My senior year of high school, my mom’s cousin visited us during the spring as part of her RV road trip up and down the west coast. When we realized that she and her significant other would arrive the week before Easter, we invited them to spend a few extra days in town and join us for the holiday.
They graciously accepted, so we quickly started planning a special Easter dinner menu. Mom ordered a honey baked ham (her favorite!), and we settled on a few simple sides, like a spinach salad, asparagus, and homemade bread rolls.
On a whim, I pulled out the cookbook my parents had given me for Christmas, and I skimmed through the dessert chapter until I found a recipe that sounded festive and fun: a carrot sheet cake. Baked in a 9×13” pan, topped with cream cheese frosting, and easily enough to serve 16 – if not 20!
I pored over the extensive recipe notes before making the batter and baking the cake the day before Easter. On Sunday, I whipped up the frosting and spread it across the top of the cake, then stood back to survey my work and mentally proclaimed it done just a few minutes before our two guests arrived.
Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the feast that afternoon, although possibly a little too much… Almost all of the adults forgot to save room for any dessert!
As for me? I sat down at the dinner table with a plan and priorities in mind, served myself the smallest portions of the savory dishes… Then reached for the biggest slice of cake. Nobody else even seemed to notice!
When I took my first bite of this healthy carrot sheet cake, those fond memories came flooding back. Yet this recipe tastes even better than the one I made that year – and it’s healthier too!
This carrot cake is perfect for Easter (as I’m sure you’ve already guessed!), but it’s also lovely for birthdays, special celebrations, or any day you’re craving something cozy, comforting, and sweet. Although made in a large 9×13” rectangular cake pan, the leftovers rarely last long!
QUICK OVERVIEW – HEALTHY CARROT SHEET CAKE
Difficulty: Mainly easy, including for many beginner bakers.
Taste: Lots of rich, warm, cozy spice flavors in a lightly sweetened batter, topped with sweet and oh-so-subtly tangy cream cheese frosting.
Texture: Supremely moist and soft, and on the dense side, with plenty of tender carrots scattered liberally throughout.
WHAT’S A SHEET CAKE?
A sheet cake is a single-layer cake baked in a rectangular pan, usually topped with frosting. The flavors of cake and frosting don’t matter too much… Mainly the cake’s shape!
Technically, sheet cakes are supposed to be made in sheet pans (hence the name!), which are 18×26” in size. (Ginormous!) Since many people don’t own this massive full-sized sheet pan or a half-sized one, a fair amount of “homemade” sheet cakes are baked in a 9×13” rectangular cake pan instead.
This healthy carrot sheet cake falls into that latter category. You just need a regular 9×13” pan to make it!
KEY INGREDIENTS TO MAKE A HEALTHY CARROT SHEET CAKE
Let’s go over the ingredients you’ll need to make this healthy carrot sheet cake! I’m assuming you have basic staples like baking powder and salt, so we’ll focus on the more interesting and important ones.
Flour. To make this carrot cake healthier, I opted for regular whole wheat flour. The rich spices (more on those in a moment!) completely masked any hints of “wheat-y” flavor, so nobody could tell that’s what I used. (I was SO excited about that!)
A few other types of flour will also work! Those include white whole wheat flour (another one of my favorites!), whole wheat pastry flour, and even all-purpose flour.
Tip: If you’d like to make this healthy carrot sheet cake gluten free, I’ve included recommendations on how to do that in the Notes section of the recipe!
Spices. You’ll need both cinnamon and nutmeg. I love how warm and cozy those spices make this carrot sheet cake taste – especially the nutmeg! I like a pretty robust spice flavor in my carrot cake, so I tend to add a bit more than most people. If you’re the same way, then see the Notes section of the recipe!
Tip: I love using Saigon cinnamon because it has a stronger, richer, and sweeter taste. I buy it online here, and it’s really affordable!
Egg whites. The egg whites’ protein is a key component in this cake batter. It helps your carrot sheet cake maintain its structure after baking. Without all of the egg whites, your cake would collapse while cooling and turn out a little gummy.
And since I know someone is going to ask…
Yes, you do need all of them. However, if you’d like to use whole eggs (not just the whites!), then you can decrease the amount of milk to compensate for the added liquid volume from the yolks. See the Notes section of the recipe for that modification!
Greek yogurt. This is one of my favorite healthy baking ingredients! Here, it adds the same moisture to your cake batter as extra butter or oil – but for a fraction of the calories. It also gives your carrot cake a protein boost!
Tip: If you top your carrot cake with one of my homemade cream cheese frosting recipes, then you’ll use Greek yogurt to make that too!
Sweeteners. You need two! Pure maple syrup and liquid stevia. Pure maple syrup is the kind that comes directly from maple trees, and it’s often sold in thin glass bottles or squat plastic jugs (like this!). Stevia is a no-calorie, plant-based sweetener that’s highly concentrated, so a little goes a long way. You just need 2 ½ teaspoons for this entire cake!
Tip: Many stevia brands and products have different sweetness levels, so they’re not necessarily 1-for-1 substitutes for one another. For the best results, I highly recommend using the same liquid stevia that I do. I buy it online here because it’s the best price I’ve found, and you’ll use it in all of these recipes of mine too. (I promise it’s not a “one-time use” ingredient!)
And yes, you do need to use both! Here’s the nerdy explanation about why…
We often think about sugar as simply a sweetener (whether the plain white granulated kind or unrefined ones like honey and pure maple syrup!), but it actually does a whole lot more than that.
In cakes, sugar molecules also contribute to the structure.
It’s not as obvious in loaf cakes or bundt cakes, where the sides of the pans are closer together. Because they’re only 4” or 5” apart (loaf pans), or even closer to 3” (bundt pans), the stiff and sturdy sides of these cakes reinforce the cake’s structure, in a sense, and you can get away with using just stevia to sweeten them while depending on the flour’s gluten content and the egg whites for structure – without the cakes collapsing or deflating.
But in larger pans like 8”-rounds, 9”-rounds, and 9×13” rectangular ones, those sugar molecules become extremely important. The sides of these pans are too far apart to help maintain the cake’s structural integrity, regardless of how many egg whites you use (yup – speaking from personal experience here!)… So if made without any “classic” sugar molecules, those cakes collapse and end up with a really dense and almost gummy texture.
Trust me… That’s what happened when I tried making this cake solely with liquid stevia. It was tasty – but it had an incredibly sad and disappointing texture.
So that’s where the pure maple syrup comes in!
Pure maple syrup is comprised of three main types of sugar molecules: sucrose, glucose, and fructose. (This article goes into a lot more detail about the composition of pure maple syrup. I was a chemist before I became a baking blogger, so I love reading about nerdy things like this and find them fascinating!)
By adding a small amount to the batter, the pure maple syrup really helped with this carrot sheet cake’s texture. It didn’t deflate, and it turned out incredibly moist, just like you’d expect a regular carrot cake to be.
Hooray for cake-baking chemistry!
Carrots. Use freshly grated ones! Do not substitute store-bought pre-shredded carrots (also called “matchstick” carrots). They’re thicker and drier, and they don’t soften properly while baking. I know it takes a little extra time to grate your own, but it makes a big difference in how soft and moist your carrot sheet cake turns out!
Tip: If you have a food processor with a grater disc attachment, that makes the process much faster!
HOW TO MAKE THE BEST HEALTHY CARROT SHEET CAKE
Now that you have your ingredients in hand (and one very nerdy explanation!), let’s talk about how to make the best healthy carrot sheet cake! This recipe is simple and straightforward to make, but I still have some important tips for you.
Mix by hand. That’s right – put away your mixer! Both hand-held and stand mixers tend to over-mix low fat and low sugar batters, like this one. Over-mixing creates a tough or rubbery texture. Not good!
So for the best soft and moist carrot sheet cake, make the batter by hand. Use a whisk where explicitly instructed, and use a fork for everything else.
Yup, a fork. Not a wooden spoon! The open space between the tines of the fork allows the ingredients to pass through and mix more efficiently, which also helps guard against over-mixing.
Line the pan. Never done this before? It’s a cake game-changer! Just coat your 9×13” rectangular pan with cooking spray, and then lay a sheet of wax paper in the bottom. Smooth out any bumps or bubbles, and coat the wax paper with cooking spray too.
This trick helps your cake pop right out of the pan. No more ripped, torn, or broken cake fragments! But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before getting the cake out of the rectangular pan, first you need to…
Bake. Your carrot sheet cake will be done when the center feels firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with some crumbs attached. Let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring it to a wire rack to cool completely.
Yes, completely. Don’t cut into it while it’s warm! The structure won’t fully set until your cake reaches room temperature. But once it does, then you can…
Frost. I have two cream cheese frosting recipes that would be perfect for this carrot sheet cake!
And that’s another thing I love about sheet cakes compared to layer cakes… They’re much easier to frost. No leveling of layers, no crumb coats, no spreading and smoothing and worrying about whether the sides look perfect. Just slather the frosting on top, and you’re done!
But if you decide to skip the frosting and eat it plain, I won’t judge one bit… That’s what I often end up doing with this healthy carrot sheet cake too! 😉
FAQS ABOUT HEALTHY CARROT SHEET CAKE
Is this healthy carrot sheet cake gluten free, clean eating, or low sugar?
Yes! I’ve included both whole wheat and gluten free options in this recipe. It’s clean eating friendly (with no refined white sugar!), and it’s also low fat and low calorie.
How do you make carrot cake moist?
This recipe uses Greek yogurt and freshly grated carrots. See the “Ingredients” section above for more info about both!
Can I substitute something else for the maple syrup or stevia?
Yes! Honey or agave will work as 1-for-1 substitutes in place of the pure maple syrup. Substitutes for the stevia require tweaking the amount of milk, but I’ve included some options in the Notes section of the recipe.
Can I use more stevia in place of the maple syrup – or another sugar free sweetener?
No, I don’t recommend doing that. See the “Sweeteners” header above for more information and my detailed nerdy explanation about why. 😉
Can I use store-bought pre-shredded carrots?
I don’t recommend that either. They’re stiff and dry, and they don’t soften properly while baking.
Can I add raisins or nuts?
Yes! Simply fold them in with the freshly grated carrots.
What’s the best frosting for carrot cake?
It’s hard to go wrong with cream cheese frosting – and these are my two favorites!
Can I make this carrot cake as a layer cake instead?
Yes! You’ll need two 9”-round cake pans. See the Notes section of the recipe for baking times!
Can I make this carrot sheet cake in advance?
Yes – and I actually recommend it! While chilling in the refrigerator for a day (or more!), the flavors blend and meld together, and that makes this carrot cake taste even better. Just tightly wrap the cake in plastic wrap before refrigerating!
How should I store this healthy carrot sheet cake? And how long does it last?
Store your cake in an airtight container (if possible!) in the refrigerator. I love using cake carrying cases like this rectangular one and this round one. Their lids help prevent the frosting from drying out. If stored like this, leftover cake should last for at least two or three days (if not longer!).
Ready to make your own? And when you do, 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 sheet cake!
Healthy Carrot Sheet Cake
- 3 cups (360g) whole wheat flour or gluten free* flour (measured like this)
- 1 tbsp (14g) baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 3 ½ tsp ground cinnamon (see Notes!)
- ¾ tsp ground nutmeg (see Notes!)
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp (28g) unsalted butter or coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly
- 4 large egg whites, room temperature
- 4 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 ½ tsp liquid stevia
- 5 tbsp (75mL) pure maple syrup
- ⅔ cup (160g) plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- 1 cup (240mL) nonfat milk, divided
- 3 ¼ cups 345g) freshly grated carrots (about 6-7 medium, peeled first – and see Notes!)
- optional: cream cheese frosting, for serving (see Notes!)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut a piece of wax paper to fit inside the bottom of a 9x13” pan. Coat the 9x13” pan with cooking spray. Gently press the wax paper into the bottom of the pan. Coat the wax paper with cooking spray.
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk together the butter, egg whites, vanilla extract, and liquid stevia. Add in the Greek yogurt, stirring until no large lumps remain. Stir in the maple syrup. Stir in ½ cup of milk. Alternate between adding the flour mixture and remaining milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, and stirring just until incorporated. (For best results, add the flour mixture in 3 equal parts.) Gently fold in the carrots.
- Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 350°F for 32-36 minutes or until the top feels firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with a few crumbs attached. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before carefully transferring the cake to a wire rack to cool completely. Once completely cool, top with the cream cheese frosting, if using.
View Nutrition Information + Weight Watchers Points
You may also like Amy’s other recipes…
♡ The Ultimate Healthy Carrot Cake (a two-layer cake!)
♡ Healthy Carrot Bundt Cake
♡ Healthy Carrot Pound Cake
♡ Healthy Carrot Cake Cupcakes
♡ Healthy Carrot Cake Oatmeal Cookies
♡ Healthy Mini Carrot Cake Cupcakes
♡ Healthy Carrot Cake Thumbprint Cookies
♡ Healthy Carrot Cake Bars
♡ …and the rest of Amy’s healthy cake recipes and healthy carrot cake-flavored recipes!
May I substitute Date syrup for Maple syrup in this carrot cake recipe?
Many thanks !
I really appreciate your interest in my recipe, Marion! I haven’t tried that substitution before, so I’m not personally sure and don’t want to lead you astray. If you check the Notes section of the recipe, I’ve shared a few maple syrup alternatives that will work, though! 🙂
I’d love to hear what you think of this carrot cake if you end up making it!
Hello Amy, I’m dairy free and wondered if i could use Alpro dairy free plant based plain, instead of yoghurt In ur recipes.
Thank’s for ur help.
I really appreciate your interest in my recipes, Rachel! In general, if the Greek yogurt is an ingredient in a batter or dough (like cake batter, brownie batter, muffin batter, scone dough, etc!), then dairy free yogurt should work as a substitute.
However, dairy free yogurt doesn’t always work as well as a substitute in my frosting recipes that call for Greek yogurt, so that would be the main time I’d hesitate to use it.
It should work well in this cake batter though! 🙂 I’d love to hear what you think of this carrot cake if you end up making it!
I would like to make this recipe only using maple syrup and not stevia. Could you tell me how to adjust the recipe only using maple syrup?
Could i use apple sauce instead of butter or oil.
Thank you for posting this healthyish carrot cake recipe. Looking forward to trying it for a 1st birthday celebration. I have a butterfly cake pan and pound cake is recommended because it’s so dense. I’d love to make this cake instead. Is your cake light and fluffy? If you have any thoughts on the matter I’d love your input. THANK YOU
I’m honored that you’d consider making my recipe to celebrate such a special occasion, Rebecca! Happy first birthday to the lucky little one! 🙂
This cake is really moist and on the dense side. It’s not light and fluffy. I actually mentioned that in the blog post’s intro paragraph and in the description directly underneath the recipe title in the recipe box. I know it can be really easy to skim right past that texture description, but I promise it’s there! 😉
If you do end up making this cake, I’d love to hear what you think of it! (The butterfly cake pan sounds so fun!)