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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Heidi, The cake looks awesome! I'll try this soon.


Hi Heidi, I can't eat eggs and was wondering how I might make this cake with a substitute... I know the standard substitutes (bananas, applesauce, apricot puree, yoghurt, etc), but most of those things are already in here! Any thoughts? Cheers for the brilliant recipes! Paula


How about substituting cooked sweet potatoe for the banana?


How about substituting cooked sweet potatoe for the banana?


I substitute a small pot of applesauce for the butter and it works perfectly


I adore carrot cake. So much that we had it for our wedding cake. I love the idea of sweetening it with bananas and dates. I will definitely be trying this recipe.


Karla, you can drain regular yogurt to produce something that is texturally pretty close to greek yogurt - I don't see why it wouldn't work! You can drain it in cheesecloth or a coffee filter - just remember to start with more than you need to wind up with! :-)


Heidi, your recipe is just so timely. My naturopathic doctor is having me cut out cane sugar from my diet, but a bit of maple syrup or agave nectar is okay. So this is perfect! Can't wait to try it.


This sounds fabulous!! You are the best Heidi.


I love it already for the lack of vegetable oil! Such a delicious-looking cake.


Oh!! it is sweet especially with banana flavour. thanx for making our cooking easy.


I can't wait to try this - I loved the carrot oatmeal cookies (whoopie pies!) and this is another similar option but in loaf form: breakfast!


MMMMM That cake looks good.


Oh Baby, Oh Baby, Oh Baby! Love carrot cake so much we actually had a wheat-free version made as a wedding cake some years back. Can't wait to try this, since we've got everything at hand!!

elizabeth pb

Casey, I don't know about dried plums instead of dates, but I bet dried apricots would do just fine.


Aw man! I wish you had posted this two days ago because I would love to have tried this in place of the plain old banana bread I made this weekend. Oh well. Soon. Very soon...

Kristin @ De Nacho

This looks very good. I live in a fairly rural area and Greek yogurt is not available. Do you think regular yogurt will work, even though it's more watery?


Just wanted to tell you that I love your baking style. The vegan carrot oatmeal cookies, to which I added curry powder, were fabulous and I've started replacing butter with coconut oil in many cookie recipes, with much success. This carrot cake looks lovely. Thanks for the great work.

five o'clock teaspoon

I saw carrot cake in my e-mail alert from you & about jumped off my chair! I make carrot cake cupcakes all the time, small & portable. I can't wait to try this version - always out to make things a bit healthier. Question, I absolutely hate bananas... these don't taste too "bananaish" do they?!


fantastic! from your description i can imagine the texture of this cake...sounds delicious! almost like a quick bread version of carrot cake. i think carrot cake is my favorite kind of cake!


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