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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This is beautiful and my kind of baking, naturally sweetened. I will try it with spelt flour and coconut cream icing. Thanks for all the gorgeous recipes and photos!


This looks great! Ditto to the comments above on loving carrot cake but not the greasiness of it. Thoughts from anybody on subbing something for bananas? I've tried so many times to like them, but still unfortunately can't stand the flavor. :( My first thought when you said carrot cake colliding with banana bread was to collide it with zucchini bread instead. But, I wasn't sure how the sweetness would compare without the bananas. Applesauce? In any case, I'll likely try it out as is, since I love all your recipes. I'm sure my husband could be persuaded to eat it if it's too banana-y for me. :)


Looks scrumptious! I adore your recipes but suffer from a nut allergy. Usually I just don't include nuts in many recipes, but the walnuts here seem critical. Do you have any suggestions for a substitute?

nut allergy

This looks delectable - the bananas and carrot combo should work really well with using gluten free flours, as anything adding moisture is a big big bonus! The natural sweeteners are so exciting, as we're a no sugar family but love carrot cake and banana bread. Thanks!


Wow. This cake looks fabulous. Can't wait to make it, and when I keep slicing off tiny slivers, I won't have to feel guilty! Heidi, you rock!


can I sub the yogurt with anything else? trying to avoid dairy if possible.


This sounds delicious! I don't have dates on hand (but lots of ripe bananas - they were cheap this week! - and carrots too), so I might play with some applesauce in place of the dates. Maybe part of the butter too? I don't want to cut it all, in the past when I've tried that things come out rather rubbery. Plus, butter is just so yummy. :)


Oh Heidi, this looks so delicious! I have to send this to my mother -- she's a carrot cake connosseur!


Perfect for my huge bag of Mariquita carrots -- this sounds right up my alley, thanks Heidi!

Eric Gower

Awesome recipe -- I am going to try this one very soon. I am a sort of carrot cake purist, myself -- just like the cinnamon and walnuts, like this one. The last carrot cake I made had plenty of refined sugar, though, -- I'm so eager to try this recipe!! Thank you!


OMG... you seriously love your sweet-tooth followers. I've been wondering when you'd kick out a carrot cake a-la blog. Nice nice job, Heidi. Pre-heating my oven NOW. Thank you.

Tom Marsh

i have never tried carrot cake, either, but that looks too good to NOT try to bake :)


Heidi, As a constant follower and printer of 101 Cookbooks recipes, I thought you'd want to know that the last three weeks, the Google ads are printing along with the recipe even though the tag is still present that says they will not print. No big deal, but ... Thanks for endless inspiring recipes and ideas. HS: THanks Annie, I'll look into it - those pages must have broken when we did the software upgrade. Let me know if you come across any other problems.


Heidi, I am very intrigued that this has nothing for the specific purpose of sweetening. A must-try for me.


Looks so tasty. I love standard carrot cake, but I have a feeling I'll love this version too. Can't wait to try your recipe.


Heidi, this looks amazing. With your splendid recipes I have slowly changed my way of eating over the last 18 months and sugar was my last give up. Carrot cake is my all time favorite so this is a gift from the gods as I a have been craving a nice dessert to have after dinner. Thank you for your wisdom, efforts and most of all your posts.


Yes!!! I've been contemplating a carrot cake bake-off/taste test for a summer break project, and am excited to try this recipe side by side with vegan and traditional carrot cakes.


Looks and sounds fantastic. I harbor a deep love for carrot cake.


Could you make this a day in advance and then frost it? Mother's day is coming up and this is my mom's favorite kind of cake. I totally want to make it for her!


I am just in the process of switching my family to more whole foods and less refined sweetener, and although I may still pull out the old favorite carrot cake with sugar (and oil and pineapple and coconut) for occasions, I will feel much better about this as a more frequent treat. With Greek Yogurt, how can you go wrong?


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