The ultimate makeover: Carrot cake

The ultimate makeover: Carrot cake

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(105 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, questions and tips

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    Mrs Herring 1977
    15th Aug, 2019
    Absolutely beautiful recipe. So moist and tasty! I've never tried the icing, you cant beat the soft cheese betty crocker for that! I've made this a number of times now and it really does become less of a faff. Initially, it seems dead tricky to make with all of the different elements but once you get used to it, its a piece of cake. Definitely worth making, it really is a crowd pleaser!
    Ally Shaw's picture
    Ally Shaw
    21st Feb, 2019
    Delicious cake! I accidentally missed out the self raising flour completely, but didn't notice until saving the recipe later - probably why it was so moist! I'd tried a carrot cake recently made with orange juice so was on the lookout for one like this - the orange flavour is lovely, and the deeper flavour of the wholemeal flour makes a difference too. I added walnuts, and also doubled the spice - used 1tsp cinnamon and 1tsp mixed spice. Didn't bother icing it - i don't think it needs it to be honest, its moist enough already, and healthier without!
    Sophie Mowat's picture
    Sophie Mowat
    16th May, 2018
    Cake was fine but the icing was a mess. Pretty much liquid, was barely usable.
    25th Jun, 2017
    This cake is the best! I follow the recipe to the letter every time and it's perfect, except I normally add a bit more cinnamon and some ginger. If you can't get quark it works fine with double the amount of cream cheese. It's such a great carrot cake that all other carrot cakes pale in comparison!
    19th Jun, 2016
    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
    3rd Nov, 2015
    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!
    15th Oct, 2015
    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.
    8th Aug, 2015
    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.
    20th Mar, 2015
    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.
    19th Nov, 2014
    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.


    11th Oct, 2016
    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
    15th Oct, 2016
    Yes you can!
    21st Feb, 2017
    To vegan-ise this recipe, replace the two eggs for 150g mashed banana and replace some of the plain flour for more self raising flour!
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