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)

    caz505bgf's picture

    I've made this one a few times, always with excellent results and compliments to the chef! I've never bothered with the Quark as I find it easier and more cost-effective to just buy 200g of light soft cheese but apart from that, follow the recipe to the t and am always delighted. Definitely doesn't feel like a low fat version, it's light and moist and scrummy.

    laurenflincoln's picture

    Delicious! I used 150g wholemeal flour and only 80g plain flour. I found the mixture to be very dry initially so I added 100g plain lite yoghurt to it and it was much better! Gave the cake a lovely light flavour too. I omitted the icing as well (less calories!) and instead make a glaze with orange juice and orange marmalade - lovely!

    claree's picture

    YUMMY! A hit with the whole family and was lovely and moist. It has very few calories compared with other carrot cakes but you certainly can't tell from the taste. I will definitely be making this one again.

    blulou's picture

    This is a lovely cake, really light and moist. It was even better the next day. I didnt make the topping so I cannot comment on that, I just used a drizzle of icing made with lemon zest and juice and the leftover orange juice with icing sugar. I did add ground ginger and nutmeg to the mix as I know how I like my cake spiced. Next time will try adding a few walnuts or pecans.

    michaelbrown1's picture

    To make this even more diabetic friendly, I made the following changes: only 100g raisins, previously rinsed in boiling water; just 70g dark brown sugar, and I added 100 drops 0 kcal sweetner (Stevia). For the topping I used 100ml 0% fat low cal cream, 50 drops sweetner, 1/2 tsp orange zest and 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice, all whipped together. The cake vanished almost as soon as it was finished!

    itskitty's picture

    I made it last Saturday
    and it came out lovely -- even though I didn't strictly follow the measurements

    but my mom thought it was a bit too moist though

    could anyone suggest how i can make it a bit less moist?
    Btw, I put all of the grated carrots into the batch, including some
    carrot juice. Did it affect the moisture? do you put in the juice or drain it out?

    Lovely anyway definitely a keeper recipe!

    fashionista25's picture

    Lovely and light, my favourite carrot cake recipe. I use plain white flour and normal vegetable oil, which works fine. The topping is very moreish!

    annaborowski's picture

    This cake is lovely! Moist and gooey and totally yummy. It tastes as if it should be packed full of calories, but it's a fabulous alternative to the full fat version. You have to make it!

    kirstensmith's picture

    One of the lightest, moistest cakes I have ever made. Like some others have commented, you wouldn't necessarily know its a carrot cake but it's delicious none the less. My only criticism is that you wouldn't be able to 'ice' the whole of the cake in one go if you were planning on saving some for later as the soft cheese/quark mixture will never set. Worth making though

    pelupi's picture

    Excellent. Will never bother with a full fat version gain

    trish-whytock's picture

    Try Xylitol (you can get it from Sainsburys in the speciality foods section). It is an excellent substitute for sugar, especially if you are diabetic. It is natural & therefore not carcinogenic or bad for you. Patrick Holford (UK Nutritionist put me onto to this amazing sugar substitute) & I have not looked back since. It allows diabetics to have dessert without the fear of using chemically enhanced sweeteners!

    melanieday's picture

    This recipie was good, easy to make and the cake was a nice colour and texture.

    I didnt have any as it was a gift to a friend but she said it went down well at the party.

    ih8daylite's picture

    Hi the BEST substitute for sugar is STEVIA we tried it half and half last sunday and it was brilliant no difference at all, today were going to use ALL stevia, so it will be a no sugar carrot cake, i enjoyed it so much but i will feel less guilty knowing theres no sugar carbs or calories in it, but even half n half is brilliant!!.... ill report back later :o)

    vaf666's picture

    Wonderfully straightforward to make and tasted delicious. Got many complimebnts

    nike85's picture

    I didn't really like this cake. Wasn't anywhere near other good carrot cakes I've tasted. I kept it in the fridge after icing which made the cake taste odd because it was cold. I'm also not a fan of the topping combination.

    leifam's picture

    Really easy to make and less fat than normal versions. It's very fruity, but I like it like that. Everyone was very impressed with it.

    jaymaywin's picture

    Yummy, followed the recipe except for adding a handful of walnuts in the mixture. Will be my regular carrot cake recipe as I can eat twice as much! I always know an Angela recipe is never a waste of time or money, thanks Angela.

    fashionista25's picture

    Really nice, moist and very moreish! loved the topping too, since im a massive fan of cheesecake.

    watchstrap's picture

    Quite simply the best carrot cake ever. Lovely and moist and it kept well-wrapped for days. Even my daughter who says she hates carrot cake loved it. I would give it 10 stars and it has made it into my husband's 'top cakes to ask for' list!


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