This isn’t your grandma’s carrot cake. Packed with unexpected substitutes — think craisins instead of raisins, brown sugar instead of white, and honey roasted pecans instead of plain — this cake recipe throws in a few flavor bonuses like lemon zest, toasted coconut, and yes, pumpkin!
It uses oil instead of butter for a meltingly tender crumb. The oil combined with pumpkin puree and hand-grated carrots lends a level of moisture to the cake that stays for days after it’s baked. Observe how a baked slice of the layered cake slumps cozily on the plate. This is a good thing; it's a visual affirmation that each bite will dissolve on your tongue and leave behind a whisper of warm cinnamon, caramelized pumpkin and carrot, and sweetened creamy frosting.
The list of ingredients runs a touch long, but don’t let that intimidate you. Homemade cakes are well worth the effort, and a food processor makes quick work of grating the carrots so you have little left to do aside from beating or folding the ingredients together and letting the oven do the rest.
For the cake:
8 large carrots, finely grated
2 cups light brown sugar
½ cup Zero Acre oil
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups oat flour (we used Bob’s Red Mill)
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
⅓ cup dried craisins
⅓ cup honey-roasted pecans, finely diced
1 tsp. lemon zest, optional
Cook’s tip: Grate your own carrots instead of buying the pre-shredded kind from the store. It makes a big difference in the taste and texture of the cake.
For the frosting:
4 oz. cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tbsp. unsweetened almond milk
¼ cup shredded coconut
¼ tsp. lemon extract
For the topping:
¼ cup shredded coconut, toasted
Prep time: 10 minutes
Bake time: 40 minutes
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Prep the carrots: Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin from the carrots and then add to a food processor. Pulse until all of the carrots are shredded into small pieces. You can also shred on a cheese grater if you don’t have a food processor; just make sure to grate them finely.
Add brown sugar and oil to a mixing bowl. Beat on high until all of the sugar is absorbed by the oil. Add the canned pumpkin and vanilla extract and beat again until combined.
Add the eggs to the bowl, one at a time, beating after each. Beat for 4–5 minutes until everything is very well combined.
Pour oat flour, ground cinnamon, salt, baking powder and baking soda into the mixing bowl. Beat for another 2 minutes until well combined.
Use a spatula to fold in dried craisins, diced pecan pieces, lemon zest, and shredded carrot.
Line two 8x8 pans with parchment paper and grease with cooking spray. Divide the batter evenly among the two pans.
Bake for 35–40 minutes or until the center is completely set. Note: Depending on the size pan used and how much is in each pan, baking times will vary. Insert a toothpick into the center of each cake to test for doneness (if the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is done).
Allow the cakes to cool completely before adding the frosting. Remove the cakes from the cake pans and let cool on a cooling rack.
Make the frosting: Combine the cream cheese, powdered sugar, almond milk, and lemon extract in a bowl and beat with a hand mixer. Mix until all of the powdered sugar is dissolved. Fold in the shredded coconut.
Place ⅓ of the frosting on one of the cakes, then place the other cake on top of the frosted one. Add the additional frosting to the top of the cake and decorate as you wish.
To add toasted coconut on top of the frosted cake: Spread shredded coconut in one layer on a cookie sheet. Place the cookie sheet under the broiler and toast for 2–3 minutes. Remove it promptly before it starts to burn! Allow the toasted coconut to cool before sprinkling on top of the frosted cake.
Cook’s tip: Store any leftover cake in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to seven days.
Can You Freeze Pumpkin Carrot Cake?
Yes, pumpkin spice cake, carrot cake, and pumpkin carrot cake freeze well. Just wrap the baked cake layers in plastic cling twice (or once and then wrap again with aluminum foil) and freeze the cake layers for up to six months.
When you’re ready to eat the cake, defrost the cake layers in the refrigerator or on the counter. If you defrost the cake layers in the refrigerator, take them out to come to room temperature on the counter. Once the cake layers are at room temperature, ice them and top them with toasted coconut.
Is Carrot Cake Healthy?
This might depend on how loosely you define “healthy.” Yes, the cake contains carrots and pecans, which are nutrient-dense whole foods, but it is still a cake that contains a fair amount of sugar and calories. Everything in moderation, right?
Tips for the Best Pumpkin Carrot Cake
Tip 1: Shred the carrots into small pieces, aka finely grated, so they suspend evenly throughout the cake batter. Since the cake doesn’t bake for a very long time, you want to make sure the carrot pieces are small enough to cook completely (no crunchy bits).
Tip 2: While the oil in the recipe keeps the cake moist for days (really, until it’s gone), it doesn’t add the same leavening that a cake with creamed butter and sugar does. Some bakers could overcompensate for this and add too much baking powder to the cake, but this recipe doesn’t do that. You’ll see that this cake doesn’t have the same fluffy volume that a buttery vanilla cake might, but the tender, moist crumb and spiced flavor make this cake unique.
Fat: 20 grams
Carbs: 88 grams
Protein: 8 grams
Nutrition info collected from Cronometer.
This delicious recipe was developed and photographed by Courtney Paige.
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