Moist, easy to stir together, and loaded with the classic flavors you expect from carrot cake, these Healthy Carrot Cake Bars are a perfect springtime treat. And: They’re a totally fun way to serve up veggies to the whole family.
Carrot Cake Bars
I always think of carrot cake in the spring and I love to play with carrots this time of the year to make treats for my family. We’ve been loving these Carrot Cake Bars, which are simply a lightened up version of classic carrot cake baked in a square baking pan.
They have less oil than the classic version, but all of the flavor—and a hefty dose of produce too!
The key to making moist carrot cake is usually oil, but in this recipe, I use both oil and applesauce to add natural sweetness and flavor, too. The cup and a half of fresh carrots also ensures that the batter stays moist—and they soften nicely when baked into the bars.
In addition to the flavor, I love how easy this recipe is to stir together and get into the oven, especially if you start with store-bought grated carrots!
I love these for Easter or for any time we need a dessert to share.
Ingredients You Need
To make this recipe for Carrot Cake Bars, you’ll need:
- Grated carrots: I prefer the finer texture you get when you grate a whole carrot on a box or handheld grater.
- Neutral oil: Such as canola or avocado.
- Applesauce: I use unsweetened smooth.
- All-purpose flour or gluten-free cup for cup flour blend
- Baking powder and baking soda
- Golden raisins
I like to add the raisins for additional sweetness—and because the Carrot Cake I remember eating as a kid always had raisins!—but if you don’t want to add them you don’t have to.
In fact, you could sub chopped walnuts or even chocolate chips (if you’re feeling like breaking all traditions!) and get great results.
Here’s a look at the process involved in making this recipe. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for the full information.
- Preheat the oven and grease your pan well. (photo 1)
- Grate the carrot if not using store bought grated carrots. (photo 2)
- Stir together the wet ingredients. (photo 3)
- Fold in the dry, being gentle to avoid overworking the flour. (photo 4)
- Bake! (photo 5)
- Cool fully on a wire rack. (photo 6)
TIP: Try not to over-bake. The center of the pan will take the longest to set, so keep an eye on that as well as the timing.
Carrot Cake Frosting
The frosting for these Carrot Cake Bars is a simple mix of cream cheese, vanilla extract, and honey. (photo 7) Once the cream cheese is softened, all you need to do is beat the ingredients together with an electric mixer for about 30 seconds or until fluffy.
How to Store
Yes! You can make it up to 24 hours ahead. Store in an airtight container at room temperature or tightly covered in plastic wrap and frost before serving. Or, make the whole thing and refrigerate for up to 4 hours before serving—it’s actually really great served cold.
Best Tips for Success
- Grease your pan very well to eliminate the likelihood of the cake sticking.
- Gently fold the ingredients together to avoid overworking the batter.
- Use store bought grated carrots or grate them on a grater at home.
- Make sure that the cream cheese isn’t super cold, and is instead softened at room temperature for at least an hour, so it mixes up smooth. It will otherwise be lumpy.
- Taste the frosting and add more honey if desired for sweetness.
- You may also like Carrot Cake Muffins, Carrot Cake Oatmeal, Strawberry Oatmeal Bars, and Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake.
I’d love to hear your feedback on this recipe if you try it, so please comment below to share!
This post was first published March 2019.
Easy Carrot Cake Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups grated carrots
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil (or avocado or coconut oil)
- 1/4 cup applesauce
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup golden raisins (regular raisins work fine too)
- Preheat oven to 350F and grease an 8" x 8" pan with nonstick spray.
- In a medium bowl with a spatula or wooden spoon, stir together the eggs, carrots, oil, applesauce, and honey.
- Add the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and raisins to the bowl with the egg mixture and gently fold together, taking care not to overwork the flour.
- Pour mixture into prepared pan and use a spatula to spread the batter evenly in the pan.
- Bake for 24-28 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for about 10 minutes, then carefully invert onto a wire rack to cool fully.
- Frost if desired. (See Notes for the frosting recipe.)
- To make the Cream Cheese Frosting: In a large bowl with a handheld electric mixer, beat 6 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and ¼ cup honey honey for 30 seconds, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Spread frosting over the cooled cake, then carefully cut into 12 bars and serve.
- Bars can be made up to 24 hours ahead. Store in an airtight container at room temperature and frost before serving. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
- Gluten-free: Use 1:1 style of gluten-free flour blend.
- Use golden or regular raisins.