The ultimate makeover: Carrot cake

The ultimate makeover: Carrot cake

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(89 ratings)

Prep: 30 mins Cook: 1 hr


Cuts into 16 squares
Angela Nilsen rethinks traditional ingredients and baking techniques to create a healthier version of a classic

Nutrition and extra info

  • Cake only

Nutrition: per serving

  • kcal217
  • fat9g
  • saturates1g
  • carbs31g
  • sugars21g
  • fibre2g
  • protein4g
  • salt0.52g
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    For the cake

    • 1 medium orange



      One of the best-known citrus fruits, oranges aren't necessarily orange - some varieties are…

    • 140g raisin
    • 125ml rapeseed oil
    • 115g plain wholemeal flour
    • 1 tsp baking powder, plus a pinch
      Baking powder

      Baking powder

      bay-king pow-dah

      Baking powder is a raising agent that is commonly used in cake-making. It is made from an alkali…

    • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
      Bicarbonate of soda

      Bicarbonate of soda

      Bicarbonate of soda, or baking soda, is an alkali which is used to raise soda breads and full-…

    • 1 rounded tsp ground cinnamon
    • 140g dark muscovado sugar
    • 280g finely grated carrot (about 375-400g carrots before peeling)



      The carrot, with its distinctive bright orange colour, is one of the most versatile root…

    • 2 eggs



      The ultimate convenience food, eggs are powerhouses of nutrition, packed with protein and a…

    • 115g self-raising flour

    For the frosting

    • 100g light soft cheese, straight from the fridge
    • 100g Quark



      This is a soft, smooth curd cheese with a refreshingly light acidity. It ranges from low-fat…

    • 3 tbsp sifted icing sugar
    • ½ tsp finely grated orange zest
    • 1 ½ tsp lemon juice


    1. Heat oven to 160C/fan 140C/gas 3. For the cake, finely grate the zest from the orange and squeeze 3 tbsp of juice. Pour the juice over the raisins in a bowl, stir in zest, then leave to soak while you make the cake. Lightly oil and line the base of a deep 20cm square cake tin. Mix the flours with 1 tsp baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon.

    2. Separate one of the eggs. Put the white in a small bowl and the yolk in a large one. Break the remaining whole egg in with the yolk, then tip in the sugar. Whisk together for 1-2 mins until thick and foamy. Slowly pour in the oil and continue to whisk on a low speed until well mixed. Tip in the flour mix, half at a time, and gently stir it into the egg mixture with a rubber spatula or big spoon. The mix will be quite stiff. Put the extra pinch of baking powder in with the egg white and whisk to soft peaks.

    3. Fold the carrot, raisins (and any liquid) into the flour mixture. Gently fold in the whisked egg white, then pour into the tin. Jiggle the tin to level the mixture. Bake for 1 hr until risen and firm or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin 5 mins, turn out onto a wire rack, peel off the paper, then leave until cold.

    4. To make the frosting, stir the soft cheese, Quark, icing sugar and orange zest together - don't overbeat. Stir in the lemon juice. Swirl the frosting over the cake and cut into 16 square. This cake is even better if left well wrapped for a day or two before icing and eating. Will keep up to 5 days uniced in an airtight tin, or in the fridge if iced.

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    Comments (136)

    jamietshaw's picture

    As others have said, a bit of a hassle, but turns out really well. Step 2 could have been split up to make it easier to follow.
    • Mine needed 65 minutes in the oven.
    • If you only have one decent large bowl, save it for step 2.
    • I didn’t have an orange handy but used some Cointreau instead!
    • I couldn’t find a 140g raisin so I used 140g’s worth of regular-sized ones :)

    Caketoppers's picture

    I've just made this for the second time and it came out perfect again! I used sultanas instead of raisins and the idea of soaking them in orange juice is genius. I left mine overnight for extra plumpness. I only used 100g of sultanas and added 100g of chopped walnuts. I also used plain flour only. The icing didn't work the first time, but it's fine without as the sponge is so moist. The second time I used ready-made frosting and added in some half-fat Marscapone, which worked better. It wasn't much more effort than my old full-fat recipe, just a bit of extra washing up with the egg-white whisking. I freeze the individual portions in little bags, they defrost very quickly and taste just as good!

    mandnlee's picture

    Just made this, and it is a faff, but delicious,light and not too sweet. Swapped wholemeal flour for rolled oats and raisins for chopped dates, did the normal icing sugar/orange juice topping. Lovely. Will make again, just when I have time! Would have been 3 1/2 stars if poss.

    Ebebebb's picture

    Delicious. A faff to make but worth it! I'm not a great fan of carrot cake so I reduced the carrot and used one apple and a couple of pears to make up the weight. I added a tsp of mixed spice and upped the cinnamon slightly too. I didn't bother with the icing but served it first as dessert, warm and with Greek yogurt, and then had the leftovers with a bit of butter the next day. I might increase the amount of dried fruit next time, and possibly add some nuts and seeds too.

    cshobbs's picture

    I have tried many carrot cake recipes and this was one of the best.
    However I didn't make the frosting but instead topped the cake with pecan halves.
    I used gluten free flour.
    Next time I will try light muscovado and add some chopped nuts.

    Balina's picture

    Lovely, lovely cake. My husband said this is the best carrot cake he's ever had. The orange in it is lovely, used plain flour as I didn't have wholemeal and vegetable oil, also didn't have quark so used full fat cream cheese and a bit of soft butter, had to use more sugar as the frosting was a bit runny, delicious without the frosting too. Thank you, BBC GF.

    cmdx3's picture

    I have used the cake recipe (adapted) plenty of times, and its lovely. I always add walnuts, and use sunflower oil- and you can definitely leave out the orange zest too. I like it on its own, so I have never tried the frosting here.

    amp1043's picture

    I thought I had messed this up but it turned out almost perfect! I had only plain flour, put the eggs in at the wrong time and it was too late before I realized I didn't have any oil and had to use melted butter instead. Very, very happy with the results.

    zoetcm's picture

    This turned out delicous! Beautifully moist and fluffy cake. I didnt have any wholemeal flour so used plain flour and i didn't have any quark so used a different cream cheese icing recipe. Thumbs up from me! :-)

    jburton's picture

    I'm going to make this for my Great Nephews Christening next weekend, but instead of taking it square I'm going to cut it and make it look like a carrot.

    annak19's picture

    Fabulous cake, so delicious. Lovely to find a carrot cake recipe without nuts (I'm allergic). The orange really makes this cake in my opinion - sublime. Made it for the people I volunteer with and my other half was very disappointed to find there was none leftover for him. Will have to make again.

    mannymanny's picture

    simply delicious! I used 120 gr of walnuts instead of raisins and 200gr of soft cheese for the frosting as I didn't find Quark. Just a suggestion: use a strainer to sift the muscovado sugar as it can easily form lumps :) 5 stars!

    Adele93's picture

    Really moist and delicious. Made this for my birthday party and everyone loved it and couldn't believe it was so healthy! I enjoyed the icing and didn't find it too runny but after making it put the iced cake straight into the fridge which probably helped and only added a little juice to taste.
    The adjustments I made were that I added more raisins and juice of a whole large orange instead of just 3tbsp. Also popped in a bit extra cinnamon and 1tsp of ground mixed spice. I will definitely be making this again! :)

    penguin39's picture

    Just baked this for my parents' anniversary as carrot cake is one of their favourites but my mum is on a diet. Its awesome, my dad said its one of the best cakes I've made :) I actually love the frosting and so did he - but i stopped at 1tsp of fresh lemon juice, perhaps that's why others have found it too runny? And i used Philidelphia Lightest for the soft cheese part, as well as the Quark. Also added 16 walnut halves on the top for decoration, one for each square! Would definitely make it again and recommend, just the egg part is a bit of a faff.

    stephanieham019's picture

    Amazing!! Made this for two birthdays and both recipients said it was the best cake they have ever tasted.

    I used sunflower oil instead of rapeseed, and added a bit of vanilla essence. I only measured the ingredients approximately and it worked out great, moist, tasty and healthier than usual.

    For the topping I used 300g extra light Philadelphia, 150g butter and 150g icing sugar and added walnuts on top for decoration. Perfect.

    kisempire's picture

    Cake is wonderfully moist. Only had 50g of raisins and used light instead of dark sugar but it came out very well. Also had no Quark so just used 200G extra light soft cheese instead.

    ciaraconroy's picture

    Tried this out because of the high rating and of course low fat alternative to my favourite cake! Cake turned out drier than I thought it would be, but I was cautious with the oil and prob didn't add the full amount, leaving it less moist! Added tsp mixed spice and extra cinnamon also which tasted good! However in my opinion the icing does not deserve the high ratings-tasted pretty awful yesterday when I made it initially, however prepared to give it a 2nd chance and after being in fridge overnight tasted much better today...but still just 'ok'!

    neeshasihra's picture

    I have made this cake so many times now and it is always so well received. Admittedly, I do use full fat cream cheese, icing sugar and juice from an orange for the frosting - which is naughty but very nice. I will definitely be trying the healthier frosting though, as it does seem to have good reviews.

    I have also adapted the recipe slightly, I add extra sultanas (as I love them) and also add mixed spice and grated nutmeg (to personal taste). I have also used this recipe to make cupcakes as too and they work equally well. In fact, I think I prefer it as a cupcake (but thats just personal preference). This is becoming one of my favourite recipes!!! Definitely a keeper!!!

    janjan87's picture

    The cake was lovely and moist! It was a bit of a faff to make and ended up with lots of washing up but it was well worth it. I made two batches of the cake, one I used the suggested icing in the recipe for one and the other I used my own recipe. Sorry to say but the icing suggested in the recipe is awful. It's runny and just dripped over the sides of the cake. Not to mention the fact it tasted horrible. I realise the point of it is to try and make this a healthier version of the cake but it just didn't work at all for me. So I scrapped it off and made up another batch of my own. I use 250g mascarpone, 100g quark, 50g sifted icing sugar and half the juice of an orange. Yes naughty but ultimately much nicer. I will use the cake recipe again as it was perfect. I added in 1 tsp of mixed spice to give it a bit more umph.

    kev540's picture

    Do not make this icing.


    Questions (2)

    joewillol's picture

    I have wholemeal SR flour at home. Could a swap round the flours and use 115g wholemeal SR flour and 115g plain flour?

    goodfoodteam's picture

    Yes you can!

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