When I started graduate school, the chemistry department required all first year grad students to attend a weekly seminar on Tuesday afternoons. The invited speakers ranged from professors at other universities throughout the US to high-ranking individuals at local pharmaceutical companies and everything in between, but each scientist presented their cutting-edge research and took questions at the end.
In order to make room for all of the first years, along with anyone else in the chemistry department who wanted to attend, the seminars were held in the second largest lecture hall in the building almost three stories tall with slanted stadium-style seating. Most speakers put together slide decks to present on the oversized screen that came down from the ceiling, but a few also drew out specific molecules and mechanism pathways on the green chalkboard behind it.
Partially as a bribe, and partially to ensure we all stayed awake, the chemistry department set out a snack tray in the small classroom across the hall just before the seminars started at 4 pm. They provided two huge urns of coffee and hot water for tea, plus an oversized tray of store-bought cookies.
Free caffeine and sugar—definitely two fail-proof ways to get us grad students to show up!
About ten minutes before the snack trays arrived, first year grad students began congregating in that small hallway, eagerly anticipating the sweet snack’s arrival. We all rushed through the door, more in a chaotic blob than a neat line, quickly grabbed a napkin, and picked out a couple of cookies from the oversized platter.
The sugary treats ranged from classic Oreos and Fig Newtons to chewy chocolate chip cookies and crunchy iced oatmeal cookies to knockoff Thin Mints and Samoas to strawberry cream wafers and Keebler chocolate-striped shortbread… And just about every other cookie that you can possibly find at grocery stores.
We weren’t picky about what sweets they provided us with… We just looked forward to the free snacks and how they got us through the seminars!
Looking back, those store-bought cookies weren’t the best or healthiest option for snacks… But this homemade Healthy Carrot Zucchini Oatmeal Snack Cake definitely would be!
It’s full of fresh zucchini and sweet carrots, along with lots of hearty oats and warm spices, and it keeps me feeling full and satisfied (without any danger of a sugar crash!) much longer than those grad school cookies ever did. This healthy oatmeal snack cake also contains no refined flour or sugar, yet it still tastes like a special treat, just like those seminar snacks!
HOW TO MAKE A HEALTHY CARROT ZUCCHINI OATMEAL CAKE
So let’s go over how to make this healthy carrot zucchini oatmeal snack cake! I originally named it a “snack” cake, but maybe I should change that… Because it’s healthy enough and perfectly acceptable to eat this oatmeal cake for breakfast too! 😉
You’ll start with a combination of whole wheat flour (or gluten-free—see the Notes section of the recipe for my recommendations!) and instant oats. Yup, instant oats. Instant oats aren’t the ones sold in those individual brown paper packets with flavors like cinnamon apple or maple brown sugar!
Instant oats are just smaller and thinner than traditional old-fashioned rolled oats. This means they soften faster, which creates the most wonderful moist and tender texture in your healthy oatmeal breakfast cake!
Tip: Instant oats only contain one ingredient (oats!), and they’re usually sold in canisters right next to the old-fashioned rolled oats at the grocery store.
However, it’s extremely important to measure the flour and oats correctly, using this method or a kitchen scale. (← That’s the one I own and love!) Too much of either ingredient will dry out your batter, which means your snack cake would turn out dry and crumbly. This is especially true of the oats because they act like little sponges and soak up lots of moisture. But if you measure them correctly (hint: don’t scoop them from the canister!), then you’ll end up with a perfectly moist healthy carrot zucchini oatmeal snack cake.
Of course, anything with oats + carrots + zucchini definitely needs spices! Well, at least in my book… I always include spices in my carrot cake recipes, my zucchini bread, and my oatmeal cookies, so why not this healthy carrot zucchini oatmeal snack cake too?
I kept it simple and just used cinnamon and nutmeg. This is my favorite cinnamon because it tastes richer, stronger, and slightly sweeter than the most common varieties. (I buy it online here—it’s super affordable!) Then the nutmeg adds an extra cozy depth to the spice flavor. Yum!
Unlike many traditional snack cakes that call for ¼ to ½ cup of oil (yikes!), you just need ½ tablespoon of melted butter or coconut oil in this healthy recipe. That saves you anywhere from 356-764 calories, which really helps keep this healthy carrot zucchini oatmeal snack cake low calorie and low fat!
But I promise this healthy snack cake is just as moist and tender as those traditional ones! And that’s because you’ll mix lots of Greek yogurt into the batter. If you’ve browsed through my recipes before, then you already know how much I love baking with Greek yogurt! It adds the same moisture to this healthy carrot zucchini oatmeal snack cake but for a fraction of the calories. It also gives your snack cake a protein boost!
Then to sweeten your snack cake, you’ll skip the refined granulated sugar and use pure maple syrup instead. You want the kind that comes directly from maple trees, not pancake syrup! The only ingredient on the bottle should be “maple syrup.” It generally comes in thin glass bottles or squat plastic jugs (like this!).
Time for the veggies! And if you ask me… This is the best way to sneak extra vegetables into your diet. 😉
You’ll need freshly grated carrots and freshly grated zucchini. Don’t use the store-bought pre-shredded carrots! (They’re also called “matchstick” carrots.) They’re thicker and drier, and they don’t soften properly while baking. I also think they taste much more bland than freshly grated ones. I promise this healthy oatmeal breakfast cake is worth the extra effort of grating your own carrots!
Before you add the latter to the batter, you must thoroughly pat the freshly grated zucchini dry. I use paper towels to do this! Zucchini contains a lot more moisture than carrots do, which it releases while baking. That extra moisture adds too much liquid to the batter, which means your snack cake would collapse while cooling, and it would turn out overly dense. Not good!
But if you press the zucchini between multiple layers of paper towels before adding it to the batter, you end up squeezing out that extra moisture. Therefore, it doesn’t end up in your batter, so you get a perfectly moist and tender healthy carrot zucchini oatmeal snack cake!
And with those sweet veggies + cozy spices + fluffy oatmeal texture… I think this snack cake is perfect for healthy breakfasts, snacks, and even a little pre-bedtime treat! Which also means it rarely lasts more than a day or two in my house. 😉
Then when you make your own, remember to snap a picture and share it on Instagram using #amyshealthybaking and tagging @amyshealthybaking IN the photo itself! (That guarantees I’ll see your picture! 🙂 ) I’d love to see your healthy carrot zucchini oatmeal snack cake!
Healthy Carrot Zucchini Oatmeal Snack Cake
- 1 ½ cups (150g) instant oats (measured like this and gluten free, if necessary)
- 1 ¼ cups (150g) whole wheat or gluten free* flour (measured like this)
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 2 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¾ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ tbsp (7g) coconut oil or unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 2 large egg whites, room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ¾ cup (180g) plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- 6 tbsp (90mL) pure maple syrup
- ½ cup (120mL) nonfat milk
- ¾ cup (79g) freshly grated carrots (peeled first!)
- ¾ cup (68g) freshly grated zucchini, thoroughly patted dry (see Notes!)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F, and coat a 9”-square pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the coconut oil, egg whites, and vanilla. Add in Greek yogurt, stirring until no large lumps of yogurt remain. Stir in the maple syrup. Alternate between adding the oat mixture and milk, beginning and ending with the oat mixture, and stirring just until incorporated. (For best results, add the oat mixture in 3 equal parts.) Gently stir in the carrots and zucchini.
- Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 350°F for 32-36 minutes or until the center feels firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with a few crumbs attached. Cool completely to room temperature in the pan before slicing and serving.
View Nutrition Information + Weight Watchers Points
You may also like Amy’s other recipes…
♡ Healthy Cinnamon Apple Oatmeal Snack Cake
♡ Healthy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Snack Cake
♡ Healthy Banana Oatmeal Snack Cake
♡ Healthy Gingerbread Oatmeal Snack Cake
♡ …and the rest of Amy’s healthy snack recipes!