Healthy Carrot Cake with decadent Cream Cheese Frosting

Why have I made carrot cake over ten times in the past three days? To come up with a Healthy Carrot Cake that’s low in carbohydrates and gluten-free for you! This fragrant and flavorful cake is also dairy-free and nut-free, if you omit the classic add in of chopped walnuts. I promise you won’t miss the raisins in this nourishing carrot cake that’s not just healthy “because it has vegetables in it!” ;) The other bad stuff–those culprits named Sugar and Flour–are conspicuously left out of this recipe. All of that grating was totally worth it.

There is a teaspoon of blackstrap molasses–which is technically a sugar–in this recipe. It’s a thick, dark iron-rich syrup made from the sugarcane plant. This molasses is potent stuff, and contributes a rich flavor and coloring to the cake. You can leave molasses out to be completely sugar-free, but I think it’s worth the 4 grams of carbs.

You can bake the cake into a traditional rectangular loaf, or snack-sized mini muffins. Get creative and have fun with your sugar-free frosting! It pipes well, using a zip top bag with the corner snipped off.
Healthy Carrot Cake - Low Carb and Gluten-Free

A bit of food coloring can transform your homemade low carb treats into festive, eye-catching confections worthy of special occasions. Check the food coloring label for hidden sugar before you buy. I made the mistake of not checking the label of the Wilton gel coloring I used here, and saw it contained corn syrup, much to my dismay! That pesky Sugar manages to sneak in everywhere, doesn’t it? McCormick food colors, found in most grocery stores, are sugar-free. I’ve tried a couple of organic dyes, and unfortunately neither of them yielded satisfactory results. You need so little coloring for an entire batch of frosting that I’m not too worried about the health effects. If you have any recommendations for natural food dye, let us know in the comments, please.

The frosting is absolutely delicious any color you make it. It’s a new and improved Healthy Cream Cheese Frosting, with a special low carb ingredient that might be familiar to the Asian and Indian readers of this blog… 

Powdered coconut milk acts to thicken the frosting, while eliminating the greasy taste that comes from not using powdered sugar. Powdered coconut milk should be available at your local Asian grocery store for a reasonable price. The kind I used comes in a can, but I’ve seen it in packets. Dairy-free readers might want to know that coconut milk powder does contain a milk protein (casein), so it’s not dairy-free (here is a dairy-free cupcake topping). Powdered coconut milk to contain 1.5 grams of carbs and 45 calories per tablespoon based on these nutrition facts. You might want to make just a small batch of this frosting–it’s that good!

Pic 2

Healthier Carrot Cake
 
Makes 18 mini muffins or a small (~3 x 6″) loaf
 
Ingredients:
1/4 cup sifted coconut flour
2 Tablespoons oat flour
1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
Scant 1/4 teaspoon NuNaturals pure stevia extract powder
2 large eggs
4 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon melted coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (imitation works fine – check the label for corn syrup)
1 teaspoon blackstrap molasses
1 1/4 cup (3.5-4 ounces) finely grated carrot, packed gently into cup
4 tablespoons erythritol
1 tablespoon xylitol
1/8 teaspoon finely ground sea salt
 
Optional Add-Ins:
1/4 cup pecan flour (finely ground pecans – can find it in Publix stores in the southern states)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
For a small loaf cake, prepare a 3″ by 6″ aluminum loaf pan (disposable kind from the supermarket is fine) by lightly oiling the sides with your fingers. You can use EVOO cooking spray, or a bit of coconut oil on your finger to do this. Place a small rectangle of parchment paper or wax paper in the bottom of the pan. Dust the bottom and sides of the pan with a sprinkling of oat flour to ensure the cake can “climb” as it bakes. Turn and shake the pan with your hands to coat the sides evenly.
If you are making the carrot cake as mini muffins, I highly recommend you get some silicone mini muffin cups. Mine are made by Wilson, and they come in a set of 12. You can find them at Michael’s, Bed, Bath and Beyond, or possibly a store like Home Goods. Otherwise, the carrot muffins will be just as tasty, but will stick to the paper wrappers. If you are using paper mini muffin cups, spray them with some EVOO cooking spray. Spoon batter into cups with a regular spoon (a teaspoon), filling them almost to the top. If you only have one mini muffin pan, you can make 2 regular-sized muffins with the extra batter. Use paper cups in this pan as well, and use the 2 center wells to keep the pan evenly heated.
 
Sift coconut flour, gently spoon into measuring cup, and level with a knife. Add coconut flour to a mixing bowl along with oat flour, xanthan gum, cinnamon, baking powder, and stevia. Add pecan meal if you are using it. Whisk together dry ingredients to get rid of any lumps.
 
Grate carrots, measure them by packing them gently into your measuring cups, and transfer shreds into a clean tea towel. Fold the tea towel over the shredded carrot several times. Wrap the tea towel-carrot package in a larger hand towel. Press down on the whole bundle to get the moisture out of the grated carrot. I recommend stepping on the bundle several times to use all of your body weight to extract the water from the carrots (fun for the whole family!). Unfold the towels to expose the dried carrot shreds.
To get less visible carrot pieces in the cake, use a blender in preparing the batter. Add eggs, oil, vanilla, and molasses to a blender. Spoon erythritol, xylitol, and sea salt into blender. Add 1/2 of the carrot shreds, and blend briefly until the mixture is smooth. Add this wet mixture to the dry mix, and whisk it together. Fold in the second half of the carrot shreds. Fold in nuts, if using. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake as directed.
 
If you don’t have a blender, or don’t want to use one, you can use a hand mixer. The texture of the cake will just have more visible carrot pieces in it. Beat the wet ingredients together for a minute using your hand mixer. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and beat the batter until it is smooth. Then, stir in the grated carrot with your spatula. Fold in nuts. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake as directed.
 
If you are making a loaf, bake it for 50 minutes. If you are making mini muffins, bake for 22 minutes. If you are baking regular sized muffins, bake for 25 minutes.
Let carrot cake rest in pan until it is cool enough to touch, then transfer to a paper towel-lined cooling rack. When cake is completely cooled, transfer it to a tupperware container or zip top bag, and store on the counter for as long as 24 hours. Refrigerate it for longer storage. This cake tastes best at room temperature.
 
~1,308 calories for the entire recipe
~37.7g net carbs for the entire recipe
~2g net carbs per mini muffin (no frosting)
~6.3g net carbs per 1/6 of a loaf (no frosting)
 
Low Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting (New and Improved)
Makes a little over 1 cup
Ingredients:
4 ounces cream cheese
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup coconut milk powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons erythritol, powdered
2 teaspoons xylitol, powdered
NuNaturals pure stevia extract powder, to taste (1/16-1/8 of a teaspoon)
Preparation:
Powder erythritol and xylitol together in a coffee grinder until very finely ground. Leave cream cheese and butter out on counter to come to room temperature. Cube butter with knife (doesn’t have to be exact) and add to bowl along with cream cheese. Beat together with a hand mixer until smooth. Add in erythritol and xylitol mixture along with the vanilla. Beat until smooth and fluffy (30 seconds to one minute), until erythritol and xylitol are dissolved and no longer gritty feeling. Beat in coconut milk powder. Add stevia, taste, and make adjustments as necessary.
 
~626 calories for the entire recipe
~7.3g net carbs for the entire recipe
 
And now, I’m off to catch up on answering your emails! Hope you are having a wonderful summer, readers.
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Related recipes from other bloggers you might be interested in:
New and Improved Gluten-Free Low Carb Bake Mix at Splended Low-Carbing
Carrot Cake Muffins at Elana’s Pantry
Carrot Cake by The Chicken Lady at Low Carb Friends forum
  • Brandon May

    These look divine! Thanks for sharing Lauren. :)

  • AK-47

    I've missed your posts! Glad to see you're back!

  • Tiffany

    I made a carrot cake using your black bean chocolate cake recipe. I just used white beans instead of black beans,added some carrots(about half a cup) and some cinnamon and nutmeg.Topped off with your cream cheese frosting.My family did not even let it sit over night, it was that good! Thanks!!!!!

  • Lauren

    You're welcome, Brandon!

    AK-47, it's good to be back. :)

    Tiffany – It's so cool that you turned the white bean cake into a carrot cake. Thank you for sharing your clever modification! Glad your family enjoyed it.

  • Nancy

    Sadly, most people who are gluten free can't eat oats. They're often heavily cross-contaminated with gluten, or people can react to avenin like they do gluten. Can you suggest an alternative to the oat flour?

  • Lauren

    Hi Nancy! I get my gluten-free oat flour here:
    http://www.iherb.com/Bob-s-Red-Mill-Gluten-Free-Whole-Grain-Oat-Flour-22-oz-623-g/29587?at=0

    You can also buy Bob's Red Mill gluten-free whole oats at major grocery stores, and grind them up into a flour in your coffee grinder.

    If you know that you can't tolerate g-free oats, then try any of the lower starch g-free flours in its place except for coconut flour or a nut flour. Hope that helps!

  • Philis

    Hi Miss Lauren: Hate to be dense, but is the 1/4 optional pecan flour for substitution purpose if one would prefer it instead of coconut flour? Or just added to the recipe/ Thank you for clarifying for me.

    Also, I presume this is not very sweet for those of of with a sweet tooth? I do find making desserts difficult for if I use erythitol or xylitol – both make my blood sugar unhappy and I gain weight immediately consuming. Wish agave worked it is so good tasting. :)

    Philis

  • speedwell

    Erythritol does not affect my blood sugar at all, and xylitol very little, Philis. I was curious. I tested, fasting, with a mug of tea sweetened with two teaspoons of the chosen sweetener, and took readings at ten minutes, a half hour, one hour, and two hours.

    You may want to look twice at what you're using the sweeteners to sweeten.Food combinations count. I limit my intake of carrots, but I would jump at this recipe using, say, zucchini. Also, eating too large a portion will always, always make my blood sugar pop, even if I don't eat anything but a steak.

    Lauren, my efforts at making a low-carb empanada shell have been resulting in a crust like crumbly cookies rather than a pastry; it's very frustrating. I'm trying to keep it gluten-free, but this may be a case where it can't be done. Before I give up, what have you and others done successfully to make a dough stretchy and pliable?

  • scall0way

    It looks lovely. I wonder what happens if you leave out the xylitol? I won't have xylitol in the house, let alone in any food I eat – as it's *extremely* deadly to dogs. And I hav a dog who loves to eat anything not nailed down. I just can't have food in the house that might kill her.

  • Lauren

    Hi, Philis! The pecan flour is an optional "add-in" – it wouldn't work in place of the coconut flour. It does add great color and a hint of flavor to the cake, but the blackstrap molasses by itself does the job. :)

    The cake is plenty sweet with erythritol and the stevia. You could leave out the xylitol if you like – it would just taste a bit "cool" if you add too much erythritol to compensate. The fructose in agave may increase your triglycerides, so I haven't tried it. The calories an carbohydrates (in the form of sugar alcohols) in erythritol are supposedly negligible. Hope that helps!

    Speedwell, the only stretchy and pliable gluten-free low carb dough I remember working with is the wrap recipe here:
    http://www.healthyindulgences.net/2008/07/homemade-low-carb-gluten-free-wraps-you.html

    Have you tried adding xanthan gum to your empanada dough?

    Scalloway – Another tablespoon of E should work. The carrot cake might have a bit of a cooling sensation, but if you are used to that effect of E, you probably wouldn't notice. I understand the fear of xylitol with pets around. I'll make a note of that in my upcoming post about sweeteners – thank you!

  • Ariana Anderson

    Any subs for your coconut flour Lauren? I am recently allergic! :(

  • Tressa

    :) Sounds and looks amazing! I cannot wait to try it. Carrot cake is one of my favorites.

  • Abbie

    Welcome back! You have been missed. This looks amazing and I can't wait to try it!

  • Lauren

    Ariana, I am thinking that 3T of protein powder and another T of oat flour might work. I would need to get more erythritol before experimenting with a coconut free version. :) I ran out after making the cake so many times!

    Tressa – I hope you get the chance to try the recipe!

    Abbie – Thanks for the welcome. :)

  • Suzi

    These were totally delicious! I didn't have oat flour on hand so I used almond flour instead and they were fabulous. I blended all the carrots to hide the texture a little more. My 16 year old gluten free daughter was very, very, pleased. Thanks!

  • Ainnl

    This looks interesting. I'm not gluten-free but I want to reduce my flour intake so I might try this soon. I did notice, however, that it contains blackstrap molasses, which I would think makes it not exactly sugar-free (at least not for someone with cane & beet sugar allergies). I'm planning to substitute date syrup, which has worked well for me in the past in this capacity.

  • Ann

    WOW! Thank you!! I'm on a really strict diet right now, can't have any starch or sugar. Do you think almond flour instead of the oat flour is best? Any suggestions for what to use instead of the molasses? Sorry to be a bother. Mid July I'll be able to try it as is =) You're the best!

  • Lauren

    Suzi, I'm so glad to hear the carrot cake worked with almond flour.

    Ainnl, you're right about the blackstrap molasses. I adjusted the recipe notes to explain what it is and why it is used. :) I hope date syrup yields good results for you! The molasses is important only as a flavoring agent – it does add significant sweetness to the carrot cake.

    Ann – Oat flour yields a nice cake-like texture to the carrot cake. I'd certainly keep it if you can eat it. Another reader did try the recipe with almond flour, she said it worked well. Blackstrap molasses can't be substituted in terms of flavor, but honey could serve in its place. The carrot cake would just be less carrot cake like. :) Hope that helps!

  • Denise

    I've been craving carrot cake for months. This looks like a wonderful, low-carbed recipe, and can't wait to try it for my next family gathering, but I'll have to buy a few ingredients first. I'm new to low-carb, and have chosen to go this route to help control diabetes, but I've found that a lot of the ingredients listed in low-carb recipes are expensive and hard to find locally. The only stores I have to choose from are Walmart and Kroger, but I'm making a list of things to eventually buy on-line from Netrition. Thanks for the recipe, and keep up the great work. Congrats on your graduation, too!

  • Lauren

    Denise, I'm glad you're going to make this cake! Once you get your pantry stocked with sugar-free ingredients, you'll be well prepared to make many of the recipes featured here. I'd recommend ordering online like you are thinking of doing. Once you get stocked up with items like xanthan gum, coconut flour, stevia, and erythritol, you'll be good for awhile! You might want to see if there's a free shipping code or coupon for first time orders for whichever online retailer you choose. :)

  • Amy Evans

    Hey Lauren!

    I'm so glad to be seeing some new recipes! I have been looking every where for a good carrot cake recipe! You must have been reading my mind! :) I can't wait to try this! :) I love all your recipes! Your pumpkin cake was a hit with my diabetic father-in-law at Thanksgiving and I'm getting ready to make your coconut pound cake. I'm going to try to add fresh blueberries to it. The only adaptations I've been making to some of your recipes is I use Steviva Blend. Seems to work pretty well. Wonder if you've used it? The erythritol is a bit too sweet for my liking, but I can handle it in the Steviva Blend…and I'm like one of your other readers…I try to avoid xylitol with two dogs. ;)
    Thanks again for giving us yummy options! Love your blog! :D ~Amy

  • Mark Wilson

    It is yummy to see this lovely carrot cake I definitely try it to make.thanks plz do share more cake recipe.
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  • Lauren

    Amy, I'm so happy you and your father in law have enjoyed the recipes! Let me know how the pound cake goes for you. I haven't tried Steviva blend. It sounds very useful! How do you convert the erythritol and stevia amounts I list to the blend? Thanks for sharing your tips, Amy! I appreciate the feedback. :)

  • Amy Evans

    Hey Lauren!

    The pound cake turned out wonderful! I didn't have the full-fat yogurt, but did have full fat sour cream (remembering my mother's yummy sour cream pound cake growing up). This is the brand I use: http://www.nancysyogurt.com/nancys_products/sour_cream.php I also added 2 cups of blueberries and it was a hit! I only added half the sugar amount because the addition of the blueberries made it plenty sweet. I generally start with half the amount called for when using the Steviva Blend and taste from there. :) I have been able to use the full measurement called for with Steviva Blend, however for most recipes (like your yummy blueberry muffins!). I find it very easy to work with. 1 cup of Steviva Blend is the equivelent to 2 cups of sugar. I like that it's not super sweet (the erythritol is too sweet for my tastebuds, but a great option none the less!), has the texture of sugar and no bitter after taste. I'm getting ready to make your carrot cake using it. I'll let you know how it goes. ;)

  • Wildner

    Darn it! I'm sad. I wanted to make these today, and no one in my town sells coconut milk powder. On hand I only have dried coconut, coconut milk and coconut flour.
    I've searched for a substitution, but I'm finding nothing. Ideas on what I might use? Thanks!

  • Lauren

    Wildner, do you have any ethnic grocery stores in your town? I buy the product locally at an Indian grocery store. Unfortunately, there's no substitute for it in this frosting.

  • Wildner

    No, unfortunately I don't, but used the solids in a can of coconut milk and it worked great! BEST FROSTING EVER! I've now made these twice in the last week…because they've gone missing so fast! :) I did order the coconut milk powder online so next time I'll make them properly.
    Thanks for all you do!

  • Amy Evans

    Hi Lauren,

    I just wanted to let you know that these carrot muffins were great and hit the spot for my carrot cake craving! :) I did use the Steviva Blend instead of the xylitol and erythritol (5 tbsp) and they were so delicious! I also substituted organic powdered milk for the coconut milk, as I didn't have any and I fortunately don't have a lot of dairy issues, but I would like to try the coconut powdered milk next time if I can find it. Thanks again for sharing the recipe! I do like your recipes a lot since I like to use stevia as my main choice for sweeteners! Thanks again! :)

  • Amy Evans

    Hi Lauren,

    I just wanted to let you know that these carrot muffins were great and hit the spot for my carrot cake craving! :) I did use the Steviva Blend instead of the xylitol (5 tbsp) and they were delicious! I like to use stevia as my primary sweetener and all your recipes allow me to do so! Thanks so much and please keep 'em comin! ;)

  • Pezidesi

    Lauren, I love everything you make & have tried lots o' your recipes!!!!…especially the sugar free, dairy free, gluten/grain free as I have super awesome candida issues & a sweet tooth…..a match made in heaven!

    I just ran across these bars at my local health food store and thought if you didn't know about them already that you might want to.

    I don't love that they have soy lecithin, and I don't know about the oligofructose YET (it says it's a prebiotic fiber made from chickory root…but I'll be looking it up right after this:)

    I will say that I bought one and as far as taste is concerned, they've won me over! & they have chocolate chips which would take a step out of the process for some of your recipes!

    They also sell the ogliofructose as a sugar substitute on the website?!!

    Check em out! Would love to know what you think!

    http://www.lowcarbspecialties.com/facts/facts.html

    Desire, Washington State!

  • Lauren

    Pezidesi – I have tried those Chocoperfection bars! They are very good, aren't they? The cost and availability is an issue for me, but when I come across them they're a nice treat. Thanks for reminding me to keep my eyes peeled for those!

  • http://simplelifesimplewife.com/ Stephanie

    I made this last week and it was amazing. It tasted totally trashy and only lasted one day. This morning, my 7 year old daughter asked me to make this as her birthday cake (her birthday isn't until July). I think she just sits around and fantasizes about food, like her mama. :) Thanks for sharing. You're awesome!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16944098489492006247 Ashley Smith

    Has anyone omitted the xylitol in the frosting on this one? I saw where people left it out of the cake, but I'm not sure about the frosting. Thanks!

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