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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YUM. If you live in San Francisco and can get the freshly ground wheat flour from Eatwell Farms at the Ferry Building farmer's market, it's very well priced and I used it in a carrot cake a few months ago which gave it great texture. Can't wait to try this one although I will probably switch olive oil for the butter. Susie


Thank you so much for posting this! It looks like the carrot cake recipe I have been looking for (and never found) for the last couple of years. I'm going to use those soft, melt in your mouth dates that you can get by the boxfull in Middle Eastern markets. I may use coconut oil instead of butter too, but maybe not. I can't wait to make it! PSI know you said you were going for pared down, but don't you think it really needs just a bit of nutmeg alongside the cinnamon? I can't imagine pairing carrots and bananas without that spice...

Lucy T.

Oh yum! I love the idea of adding bananas as well as agave or maple syrup instead of the usual powdered sugar. I really want to try the recipe, but would have to leave the walnuts out because of my husband's nut allergy (he'd be sooo disappointed if I made a cake he couldn't eat!). Do I need to replace them with anything to keep the consistency right? Or do you think it's fine to just leave them out?


This sounds delicious! My kind of carrot cake! The last carrot cake I made, though, added cardamom to the recipe, which was SO wonderful, I think I might continue to do that. but I love the idea of using dates for a sweetener! Thank you Heidi!


Crap, I made banana bread the night before you posted this! Luckily I still have bananas... can't wait to make this soon. It sounds like a perfect dessert for summer picnics.


I was looking for a way to make carrot cake...which I LOVE...less sinful. You did the work for me! Now I have something else to add to my really long list of "101 Cookbooks recipes to try." I made your asparagus/tofu stir fry the other night, and it was amazing!


Thank you very, very much for posting these dessert recipes! I'm trying so hard to eat better and these recipes are such an encouragement! So far it's been 3 weeks without refined white sugar. I bought your "super natural cooking" book and I have the Banana Esspreso Muffins baking in the oven as I type this!


I'm making this as soon as it cools down around here so I can bear to cook!

Dawn S.

What a great recipe! I want to make this for a friends birthday this week. However, you mentioned that "lowfat" greek yogurt was fine but what about "NON fat" fage yogurt. Would that ruin things? Also I usually sub Coconut oil for butter or oil in most recipes. How do you think these substitutions would alter the recipe?


I love your recipes-but was wondering if you could put the nutritional value at the end of each recipe.


This looks DELICIOUS! However, as a carrot cake fan, I have to ask. Does this really taste like carrot cake or like banana bread with carrots in it?


Can't wait to try this recipe. I've been looking for a carrot cake that doesn't use oil. And, with the added benefit of no sugar, this looks awesome. Thanks.


Has anyone tried substituting dried plums (aka prunes) for dates in this or other recipes? They seem to have a similarly high sugar content, though maybe a little more water.


To Joy Jones: Another way of saying it would be "pitted dates". Dates have a hard pit/seed like plums (prunes) and you can buy them pitted (like the ones in the Sunmaid boxes) or with pits (usually in bulk.) If you buy the kind with pits, they're very easy to remove. To Heidi: A local coffee shop sells what I think of as "carrot loaf" that looks nearly identical to your cake. My children love it and I've been meaning to attempt to duplicate it - now you've saved me the trouble! Thank you so much!! I will make a loaf this week.


A beautiful recipe, Heidi. Can you suggest substitutions for the butter and yogurt, for those of us who are dairy intolerant?


I think I *heart* you. You have no idea how much I love carrot cake. I've got a hug bag of carrots from the farmer's market, some overripened bananas waiting to be use, and a bag full of dates in the fridge. My mouth is watering... And, OH!, I just picked up a copy of Super Natural Cooking. Can't wait to crack it.

Erin D

Sounds like a great recipe. I love both carrot cake AND banana bread so this recipe looks like a real winner to me. Thanks so much!


I love it when you can see the carrot in the cake...this looks delicious.

Fit Bottomed Girls

I an the dumbest cook on the planet, so laugh at me if you must. I don't know how to make "seedless" dates. Do I buy then that way? Love being a "new" girl of yours altho I am 79. Please keep up the good work and may God Bless You ! Warm Regards, jj

Joy Jones

I don't really like dates any other exceptions anyone can think of...maybe raisins? thank you looks wonderful!


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