April 27, 2008 | | Comments 6

Light Carrot Cake

This version of Light Carrot Cake is taken from Cook’s Illustrated, November 2006. Carrot cake is often thought of as a healthy alternative to other cakes but names can be deceiving. The problem is although carrot cake sounds healthy for its use of vegetable oil in place of butter and use of carrots as a natural sweetener, most versions of carrot cake tip the scales at 500 calories and 31 grams of fat per slice.

This Light Carrot Cake has the natural sweetness of the carrots and has reduced amount of oil and egg. In order to keep the cake light, the eggs, sugar and oil mixtures is whipped to incorporate air in it. This keeps the cake from being too dense.

This Light Carrot Cake is moist and rich without being soggy and greasy from an overabundance of fat.


  • vegetable cooking spray
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 pound carrots (about 6 medium), peeled and grated (about 3 cups)

Click on the link below for the instructions.


Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350F. Lightly coat a 13 x 9 inch metal baking pan with vegetable oil spray, then lined the bottom with parchment paper.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.
Combine the eggs and sugar in another medium bowl.
Use and electric mixer to beat the eggs and sugars until they turn thick and creamy, 1 to 3 minutes.

Turn the mixer to low and slowly whip in the oil until thoroughly combined and emulsified, 30 to 60 seconds.

Sift half the flour mixture over the batter and gently mix in.

Repeat once more with the remaining flour mixture and continue to whisk the batter gently until mist of the lumps are gone (do not overmix).

Use a rubber spatula, gently stir in the carrots.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top.Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes.
Rotate the pan halfway through baking.
Do not overbake.
Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto a wire rack and remove the parchment paper.Flip the cake right-side up, and cool completely on a wire rack, about 2 hours, before frosting (if desired) and serving.
Light Cream Cheese Frosting; Be sure to mix the frosting by hand – an electric mixer or food processor will turn the frosting soupy.Makes about 2 cups:

12 ounces low fat cream cheese, softened but still cool

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Mix the cream cheese and vanilla together in a large bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the confectioners; sugar and stir until thoroughly combined and smooth.

Karen, thank you for sharing both the carrot cake recipes.

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  1. Hélène says:

    I love carrot cake. I have a good recipe with yogurt so it’s low fat.

  2. Jen says:

    I need to try this recipe. Sometimes I use applesauce in the place of oil if it calls for it in a cake because I find oil gives off a burning smell and sometimes taste too! But applesauce is a good alternative.

  3. Karen Dar Woon says:

    Jen: you might want to try different types of oil. I like sunflower and corn oils for baking. They have a more neutral flavor. Grapeseed oil is “fruity”, but also neutral. Canola oil can sometimes smell fishy when it is heated, so I don’t use it for sweet baking very often.

  4. Thanks for the tip re the different oils. I am finding canola oil, especially when heated, kind of offensive. Good to know I’m not the only one.

  5. FamilyFirst says:

    Thanks for the tip on type of oil that is suitable for baking.

  6. stephie says:

    I hated this. I’m so frustrated. I followed all directions to a T and the batter is lumpy and dry. 2 1/2 cups of flour? The recipe I tried before this called for all the same ingredients but with 1 1/3rd of flour instead….


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