. If you over-bake the cake, it will end up dry.
Once your cake is finished cooking, remove from the oven and let it cool completely. It's important that the cake is fully cooled off before you add the frosting or it will just melt off. To help it cool faster, turn the cake out onto a cooling rack.
Step 4 - Add the Frosting
While the cake is cooling, stick the can of coconut cream in the fridge to chill.
The night before I stock my coconut cream in the fridge. It needs to be nice and cold so that it whips properly!
Once the coconut cream is chilled, scoop our the solid cream into a mixing bowl, then beat on high until the texture is light and fluffy. This will take a little bit of time.
Make sure you whip it well for the best frosting texture! You can add a little bit of the coconut water if it is too thick.
Next, add in the maple syrup and vanilla using your mixer.
Spread the frosting over the top of the entire cake, then slice and serve or store in the fridge.
I recommend doing this immediately or your frosting will begin to soften too much. If you wait too long and it becomes too soft, simply stick in the fridge to chill for a few minutes before frosting your cake.
👩🏻🍳 Expert Tip
For the best results, use a hand grater to grate your carrots! A food processor will draw out too much moisture and your carrot cake can end up soggy and watery.
Once the cake is frosted, it needs to be stored in the fridge so the frosting doesn't soften. It will last covered for up to 3 days.
If you want to wait on the frosting, you can store the baked cake at room temperature for 1-2 days, in the fridge for 4-5 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
To freeze the cake, let it cool completely, then wrap it tightly with plastic wrap and foil. When you're ready to serve, simply thaw it in the fridge, add the frosting, and dig in!
More Healthy(ish) Dessert Recipes
💬Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! Since this recipe calls for a 1:1 gluten-free flour blend, you can easily sub in all-purpose flour for the gluten-free flour listed in this recipe.
While carrots definitely add some nutritional value to carrot cake, most carrot cakes are still, well, cake. This gluten-free carrot cake, on the other hand, is definitely is a healthier dessert option! It's made with lightened up ingredients and no refined sugars. But don't worry. You still get all of the delicious flavors you love in classic carrot cake.
The primary reason that many carrot cake recipes call for vegetable oil instead of butter is to keep the cake moist for a longer period of time.In this recipe, I use coconut oil instead of using either butter or standard vegetable oil. It creates the perfect texture and flavor in a healthier way!
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Healthy Carrot Cake (Gluten-Free and Dairy Free)
- 2 cups gluten free flour blend can use regular flour if not GF
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ⅛ teaspoon ground clove
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup coconut sugar
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 1 cup applesauce, unsweetened
- ⅓ cup coconut oil, melted plus more for pan
- 2 cups carrots, grated
- ½ cup walnuts, chopped optional
- ½ cup raisins optional
Coconut Cream Maple Frosting (refined sugar free)
- 1 can coconut cream 14 oz approx.- chilled overnight
- 1-2 tablespoons maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Maple Buttercream Frosting (with sugar)
- ½ cup vegan butter room temperature
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1-2 cups powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease your baking pan with extra coconut oil.
- Add dry ingredients (GF flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, clove, and nutmeg) to a mixing bowl. Mix well to combine and set aside.2 cups gluten free flour blend, 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder, 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, ¼ teaspoon ground ginger, ⅛ teaspoon ground clove, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- In a large mixing bowl combine eggs, vanilla, sugar, molasses and applesauce. Mix on high until creamy. While the mixer is running slowly pour in the melted coconut oil.3 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 cup coconut sugar, 1 tablespoon molasses, 1 cup applesauce, unsweetened, ⅓ cup coconut oil, melted
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet slowly. Mix until the batter well combined and there are no big lumps.
- Gently fold in grated carrots, nuts, and fruit by hand.2 cups carrots, grated, ½ cup walnuts, chopped, ½ cup raisins
- Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting.
Coconut Cream Maple Frosting
- Pour the entire can into a mixing bowl. Beat on high until light and fluffy. Be patient it takes a minute. Whip in maple syrup and vanilla.1-2 tablespoons maple syrup, ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 can coconut cream
- Ice cake quickly. If the frosting gets too warm place in fridge to chill for 15 minutes and start again.
- In a mixing, add butter and maple syrup and whip together until smooth. Gradually, add powdered sugar (½ cup at a time), while continuing to mix until frosting is thick and creamy.½ cup vegan butter, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 1-2 cups powdered sugar
- Hand grate the carrots, using a food processor makes them too moist.
- If you use gluten-free flour it needs to contain xanthan gum. Otherwise add 1/ teaspoon xanthan gum to the dry ingredients. It doesn't seem like much but is required for all GF baked goods.
- Sub 1 cup granulated sugar or ½ c granulated sugar + ½ c brown sugar for the coconut sugar and molasses.
- You can use either frosting recipe. The coconut cream will be more like whip cream while the buttercream will be stiffer but less healthy.
Loved this recipe! It was so scrumptious with the best texture! Will definitely be making again!
Haley D. Williams says
Omg I love this maple frosting so much! The perfect complement to carrot cake
Glad it was a hit!
What a great recipe! The frosting was wonderful. The crystallized ginger is definitely a must!
Agreed! Wish the ginger was easier to find.
I love carrot cake, and am very glad to find your healthier frosting recipe! Definitely a great alternative to a traditional carrot cake frosting.
I love it when I see healthy and cake in a title! Especially this one because carrot cake is one of my all time favorites and I haven't eaten it in decades because of the lactose! This cake did not disappoint! Thank you for adding carrot cake back to my diet!
Hahaha! You are welcome.