The ultimate makeover: Carrot cake

The ultimate makeover: Carrot cake

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(114 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

  • sponge only

Nutrition: per serving

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


    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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    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.
    22nd Jul, 2014
    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
    16th Jul, 2014
    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.
    25th Jun, 2014
    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
    21st Jun, 2014
    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.
    19th Nov, 2013
    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.
    7th Oct, 2013
    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!
    16th Aug, 2013
    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! :)


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