Carrot Cake Recipe

An all-natural carrot cake recipe. It is dense, rich, rustic, walnut-studded and carrot-flecked. Sweetened with dates and ripe bananas, it doesn't need any added sugar beyond that. Topped with cream cheese frosting.

Carrot Cake

I set my sights on carrot cake this week. I suspect you've never made a carrot cake in this way before, and I'm here to encourage you to give it a go. Well, maybe. If you like your carrot cake delicate with a defined crumb, you'll actually want to pass on this one. This is an entirely different beast. It is dense, rich, rustic, walnut-studded, and carrot-flecked. Like many carrot cakes, it's best slathered generously with cream cheese frosting. The real catch is this - the cake is sweetened with dates and ripe bananas. It doesn't need any added sugar beyond that. For the frosting I whip cream cheese with a splash of maple syrup or agave nectar, but nothing beyond that either. Imagine a traditional carrot cake colliding with your favorite banana bread, and you'll have an idea of where this recipe will take you.

Carrot Cake Recipe

Aside from exploring dates and bananas as the primary sweeteners in this cake, I tried to keep the rest simple. I kept the spices to a minimum and aside from the walnuts resisted the urge to add any of the other ingredients that commonly show up in carrot cakes - coconut, crushed pineapple, ginger, nutmeg, etc, etc. If you like the cake I'd certainly suggest playing around with different add-ins of your own in future versions.

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Carrot Cake Recipe

If you have a hard time finding whole wheat pastry flour, feel free to substitute unbleached all-purpose flour. Reader Nicole mentions that she made a wheat-free version with good results - substituting one cup oat flour and one cup gluten-free baking mix. Thanks Nicole!

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
4 ounces unsalted butter, heated until just melted
1/2 cup dried dates, seeded and finely chopped into a paste
3 ripe bananas (1 1/4 cups), mashed well
1 1/2 cups grated carrots (about 3 medium)
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (2% or lowfat is ok)
2 eggs, lightly whisked

6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3 tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup (or to taste)

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9x5x3 / 8-cup loaf pan (or 8x8 cake pan) and line it with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the walnuts and set aside.

Stir the dates into the melted butter, breaking up the dates a bit.

In a separate bowl combine the bananas and carrots. Stir in the date-butter mixture, breaking up any date clumps as you go. Whisk in the yogurt and the eggs. Add the flour mixture and stir until everything just comes together. Spoon into the prepared pan. Bake for about 50 - 60 minutes or until a toothpick tests clean in the center of the cake - it'll be less if you are using a standard cake pan. Remove from oven and let cool.

While the cake is baking whip together the cream cheese and agave nectar. Taste. If you like your frosting sweeter adjust to your liking. When the cake has completely cooled frost the top of the cake with an offset spatula.

Makes one carrot cake.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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I would love my carrot cake with a bit of texture, yes indeed!


I love carrot cake but I try to make mine with vegetable oil instead of butter. Yours looks pretty.


This looks healthy and delicious. I must try it since I love carrot cake.

Treehouse Chef



Carrot cake is one of my favorites. I love the use of natural sweeteners here. Recently I made some carrot cake inspired breakfast cookies but they crumbled into breakfast granola. No problem, still carrot-y and delicious just like your cake!

Michelle @ Find Your Balance

My kind of carrot cake! And I suspect I'd want to just eat it raw from the mixing bowl--that photo looks so tantalizing! ;)


Now this is my kind of recipe. Scrumptious, yet healthy. That's how I like to make cream cheese frosting: sweetened only with maple syrup. I do add some butter also. Gives is a wonderful flavor.

Erica from Cooking for Seven

This looks very unique! I wonder if you could use Medjool dates instead?

ashley (sweet & natural)

This looks very unique! I wonder if you could use Medjool dates instead?

ashley (sweet & natural)

I love carrot cake, but hate the gobs of oil it usually takes to make it. I love how you use butter and banana ( and so glad you didn't use crushed pineapple). This has just skyrocketed to the top of the "Need To Make" list.


Yours is effectively different of mine, but I'll try soon... with dried dates. Thank you...

Dominique (de vous à moi...)

This looks like an excellent recipe! I want to try replacing the butter with barely malt syrup. Do you think there would be any consequences to that? HS: I'm not sure that would work. :/

Megan Zumpano

Wow, how funny I'm posting right below Alisa - my food blogging buddy! :) I'll have to use it in the future because I usually have most ingredients on hand. It looks like it'll come out really moist! I love the idea of using ripe bananas to sweeten - always looking for ways to use those up! To Ryan - you can find dried dates in most grocery stores, so those would also be a nice substitute if fresh ones aren't available to make the paste.


I love carrot cake, and this sounds great. I recently made a couple of versions of your carrot cookies, which each turned out fabulous!

Alisa - Frugal Foodie

Lots of great things in this recipe. I bet it's incredible. I made a version of a friend's carrot cake recipe not long ago that had yogurt in it. It also called for a whole orange. One whole orange, deseeded, then pureed, rind and all. I loved the addition of citrus.

Brittany (He Cooks She Cooks)

Thanks so much Heidi for all of your work on your many tremendous recipes. I love the ingredients you use and look forward to each post! This sounds wonderful!


I made a carrot layer cake a few weeks ago and came by here because I was sure you'd have a cream cheese frosting with no powdered sugar. Well, now you do! Years ago I made a Jane Brody carrot bundt cake that was simple and very good. Can't wait to try this one, Heidi, carrot cake is a huge favorite around here.

Nancy (n.o.e.)

this looks so promising... and I see you used fage, which makes me love you even more!!

amanda Boyce

A co-worker made a carrot cake very similar to this a few weeks ago. I may never go back to regular oily carrot cake again!


Hello Heidi, I tried and adored tropical carrot cake you featured may years back, but I know I'l love this one, too! Although it could be tricky to get 'fresh' dates over here... but when I do get my hand on some I'll certainly give this recipe a go! In the meantime I am about to do another carrot cake recipe from a new book (in Japanese) by a friend of mine :) HS: Hi Chika! There were so many neat little baking books that I came across when I visited Tokyo - I only wish I could read the recipes! ;) And in the recipe above I used dried dates - not entirely sure why I typed fresh, but I fixed that.


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