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Carrot cake has vegetables, so it's healthy.. right? Not so much. Between the rich, nutty cake and over the top sweet cream cheese frosting, you've got a carrot catastrophe! Try my version with a secret ingredient for a carrot cake that's far more waistline-friendly and still tastes great. (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe!)

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Original Recipe Ingredients (makes 12 squares or slices)

Cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups grated carrots (about 5 medium)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, etc.)

Frosting:

  • 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-3 teaspoons milk, if needed

Nutrition Facts

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Changes Made:

Cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar: Reduced to 1 cup (in most recipes, you can use 2/3 cup sugar per cup listed in recipe)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil: Replaced with 1 cup 100% canned plain pumpkin to decrease fat and calories
  • 3 eggs: Used 3/4 cup egg substitute to decrease fat, cholesterol, and calories
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract: Increased to 1 1/2 teaspoons since we reduced sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups grated carrots (about 5 medium)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, etc.): Cut down to 1/3 cup, toasted nuts to bring out flavors, and used as a garnish instead of mixing into cake

Frosting:

  • 8 oz package cream cheese, softened: Used reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel) to cut fat/calories
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar: Cut sugar in half
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract: Increased to 1 1/2 teaspoons since we reduced sugar
  • 2-3 teaspoons milk, if needed
  • Cut entire frosting recipe in half to lower sugar, fat, and calories
In summary:
  • Used canned pumpkin instead of oil
  • Egg substitute in place of eggs
  • Reduced sugar in cake and frosting
  • Increased vanilla extract in cake and frosting
  • Cut down on pecans, toasted the nuts, and used as garnish
  • Lower-fat cream cheese in frosting
  • Used less frosting overall
Nutrition Facts Face-Off!

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Secret Ingredient Carrot Cake (Printable PDF Version)

Makes one 13x9" pan*

 

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup canned 100% pumpkin (not pie filling)
  • ¾ cup egg substitute
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups grated carrots (about 5 medium)

Frosting:

  • ½ package reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 teaspoons milk, if needed

Garnish (optional)

  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease bottom and sides of one 13x9-inch pan; lightly flour. In large bowl, beat granulated sugar, pumpkin and egg substitute with electric mixer on low speed about 30 seconds or until blended. Add flour, cinnamon, baking soda, 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla and the salt; beat on low speed 1 minute. Stir in carrots. Pour into pan(s).
  2. Bake 13x9-inch pan 30 to 35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool rectangle in pan on cooling rack. Cool completely, about 1 hour.
  3. In medium bowl, beat cream cheese, butter, milk and vanilla with electric mixer on low speed until smooth. Gradually beat in powdered sugar, on low speed until smooth and spreadable. Frost 13x9-inch cake, then sprinkle toasted pecans on frosted cake, if desired. Store in refrigerator.

*Note: You may also use two 8-9" round cake pans. Baking time will need to be reduced - check often for doneness.

 

Today's post was written by Leia Kedem. Leia Kedem, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator covering Champaign, Ford, Iroquois, and Vermilion Counties. She appears weekly on WCIA-3/WCIX-49 and is a biweekly contributor to the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette. She also maintains Facebook and Twitter accounts where she regularly posts health tips and answers nutrition questions for free.