Carrot Cake with Lemon Frosting

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Celebrate spring with a simple, not-too-sweet Carrot Cake with Lemon Frosting. 

Carrot Cake with Lemon Frosting is the perfect way to celebrate spring.

Cooking at my house means often multi-tasking and working in shifts. Whisk together flour and dry ingredients in the morning. Grate veggies during lunchtime. Frost cakes late at night, after everyone else is in bed.

I like it this way, the non-rush of the task. Being in the kitchen trying to get a project done as the rest of the family jostles for my attention doesn’t usually result in the most cohesive of recipes. When the house is quiet, and the only sound is my chopping, I can get focused. I like to think it’s “me” time, even though I’m cooking for the rest of the family to enjoy. But at the very least, it allows me to think while I work.

The other day I realized that Easter is soon approaching. It’s not that I really forgot — after all, I do freelance marketing for every single holiday — it’s more that I remembered we should do something for it. Sure, we do the egg hunt thing, but other than that, not much, especially because our families live so far away.

Carrot Cake with Lemon Frosting - Celebrate spring with a not-too-sweet Carrot Cake with Lemon Frosting.

It’s hard to remember sometimes that we are our own little family, and we have our own traditions to sow. Sometimes that means new pajamas on Christmas Eve, sometimes that means a family costume for Halloween. Sometimes that means making a cake for us to share.

I always try to make treats a little healthier, so this cake is chock-full of carrots, uses applesauce instead of oil or butter, and features mostly whole-wheat flour with the all-purpose flour. But don’t worry that this is one of those cakes you don’t want to eat — it’s lovely in texture and kid-approved.

Adding lemon zest to the frosting brightens it up, bringing the sunshine of the spring inside. You can leave it out, if you like, or try orange zest instead. I limited walnuts to the top rather than folding into the batter so the pickier eaters can avoid them (it also helps the cake bake up better).

Carrot Cake with Lemon Frosting - Microplane Grater

To make this carrot cake, I enlisted the help of one of my favorite kitchen tools, the Kitchen IQ Container Grater. I’m not kidding when I say I use this almost every day, thanks to the interchangeable blades and super convenient container.

I love that I can use it for both shredding the carrots and zesting a lemon, and can also grate cheese for pizza, just by changing the blades and rinsing the box. The blades are super sharp (I’ve grated my fingers a few times…) so I know it will work easily for pretty much anything. Next on my list is making hashbrowns for breakfast!

Carrot Cake with Lemon Frosting

Carrot Cake with Lemon Frosting

Celebrate spring with a simple, not-too-sweet Carrot Cake with Lemon Frosting. 
4.55 from 11 votes
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Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 6
Calories 363 kcal


  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/3 cup turbinado sugar
  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 8 ounces neufchatel cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Walnuts, optional


  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line 3 6-inch cake pans with parchment rounds (or use 2 8-inch cake pans).
  • In a large bowl, beat together eggs, applesauce, and sugar, then mix in carrots.
  • In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, then stir into carrot mixture until just moistened.
  • Divide batter among cake pans (it will be thick). Tap bottoms on the counter to help it spread, or use a spatula to even out.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Invert cakes onto a wire rack and let cool before frosting.
  • To frost, beat together neufchatel cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest until smooth. Frost cake and top with walnuts, if desired.


If you would like to make a 9-inch layer cake, simply double the recipe and add a few minutes to the baking time.


Serving: 1 sliceCalories: 363 kcalCarbohydrates: 59 gProtein: 9 gFat: 11 gSaturated Fat: 5 gCholesterol: 90 mgSodium: 428 mgFiber: 4 gSugar: 36 g
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  1. I actually like getting my yard and landscaping cleaned up and ready. Planting the garden is also one of my spring hobbies.

  2. I bought very inexpensive cut-proof kevlar gloves for working with graters and mandolines. Totally saves my fingers! I also use them when cutting peppers, etc, to save my hands from heat and acids. I have nitrile-faced ones.

  3. My favorite Spring tradition is making a daffodil cake for my mom’s birthday on the first day of Spring.

  4. My favorite Spring tradition is making a daffodil cake for my mom’s birthday on the first day of Spring.

  5. Oh boy, steaming an artichoke for our family to share leaf-by-leaf with a simple butter and lemon dipping sauce!

  6. My favorite spring traditions are all about the food! I always make sure to eat tons and tons of strawberries, peas, asparagus, and artichokes. Eating them outside makes it even better!

  7. Planning our garden is our favorite tradition..second to bother the local farmers for what’s in store for the market.

  8. Spring for me growing up was the few pretty weeks between the long, cold winter and beach season. My mom bought me a hyacinth every year for my bedroom because I love the smell so much.

  9. I love going on a long bike ride when Spring arrives. I love a good breeze. Thank you for the giveaway!

  10. Oops I forgot to mention what I love about Spring. Cleaning out the house and decorating with lots of clean white springy decorations. And lots of fresh spring veggies, they take the place of all those winter roots veggies.

  11. I like planting new flowers, hanging the flag back up and just cleaning up the yard from the crappy winters 🙂

  12. Gorgeous cake! My favorite spring tradition is sight-seeing for wildflowers, especially when they pop up in unexpected places.

  13. My favorite Spring tradition is going to the Bronx Zoo after a long Winter, the baby animals have begun to be out and about and the temperature is just right, to spend an entire day there.

  14. Intense spring cleaning isn’t my favorite tradition…but enjoying a nice, fresh, house definitely is. Also, getting back out into nature with my husband and dog. Those first walks of the season are always the best.

  15. I love riding my bicycle around and feeling the sun on my face during the not super hot time of spring 🙂

  16. My favorite Spring tradition is going to the Bronx Zoo after a long Winter, the baby animals have begun to be out and about and the temperature is just right, to spend an entire day there.

  17. My favorite spring tradition is dying Easter eggs with our children and then having a little Easte egg hunt on Easter morning!

  18. I love it cause u can open the doors and air the house out, for a fresh clean smell.. then all of the pretty flowers blooming bring the pretty looks and the nice smell..just everything full of life..

  19. I’m on vacation here in Florida, but when I return to Ireland next month, I certainly intend baking that gorgeous Carrot Cake of yours. Neufchâtel cheese is not a cheese I’m familiar with. Maybe we don’t have it in Ireland. Thank you for recipe.

    1. @Ursula, neufchâtel is a lighter version of cream cheese, so you can certainly swap it out for the standard cream cheese in the recipe, if that is available! Unfortunately, I’m not sure what else would be equivalent.

  20. LOL, we don’t get ‘spring’ here in Thailand. Thais call the three seasons ‘hot, hotter and hottest’ and at our current temperatures of more than 104 degrees every day, we’re hoping this is the ‘hottest’ it’s going to get.

    The cake looks amazing, btw, and I’ll definitely be trying it.

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