date sweetened carrot cake

date sweetened carrot cake

This date sweetened carrot cake is the perfect Spring-time dessert. Completely refined-sugar free and loaded with healthy dates, carrots, walnuts, and cinnamon; this could become a new staple on your Easter table.

date sweetened carrot cake

For many years carrot cake seemed like a strange anomaly to me. You add vegetables to cake and add sugar to vegetables. Something didn’t add up.

date sweetened carrot cake


My date-sweetened desserts cookbook is now available on Amazon!

When I began baking with dates to reduce unhealthy sugar from my diet, the idea for a date-sweetened carrot cake suddenly sounded brilliant! I had a suspicion that the hearty carrot cake would stand up well to a fiber-rich sweetener like date-paste. By using dried fruit to sweeten this cake, I didn’t tarnish the good name of healthful carrots either! Upon baking this recipe, I knew we had a winner. The cake was absolutely delicious!

I topped it with a date-sweetened cream cheese frosting with  hints of lemon to brighten the entire dessert. Even carrot cake skeptics in my house love this dessert!

This date sweetened carrot cake has a very lightly sweetened flavor and it pairs beautifully with the date sweetened frosting. For the best flavor, cut the cake in half horizontally and divide the frosting evenly between the two slices. This will give you the best frosting to cake ratio.

Remember to pin this on your “Spring Eats” board for the perfect Easter dessert!

healthy carrot cake
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date sweetened carrot cake


5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

4.7 from 21 reviews

  • Author: Sep Esmaili

Description

Finally a healthy, yet delicious carrot cake made with no refined sugar!


Ingredients

Scale

Cake:

  • 10 ounces pitted dates
  • ½ Cup hot water
  • 10 ounces shredded carrots
  • 1 ½  Cup whole wheat flour (or all purpose flour)
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½  teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ Cup canola oil
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract 
  • 1 cup walnuts chopped 
  • ½ cup raisins, optional
  • 1 recipe cream cheese frosting (see below)

Frosting:

  • 5 oz pitted dates
  • ¼ Cup hot water
  • 8 oz package cream cheese (at room temperature, cut into 1 inch cubes)
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon zest 
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract 
  • ⅛ tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp half and half (can omit if you don’t have it in the house) 

Instructions

Bake the cake:

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Line bottom of 9-inch (or 8-inch) round baking pan with parchment and spray with baking spray (I use coconut oil spray).
  3. Place the pitted dates in a large bowl and cover with hot water, set aside for 10 minutes. 
  4. While the dates are soaking, combine the carrots, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk to combine and set aside. 
  5. In a food processor, blend the soaked dates (and the soaking liquid) until a paste forms and no big chunks of dates remain. 
  6. Add the eggs, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract to the food processor and pulse a couple times until the ingredients are fully combined. 
  7. Pour the egg and date mixture from the food processor into the bowl of  dry ingredients and fold with a rubber spatula a couple times. 
  8. Add the walnuts and raisins (if using) to the bowl and continue to fold with a rubber spatula until just combined. 
  9. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top with the rubber spatula. 
  10. Bake in the oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 50-65 minutes (you might need to bake the cake longer if you’re using an 8-inch round cake pan), rotating the pan halfway through baking time. 
  11. The cake will be browned on top and starting to pull away from the edges, be sure to look for any bits of raw batter when inserting the toothpick or skewer in the center. 
  12. If you have an instant read thermometer, test doneness by measuring the internal temperature in the center of the cake. It should read 200-205 degrees Fahrenheit when fully baked. 
  13. If the cake is turning too dark before reaching 200 degrees, tent the top with aluminum foil and continue baking. 
  14. Remove the cake from the oven and place on top of a cooling rack until cool enough to handle, 20-30 minutes.
  15. Remove the cake from the pan and allow it to cool completely on the rack before frosting, about 1 hour.  

Make the frosting: 

  1. Place the pitted dates in a large bowl and cover with hot water, set aside for 10 minutes. 
  2. In a food processor, blend the soaked dates and the soaking liquid until well combined and no big chunks of dates remain. 
  3. With the food processor running, add 1 piece of cream cheese to the food processor at a time. Stop between every few additions of cream cheese and scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. 
  4. Once the cream cheese is well combined, add the vanilla and lemon zest to the food processor. 
  5. Once the cake is completely cooled, slice the cake in half cross-wise so that you end up with two round cakes. Spread the cream cheese frosting over the top of 1 round, place the other round on top of the frosting, frost the top of the cake with the remaining frosting. You can also keep the cake in one large layer and frost the top. Tip: since the cake is only mildly sweet, it’s nice to have the frosting in the middle as well. 
  6. Let the cake and frosting chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. 
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85 Comments

  1. Delicious! Definitely one of the best sugar-free/date sweetened recipes I’ve baked. I’ll definitely make it again! One small comment: the instructions don’t say when to add the the walnuts.






    1. Thanks so much for the comment, M! And thanks for catching the bit about the walnuts – I updated the recipe. The walnuts should be added in step 6. Thanks again, really glad you enjoyed the recipe 🙂

  2. When blending the dates, do you include the hot water you soaked them in or just the dates themselves?

    Thanks, I’m definitely trying this recipe soon!

    1. Yes, include the soaking liquid when blending the dates. This will help you form the perfect paste consistency. Thanks for the questions, Selena!

    2. Hi, this week, I am wanting to upsize 2-3 times, but when doing so, neither the cake tin size or cooking times adjust to the increased volume.
      Does doubling or tripling give the same taste/texture result as the original?
      Many thanks.

      1. Hi there, thanks for the question! If you want to increase the batter by 2-3 times you can do so. However, using a larger tin will impact cooking time and the texture of the cake. I recommend using a 9 inch cake pan, per the recipe, but you can increase the batter 2-3 times and use multiple cake pans. So instead of 1 9-inch cake, you’ll have 2 or 3 that you can stack with the frosting.

        Here is the recipe measurement if you’d like to increase the batter 2x:
        20 ounces pitted dates
        1 Cup hot water
        6 eggs
        1 Cup vegetable oil
        2 teaspoons vanilla
        20 ounces shredded carrots
        3 Cups whole wheat flour
        4 teaspoons cinnamon
        1 teaspoon nutmeg
        4 teaspoons baking soda
        2 teaspoons baking powder
        1 teaspoon salt
        2 cups walnuts, chopped
        2 recipe cream cheese frosting

        Hope this helps and please let me know if anything is unclear. Thanks!

        1. If you have already addressed this, I sorry to bother you again. I already have date paste made so I assume that I should use more than 10 oz to account for the water that is already in mine.

          1. Hi Nancy, Thanks for the question. As you know, baking is more of a science than regular cooking and any change to the ingredients will yield different results. I’ve never made this cake with pre-made date paste so I can’t say how much you should use. You can definitely experiment with it. Can you let me know how you made your date paste (the ingredients and the amount of each)?

            If the date paste seems watery, definitely don’t use more than 10 ounces. Baking times will definitely be different as well, you may need to bake the cake longer. There’s no harm in experimenting though!

      2. Just raw mixture tastes good. I added a little date syrup so do not have to slice cake in half. I have to watch my blood sugars and making for a friend”s birthday. Will use a mix of orange and lemon zest for icing and date syrup. Thank you.






    1. Hi Jill, Measuring in cups will not be as accurate as ounces but you can use a heaping 1 Cup of shredded carrots to approximate 10 ounces of carrots.

    2. I substituted the flour with ground almonds. The resulting cake was very pudding like in texture so I served it hot with homemade custard and it was very popular. The taste was great so I imagine using flour as per recipe will make a lovely cake. I would make it as the pudding again anyway.






      1. Hi Sarah! Thanks for the comment. Warm carrot cake pudding sounds delicious…I think you invented something interesting there 😉 Just curious, did you serve the pudding with cream cheese frosting or perhaps a nice dollop of whipped cream? I’d love to try it for myself sometime.

  3. Hi – I would love to try this but have trouble with wheat. Would it be
    possible to substitute almond flour or coconut flour?

    1. Hi Yvonne, I have not yet tried this with almond flour or coconut flour. I don’t recommend you try this with coconut flour unless you want to experiment with some ratios. Coconut flour has a very different structure from wheat so you can’t make a one for one substitution. I recommend using a gluten-free flour replacement. These products can normally be used in baking using a one for one substitution.

    1. Hi Melissa! You can certainly omit the nuts or substitute sultanas or raisins. Disclaimer, I haven’t personally tried this swap but please do let me know how it goes if you try the substitution. Thanks for the question!

      1. Cakes turned out perfect! I substituted 1c. Chopped golden raisins for walnuts and baked in 4″ pans for a baby smash cake. Reduced oven temp to 325 degrees and cooking time to approx. 25 minutes to adjust for the smaller cake pans.






      2. I love this recipe, so wholesome and delicious! I used 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup shredded oats and 1/2 cup almond flour and it came out wonderful. My house smells amazing right now.






        1. Hi Stephanie! Thanks for the comment. I’m so glad you enjoyed this recipe. Thanks for the variations, sounds so healthy and delicious! I’m going to try it myself 🙂

        1. Hi Heidi, Thank you for the question. I have not tried this recipe using melted butter in place of oil. It will definitely impact the texture of the final bake. Butter contains both water and fat while oil contains only fat. If you want to try this with melted butter, you can use 1/2 cup melted butter but I fear that the water will evaporate during baking and give you a more dry cake. You can experiment with adding 1 additional egg yolk to the cake batter to make up for the reduced fat from using melted butter. If you choose to make this substitutions, I’d love to hear how your cake turned out. Good luck!

  4. Hi. If I have date syrup, how much of that would I need to use – I.e. instead of the homemade date/water paste in your recipe?
    Thanks

    1. Thanks for the question, Somaya! I’m not sure if date syrup would work well in this recipe. I haven’t tried it myself so I can’t give a recommendation but I do think it might add too much liquid to the batter. If you do try it, please let me know how it works out!

    1. Hi Joy! Thanks for the question! I have never used spelt flour so I’m not sure how it would react in this recipe. I would stick to whole wheat flour if you can. Some flours (like coconut flour for example) tend to absorb different amounts of liquid than wheat flour which can alter the results of this recipe. If you do end up using spelt flour, please let me know how it goes. Thanks!

    1. Hi Megan! Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m sorry you didn’t have a great experience with the recipe. I’d love to help you trouble shoot if you have any questions – feel free to reach out 🙂

  5. Great recipe! I’d like to try it with oat flour next time. Have you experimented with oat flour in this recipe before?






    1. Hi Margarita, Thanks for the comment! I have not yet tried this recipe with oat flour. Let me know how it turns out 🙂

        1. Hi Amira,
          Thanks for the question! I haven’t tried this recipe with 1/4 cup oil but I do worry that it will make the cake dry. You can substituting melted butter for the oil or perhaps replace half of the oil with applesauce (if you’re looking to make it healthier). It might be a little more dry but if you have time to experiment it could be worth a try! Please let me know how it turns out if you do end up changing the oil ratio. Happy baking!

  6. I made this cake according to the instructions. After its time was up in the oven, I put a wooden skewer into it, in several areas, and it came out clean without any crumbs or stickiness on it. Then I left it to sit for about 2,5 hours to cool but when I sliced it, the inside was uncooked!
    Am out tonight so not able to do anything with it until tomorrow but want to know how I can sort it out – obviously it’s in two slices. Also it’s quite difficult to handle as it sank as it cooled – so have a piece of aluminium foil separating the two halves – and to enable me to move it around etc – and thinking of putting it back in the oven for perhaps 30 minutes to cook. Any suggestions would be welcome. Thank you.

    1. Hi Cici,
      I’m so sorry the cake didn’t work for you. Aside from baking the cake longer, I’m not sure what I would do differently if I was in your situation. Once the cake is left out for 2.5 hours and completely cooled (and if it’s still uncooked) it will take more time in oven to get the internal temperature back up. My only guess is that different ovens work in very different ways and it’s best to keep the cake baking until the internal temperature is 210 degrees Fahrenheit. Here’s a really good article about knowing more accurately when a cake is done apart from the toothpick test, which is not always accurate: https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/trick-moist-perfect-cakes-thermometer-article

      I hope this helps and hope you were able to salvage the carrot cake!

  7. Amazing recipe! I made this for my family, and we all thought it was amazing. It’s now one of my favorite recipes and I will definitely make it again!!😄😋






    1. Hi Isabella! Thank you so much for letting me know! I’m so happy you tried and liked the date sweetened carrot cake. I hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy 🙂

  8. This turned out so so good! I baked this for my 9 month old nephew and everyone devoured it to bits. I was looking for a baby friendly cake recipe since we always bake cakes for the baby and end up eating them up ourselves. I’m so happy my nephew could enjoy it to his heart’s content along with us!! Thank you so so much 🙂
    I added a little milk before pouring the batter to get a little bit more wet consistency and it turned out purrrfect!

    1. Hi Malini! I’m so glad your darling nephew could enjoy this cake with you all! Makes my heart so happy 🙂 Thanks for sharing your comment too. Stay well!

  9. Wow! Dates are the way to go
    Made this today and woooooo this is loke the best carrot cake recipe so move over joy of cooking!
    Added 1/4 t. Cloves and ginger for my attempt
    Yum yum yummy!






  10. I don’t normally comment on things, but credit where credit is due. This cake is amazing! The only thing I changed was I used plain flour instead of whole wheat. Thank you!






    1. Hi Polly, Thank you so much for taking the time to leave your feedback! I’m so happy you like this recipe. Hope you find other recipes on sepcooks.com that you and your loved ones will enjoy! Blessings 🙂

  11. I’ve been making this carrot cake every week for my 2.5yr old as his afternoon snack (without the frosting). He’s just started that fussy eating phase but this is devoured every time. I make it in a loaf tin, slice it and pop it into the freezer individually wrapped in foil. I take one out each morning & throw it into the baby-bag so it’s defrosted and perfectly moist by the afternoon to eat wherever we are! Thank you!!






    1. Hi Shell! Thanks for the comment – it makes me so happy to know that you and your precious little one are getting good use out of this recipe! Thanks for the great tip, I love the idea of freezing the individual slices for an on-the-go snack!

  12. I just wanted to say thank you for this recipe! I am always looking for ways to bake without refined sugar. I have now made this cake several times, including for my daughters’ birthday cakes – as smash cakes for one year and then for subsequent birthdays. It always comes out great and the girls (and the adults) love it. Just this last week, my mother in-law was asking about the recipe and she couldn’t believe I didn’t add sugar! I sometimes make a few modifications: I add raisins (~1/2 cup), if I am making a smash cake, I pour some of the dough into a small round ramekin-like dish that takes about 25 minutes to bake (as previous poster also commented) and the rest goes into a 9×9 square pan, and for the girls’ cakes, I don’t make the frosting but simply whip heavy cream (without sugar of course).

    I also borrowed this ratio of dates – ~12-13 medjool dates soaked in 1/2 cup water – to make other baked goods including ginger bread, pumpkin pie, and even as the filling for cinnamon rolls. It works really well and basically substitutes the sugar for each of these recipes.

    Thanks again – this is amazing.

    1. Hi Erica! I’m so glad you enjoy this recipe! It brings me so much joy to know that you and your loved ones (including your precious little one) are getting good use from this recipe and that you’re also using dates to sweeten other desserts as well! Wishing you and your loved ones continued health and joy 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to rate and comment on my recipe. I’m so pleased that you enjoyed it! 🙂

    2. Fantastic recipe! The cake tasted amazing! Can I ask, if I was to make these as small individual cakes, what time would it take to cook? Many thanks






      1. Hi Melanie, I’m so glad you liked the cake! What size cake pan are you planning to use. If it’s half as large as the size indicated in my recipe, start checking the cake at 10-15 minutes. Then continue checking every 5 minutes or so until the cake is baked and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

  13. Delicious! How do you get the cake to be so tall? Do you use a springform pan or a regular cake pan? Mine came out pretty thin (about the height of my regular 9in cake pan). Thank you!






    1. Thanks, Em! I used an 8inch pan for the taller cake and a 9inch pan for the thinner cake that you see in the older photos.

  14. I have a question…I have Date Night Desserts and the cooking time in the book is about half the time you listed here (25-30 minutes) but everything else is the same. I’m gonna assume the cookbook timing is wrong? It’s like a half hour difference I’m not sure which to use. Thanks!






  15. Never mind! Realized the recipe book calls for two pans…this one calls for one and then to cut in half.

      1. Hi Sep! First of all, thanks a lot for your recipe!! I loved it, so glad I found your web!
        I am just wandering two things: Do you recommend baking in two pans or in one and then cut in half?
        Also, I swapped the flour for gluten free flour and the consistency was not as spongy as in your pictures. The taste was amazing though! What would you recommend for the consisntency?






        1. Hi Nicole, Thank you for your comment! You can bake either one cake and cut it in half after baking or two thinner cakes that you frost and layer. If you choose to bake two individual cakes, reduce the baking time by half and continue to check for doneness every 5-10 minutes.

          Gluten free flour is tricky because the gluten is what gives the cake structure and sponginess. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s much you can do to salvage the texture unless you want to add things like different gums and stabilizers. Here’s an article that highlights different things you can try. https://www.beyondceliac.org/q-and-a/how-to-make-gluten-free-cakes-fluffy/#:~:text=Some%20ingredients%20that%20may%20help,%2C%20guar%20gum%2C%20and%20eggs.

          If you want to bake the recipe as is and just substitute gluten free flour, try whipping the eggs with a hand mixer until they are pale yellow and doubled in size. Then fold the eggs into the rest of the wet ingredients (the date paste, oil, etc). Then proceed with the recipe as normal. The extra air in the eggs should help give you a spongier cake but even so the gluten free cake will certainly be less spongy than the regular flour. I hope this helps! Let me know if you have other questions. 🙂

          1. My pleasure, Nicole! I’ve never made this batter into cupcakes but similar recipes make 12 cupcakes with this amount of batter.

    1. Hi Jo, I’ve never made these as cupcakes but you should be able to easily bake these in a muffin tin instead of a cake pan. Start checking the cakes for doneness after 10-15 minutes (depending on the size of your muffin tins). I would also be sure to line the muffin tin with paper liners to allow for easy release of the cupcakes.

    1. No I haven’t. Sounds interesting though. I keep seeing the bakers on the Great British Bake Off add pineapples to their carrot cake. I’m sure it will taste good but it would have to be tested since the extra moisture will impact the bake of the cake.

    1. Hi Kalai, Since the cream cheese frosting contains dairy, you should definitely store this in the refrigerator. You can wrap it with plastic wrap first to keep it fresh.

  16. Hi. I love this recipe. I adjusted it slightly to make it gluten free (I see there were a few comments asking about this) and made cupcakes for my daughter’s 1st birthday party. I used 1 cup gluten free flour and 1/2 cup Almond glour. I also added a small mashed banana. I baked my cupcakes for 30min. So delicious. Thank you.

    1. Hi Pascale, I’m so glad you like the recipe! I’m trying to reduce gluten in my diet as well so I’ll definitely have to try your substitutions. Thanks for the comment 🙂

  17. Hi,
    This recipe looks just perfect for a go to healthy dessert. I absolutely love carrot walnut cake. I always wanted to try this with dates and here I am with the right recipe. 🤩
    Can you please share the list of all ingredients quantity in grams..?? That would be really helpful for me with baking this cake.
    I just want it to be perfect for my upcoming 10th month wedding anniversary. ☺️
    Looking forward for your response.
    Thank you.






    1. Hi Apoorva,

      Congratulations on your upcoming anniversary! Here is the recipe quantities in grams:
      10 ounces or 284 grams of pitted dates
      ½ Cup or 118.3 ml of hot water
      10 ounces or 284 grams of shredded carrots
      1 ½ Cup or 187.5 grams of whole wheat flour (or all purpose flour)
      2 teaspoon or 10 ml of cinnamon
      ½ teaspoon or 2.5 ml of nutmeg
      2 teaspoon or 10 ml of baking soda
      1 teaspoon or 5 ml of baking powder
      ½ teaspoon or 2.5 ml of kosher salt
      3 eggs
      ½ Cup or 118.3 ml of canola oil
      1 Tablespoon or 15 ml of vanilla extract
      1 cup or 125 grams of chopped walnuts
      ½ cup or 62.5 grams of raisins, optional
      Frosting:
      5 oz or 142 grams of pitted dates
      ¼ Cup or 59.2 ml of hot water
      8 oz or 227 grams of package cream cheese (at room temperature, cut into 1 inch cubes)
      1 tsp or 5ml of fresh lemon zest
      ½ tsp or 2.5ml of vanilla extract
      ⅛ tsp or 0.625 ml of sea salt
      1 Tbsp or 15ml of half and half (can omit if you don’t have it in the house)

      Disclaimer: I used AI to quickly translate the quantities so you might want to double check the accuracy. I haven’t tried the recipe using grams so I can’t vouch for the accuracy. Hope you love it!

  18. I found the batter to be pretty dry, even though I increased the date soaking water to about 3/4 cup. I almost doubled the amount of oil, and my cupcakes came out moist and fluffy after baking about 25 min.






    1. Hi Judy, If you want to freeze the cake, I recommend doing it prior to icing. The icing won’t freeze well. You can wrap the cake in a few layers of plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn then defrost it in the refrigerator or at room temperature before frosting. You might lose some of the consistency but it should still be good.

  19. I never write reviews but this was absolutely delicious! I substituted walnuts for sunflower seeds and nutmeg for ginger and a dash of clove, but only because it was what I had on hand.

    Thank you!!






    1. I’ve been looking for carrot muffins recipes with date paste but all the ones I can find need oats or canned pineapples, things I don’t have or want to use.
      Your recipe looks great, what temp or time adjustments would you recommend if I put these in mini loaf pans? Roughly the size of a muffin pan, just rectangular in shape

      1. Hi GG, I would recommend baking the mini loafs for 10-15 minutes at the same temperature written in the recipe. Then continue to check for doneness every 5 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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