A Healthier Spiced Carrot Cake with Maple Orange Icing

Optional vegan, low fat and refined sugar free


 I was craving carrot cake like a wild woman this week. Every day at uni I would walk past the cafe eyeing those dodgy wrapped carrot cake slices covered in buttercream and almost ALMOST  buy one. 

But I managed to hold out partly because they don’t use cream cheese in the frosting (who even are they?!) and partly because I had no money…

By the end of the week, it was carrot cake time. At first I was thinking to myself you can’t make that, you’ve already made a banana carrot cake to end all carrot cakes on this blog. It was mile high and adorned with chopped nuts and creamy ricotta frosting! But that was a carrot BANANA cake. Subtle difference my friends. And a very different recipe too!(Perfect for Easter!!)


When I was first coming up with this recipe I mainly wanted a carrot and cinnamon centred vehicle to transport cream cheese frosting in my mouth. I looked at lots of recipes trying to gather together the best of all, and I couldn’t believe how unhealthy most carrot cake recipes are! For something made of carrots I was surprised.

Just to be clear, my definition of ‘healthy’ is definitely not low fat or low calorie! Wholemeal grains, real fruit and unprocessed sweeteners plus some natural fats from avocados and nuts are much more my scene. However I’m aware that some people want to have their cake and they want to eat the whole thing too, without spending an extra hour at the gym. So this is my fat-free (almost) and refined sugar free carrot cake!


 Sweetened with maple syrup and the natural sugars of the carrots, this carrot has no butter or oil in it (none!). I was feeling daring so when the recipe called for ‘butter’ I just subbed in a whole load of buttermilk. The recipe is based on the Moosewood carrot cake recipe, which is already a very wholesome and tasty loaf to begin with. It came out so cinnamon scented and warm and delicious, I could not even deal. Carrot cake heaven. 

The best part of carrot cake is the icing (can I get an amen please) so I didn’t skimp on that. Instead of using low fat or substitute; the cream cheese is mixed with half ricotta, which is naturally low in fat and high in calcium and protein. Mixed with maple syrup and orange zest it was so delicious! I ate quite a bit of it with a spoon (shh). Topped with naturally delicious and healthy nuts, this cake is perfect for breakfast as well as the best dessert ever. 

Also vegan friends, I’ve given substitutions below for how to make the cake completely free of animal products. I’ve made the cake without eggs and buttermilk before and it worked well, but I haven’t tried it low fat so if you do try that method, tell me how it goes!!

One Year Ago: Sweet Plum Jam


 Healthy Carrot Cake with Orange Maple Frosting: Adapted from here

1/2 cup maple syrup

3/4 cup buttermilk (or for vegan, sunflower oil or half oil half vegan yogurt)

2 eggs (for vegan, 2 tbsp chia seeds mixed well with 4 tbsp water)

1 finely zested orange

1/2 tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and 1/4 tsp allspice

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup wholemeal flour

1/2 cup plain flour

1 + 1/4 cup carrot, grated

250g each ricotta and cream cheese OR cashew/coconut cream for vegan
1 finely zested orange
1/3 cup maple syrup
For the Cake: Preheat the oven to 180C (356F) and line a loaf tin with baking paper. Whisk the 2 eggs until pale and fluffy. Mix the remaining wet ingredients (buttermilk or oil, maple syrup) together well. Stir in the orange zest. Stir in the grated carrot. Sift the flours and baking powder, plus the spices. Stir the dry into the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Pour into tin and bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden on top and a skewer comes out clean.
For the icing, blend together all the ingredients well and ice the cake once completely cool. Top with chop nuts if you want!

53 thoughts on “A Healthier Spiced Carrot Cake with Maple Orange Icing

  1. You have no idea how much I needed a recipe on healthy carrot cake. I had a slice of it at a cafe some weeks ago (and it was definitely not healthy (but it was natural though)) and I’ve been craving it ever since. This needs to happen!

  2. How clever of you to make this with maple syrup and buttermilk, Lilli! I love these kinds of recipes that are healthier without being too weird and still keep things tasting like a treat … which I’m sure this cake does, especially with that wonderful orange ricotta frosting! I love your photography style, too. Just beautiful!

  3. Pingback: A Healthier Spiced Carrot Cake with Maple Orange Icing | Animeagain.com

  4. The ether may have eaten that last comment! If not, sorry if this is a duplicate. Anyway, lovely cake. The idea of using ricotta in the icing is brilliant! Good recipe — thanks.

  5. Hi! My birthday party is tomorrow and I have 16 girls coming over, and I would love to make carrot cake as the dessert! Do you know how many this recipe serves, or how much more of the ingredients I need to add for 16 hungry teens? Haha thank you, and wonderful blog!

    • Hi Kamilla! Happy Birthday for tomorrow! For a crowd I would make my Banana and Carrot Cake (listed under layer cakes in the recipes page) because it feeds a crowd! It’s also fat-free and very healthy, just a bit more festive than this cake. If you wanted to go for this cake I would double the recipe and use two round 23cm tins, and if you have any leftover mixture just make some extra muffins out of it. And double the frosting too! Hope it turns out ok.

  6. I’ve been looking for a healthier carrot cake recipe for my toddler daughter’s birthday and your recipe looks like IT! Beautiful photos, too. I’ve pinned it 🙂

    I love to bake but never made a proper cake before so I have couple of questions… is wholemeal the same as whole wheat? Also, I plan to bake the cake the day before. Any recommendations for storage (room temperature or fridge) and for when I should put the frosting (as soon as the cake cools down or on the day it will be served)? Many thanks.

    • Hi! Yes whole-wheat flour can be used interchangeably here. If you’re baking the day before (and it’s your first time baking a cake) a good idea would to be substitute half the buttermilk for sunflower or vegetable oil, just to keep the cake moist. Whatever you choose it should be fine though! Just keep the baked layers in an airtight container once they’ve completely cooled down, and ice the morning-of if you can. You can ice it the day before and keep the whole thing in the fridge, just let the cake cool down completely first!

      • Hi, I just wanted to say that I made the cake and it was a success! I used honey instead of maple syrup, and used vegetable oil. Cake came out moist and perfect. Frosting tasted excellent too (the orange zest made such a difference!) but I am bad at decorating and have little patience so it looked kind of messy LOL. Thankfully my daughter and her fellow toddlers loved them (even those who hated carrots), as well as the adults who were impressed that I was even bothered to make a homemade birthday cake. Thanks so much for the recipe and tips!

  7. Pingback: Carrot and goji berry cake with frosting: gluten & dairy free | The Wellness Ninja

  8. Hi, I just wanted to say that I made the cake over the weekend and it was a success! I used honey instead of maple syrup, and vegetable oil as you suggested. Cake came out moist and perfect. The frosting was also excellent – the orange zest made such a difference. I really suck at decorating (and have very little patience) so the final result looked a bit messy! LOL. Thankfully my daughter and her fellow toddlers loved it (including those who hated carrots) as well as the parents who were impressed that I was even bothered with a homemade birthday cake. It tasted even better a few days after.
    Thanks very much for a great recipe and tips! xx Dini

    • Hi Kristin, how odd it’s so popular where I live! No one here has ever heard of almond paste though which is apparently abundant in most countries 🙂 If there is a health shop nearby or online, they should have it. You can always substitute plain flour, or for a healthier option use half plain flour, half quinoa or buckwheat flour (although I haven’t tested these in this particular recipe)

  9. Made it tonight..used half buckwheat half regular flour in place of wholemeal….going to try it out when hubby gets home! Smells good anyway! 🙂

  10. I made this for my son’s 1st birthday and we all loved it (birthday boy included). I will definitely make it again. Thanks for the recipe!

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