A sweet easy quick bread, this healthy carrot loaf is lightly spiced and scented with a hint of orange. I've added walnuts for a bit of crunch and topped it with an easy, creamy, cream cheese frosting. When you are craving carrot cake but don't want to make a whole cake, this carrot loaf is perfect for snacking or for small gatherings. Loaded with carrots, orange juice and applesauce helps cut both the sugar and oil in a more traditional recipe, making this a lighter and healthier carrot loaf. But of course, I didn't skip the frosting.
Umm.. hello? I really don't know what to say. But friends. We are in this crazy time together. Social isolation, distancing... all this stay-at-homeness is getting to be too much even for this serious home-body. I'm feeling a bit antsy and bored all at the same time.
One good thing - I have all the time I need to putter around my kitchen. I'm starting projects I normally would have no time for at all. I'm making friends with my sourdough starter and have baked so, so many things.
Today I'm bringing you this cute little carrot loaf. Since we are spending a lot of time in our homes with our immediate loved ones, which I expect is a small group of our favourite peeps, I think we could use small-scale dessert recipes. Today is not the time for sheet pan-sized cakes.
Although I won't judge if that is what you would prefer.
Also - this recipe is for those of you, who may have also stocked up on far too many "basics" and now have an excess of carrots in the crisper.
🥄 How to make it
This is a basic quick bread recipe and follows the basic quick bread method. Wet ingredients are mixed and creamed together first. Then the dry ingredients are mixed separately before adding the dry to the wet ingredients.
A few tips so your quick bread recipes come out perfectly every time:
You will need two bowls, one for the dry ingredients and one for the wet ingredients. I like to mix my wet ingredients in the larger bowl so that when I'm ready I can add in the dry ingredients and any other add-ins to the wet ingredients in the larger bowl. This saves time and clean-up.
To be most efficient with your time, prep the orange and the carrots before you start mixing ingredients. I use my food processor and the fine grater attachment to grate the carrots. A box grater will work too.
Be gentle when folding the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. You want to mix as few times as possible. Until the dry ingredients are just incorporated.
To avoid over-mixing, add the carrots, orange zest and walnuts to the dough before the flour is fully incorporated.
📋 Ingredient notes and substitutions
You will also find this carrot cake recipe is on the lower fat side. Apple sauce keeps the fat down. I've also reduced the recipe to one egg (typically you will find two in similar recipes). Adding a little bit of orange juice adds moisture, so the loaf stays moist. I promise you won't miss the extra oil or egg in this recipe.
I realize we might be running low on a couple of items here and there, so I thought I help you out with a list of a few easy substitutions so you can make this cake with what you have.
- This recipe calls for one egg. Often you will see two eggs in a recipe like this to bind and pull things together. No eggs - use flaxseed eggs. See this post.
- No applesauce - add another egg. or use mashed banana
- No fresh oranges - instead of 3 tablespoons orange juice + 3 tablespoons apple sauce, use 6 tablespoons apple sauce. Just skip the orange zest completely.
- No walnuts - leave them out, or use pecans.
- Use ¾ cups up to 2 cups grated carrots.
- Use your favorite easy frosting. I made a slumpy, creamy, cream cheese frosting for this cake. But feel free to use a frosting that you like. You easily just make a frosting with icing sugar and milk (dairy or non-dairy) and just drizzle it on top. Like on this cake. Use orange juice instead of lemon juice to highlight the orange vibe. Milk (dairy or non-dairy) works too.
More quick bread recipes you might like:
Sweet Carrot Bread
- 8x 4 loaf pan
- 1 orange zest and juice divided as noted in instructions
- 2 cups shredded carrots about 4 large carrots
- 1-½ cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup brown sugar lightly packed
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 3 tablespoon apple sauce
- 1 egg
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
For the frosting
- 4 oz cream cheese softened, I used reduced fat, tub cream cheese
- 1 cup icing sugar
- orange juice and zest from above see instructons
- 2 tablespoon chopped walnuts optional
- Pre-heat oven to 350 and line 8x4 loaf pan with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray.
- Zest the orange. Set aside 1 teaspoon of zest for the frosting. Set the remaining zest aside for the cake. Juice the orange. Set aside 1 teaspoon of juice for the frosting. Measure out 3 tablespoons for the cake. Save the rest for another purpose or discard.
- Prepare the carrots. Clean, peel and trim the carrots. I used a foodprocessor with the smallest grater attachment to shredd the carrots. YOu can also use a box grater. Set asside
- Combine the dry ingrdeints in a medium sized bowl - flour through cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream together white and brown sugar, oil, apple sauce, 3 tablespoons of the freshly squeezed orange juice, and the egg. Whisk well. Mixture should be slightly frothy and creamy. Add flour mixture, carrots, walnuts, and orange zest. Gently fold together until just combined and most of the floury bits are gone. Pour into the prepared loaf pan. Bake at 350 for about 50-55 minutes. The loaf is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Allow cake to cool at least 5 minutes before trying to remove from the loaf pan. Remove to a wire rack and let cool completely before frosting.
To serve the cake:
- Mix together 1 teaspoon orange juice, softened cream cheese and 1 cup icing sugar. Whisk on low speed until creamy. Icing will be soft. For stiffer icing, add more icing sugar, ¼ cup at a time until you get the consistency you like. I like a soft creamy frosting. By hand, mix in the orange zest.
- Gently spread frosting on top of completely cooled loaf. Sprinkle top of frosted cake with chopped walnuts. Serve