The “plus” in this recipe title refers to the inclusion of several grated veggies alongside the carrots in this mini cake (zucchini, sweet potato, beet). Spices and walnuts give the cake a very carrot-cakey flavor, but the orange and cinnamon cream cheese frosting gives this cake a special pop!

overhead shot of mini carrot cake frosted and decorated with flower petals.

I’m so excited to bring you this mini carrot (plus!) cake recipe!

I’ve been cooking a lot with root vegetables lately. Honestly, the idea to grate a rainbow of vegetables into this cake came to me in a “if we can grate carrots or zucchini into cakes why not grate a bunch of other veggies into a cake?” way. It’s just how I roll (i.e. let’s try something a bit out of left field!). It’s meant to be an easy, use what you have, idea, not a recipe where you have to buy all four veggies, if you don’t want to. See recipe card notes for specifics.

The recipe is designed to taste like a cake, not a banana bread-type loaf. Hence, the inclusion of a 1/2 cup of sugar and the use of frosting. Also, don’t be confused by the use of a loaf pan. This is used to yield a mini-sized cake. This mini carrot plus cake can be cut in slices, like a mini sheet cake, into squares, or the loaf can be cut in half, stacked, and frosted as a mini layer cake (see photo below). Choose your adventure! Either way, a yield of 8 slices seems ideal. I thought it would yield 4 slices but with the frosting and the denseness from the veggies, 8 is perfect.

slice of frosted carrot cake on plate with rest of cake in background.

Why this recipe works

  • Great size for many- half the height of a full loaf pan cake and half the width of an 8″ x 8″ snack cake, this cake still yields 8 small slices. It’s something to be made and enjoyed when the group is smaller, or you don’t want a lot of leftovers.
  • Satisfyingly dense but not heavy- I’ve increased the ratio of grated vegetables from most carrot cake recipes and kept the amount of flour down so the cake is dense and moist, but not heavy. The heft comes from the veggies and the water they contain.
  • Full flavored and not overly sweet- the amount of veggies gives the cake that indescribably flavor of carrot cakes- sweet but not sugary sweet.
  • Dessert cake vibes- In order to give this an actual cake-tasting vibe and not a banana loaf cake kind of vibe, I did not cut back the sugar as much.
  • Fantastic cream cheese frosting- need I say more? It’s delicious with cinnamon and orange zest flavor.

Ingredient notes and substitutions

  • Grated vegetables- This recipe is written to include about 1/4 cup each of grated carrot, zucchini, sweet potato (I used purple), and beets (I used red) for a packed 1 cup of veggies (5 oz). This is a fun way to include more veggies, for a slightly less carroty and less sweet flavor. The recipe works with any variation and combination of vegetables.
  • Non-fat Greek yogurt- Like buttermilk, the tang helps with flavor and the acid works with the leavening agents to help the cake rise. You can substitute buttermilk, regular milk or any variation of plain yogurt to get this effect.
  • Brown sugar- I like brown sugar because it has more moisture and flavor than white sugar.

Step-by-step instructions

Start by grating your combination of vegetables using the finer holes of a box grater. As described above, you can can grate any combo of root vegetables and zucchini, for a similar effect in the cake.

After grating them all, use a fork or your hands to mix the grated vegetables together so they are even distributed.

In a medium mixing bowl add the sugar and all the liquid ingredients, plus the spices, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and whisk together, breaking up any clumps of brown sugar along the way.

Add the grated vegetables to the liquid ingredients and mix with a spoon until evenly distributed, then add the chopped nuts and flour and mix until thoroughly blended, but as always with a cake, don’t overmix.

Once the batter is complete and the oven is preheated to 350, pour the batter into the loaf pan. It will only fill half of the pan.

The cake bakes approximately 30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pan by running a knife around the edge and inverting pan to release cake. Cool completely.

While the cake cools, make the cream cheese frosting by mixing all ingredients in a bowl with a hand mixer until thoroughly combined and a bit fluffy.

How to serve this mini carrot “plus” cake

Choose how to frost and serve the cake. You can frost it as a loaf sheet pan cake, or you can cut the loaf in half and stack it for a mini layer cake (see photo bottom right). The cream cheese frosting can be used as soon as it is finished to frost the cake.

You can cut the sheet pan version of the cake into 8 slices or 8 squares as shown above.

Decorating the cake with edible flowers

I have enjoyed using edible flowers such as nasturtium and pansies/violets in salads during the summer, but you can also decorate your cake with beautiful edible rose petals of any color as well as mums, which are edible, as I have here.

Tips for making this recipe

  • Unless your butter was softened too much, you should be able to frost the cake as soon as the frosting is made (as long as the cake is fully cooled).
  • This cake stores well in the refrigerator. You can set the sliced cake in a covered container or if you need to store the frosted cake before serving, you can place a mixing bowl upside down over the top of the frosted cake without disturbing the frosting and decoration.
  • This cake is also delicious without the frosting. It is moist, flavorful and satisfyingly sweet without being overly sweet.
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mini carrot cake with cinnamon and orange cream cheese frosting and decorated with orange and yellow rose petals.

Mini Carrot Plus Cake with Orange and Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Servings8 slices or squares
Calories341
The “plus” in this recipe title refers to the inclusion of several grated veggies alongside the carrots in this mini cake (zucchini, sweet potato, beet). Spices and walnuts give the cake a very carrot-cakey flavor, but the orange and cinnamon cream cheese frosting gives this cake a special pop!
Kitchen Tools
  • 1 loaf pan
  • 1 mixing bowl

Ingredients
 

Cake Ingredients
  • 5 oz finely grated carrot, zuchinni, beet, sweet potato (one packed cup – see notes)
  • 1/4 cup avocado oil (or other unflavored oil, or olive oil see notes)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup non-fat plain greek yogurt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon (see notes)
  • pinch nutmeg (see notes)
  • pinch ginger (see notes)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 cup flour
Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp butter (unsalted)
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 zest of juice orange (any orange works)

Method:  

  • Preheat oven to 350.
Make the Cake
  • Grate the vegetables (1/4 cup of each of 4 veggies, packed into 1 cup see notes) using the smaller holes of a box grater. Squeeze with hands to remove any excess liquid (mostly from zucchini). Toss with hands to mix veggies. Set aside.
  • Add oil, egg, sugar, yogurt, dry spices, vanilla, salt, baking soda and baking powder to bowl and whisk to mix. Use side of spoon or fingers to break up larger brown sugar chunks (just in case you have some chunks in your brown sugar).
  • Add the mixed grated veggies to the batter and stir in thoroughly.
  • Add flour and chopped walnuts and mix with spoon just until mixed.
  • Pour into loaf pan (I use a non-stick one sprayed lightly with oil). If you use a glass loaf pan spray with oil or rub with butter or vegan butter.
  • Bake in middle of oven for approximately 30 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Remove and cool in pan for 10 min, then run spatula/knife around edges and turn out onto board to cool completely. The moisture in the veggies yields a cake that puffs up some, but deflates to a flat top once cooled.
Make the Frosting
  • Bring butter and cream cheese to room temperature then place in mixing bowl with confectioners sugar, cinnamon, salt and orange zest.
  • Use hand mixer to whip ingredients together for a few minutes, taste and adjust flavors.
Frost and assemble cake
  • This half high loaf cake can be frosted as is like a mini sheet cake or you can cut loaf in half, and frost as a mini layer cake! Decorate as you like! Read post for information on using common edible flowers.

Notes

Nutrition Info calculated  using all carrots (limitations of nutrition calculator).
Vegetables- the goal is to use a mix! You can use just carrot if you like, but I developed this recipe using approx 1/4 cup grated each of carrot, zucchini, sweet potato & beet.
Amount of vegetables- for this cake, use 1 cup packed (filled and pressed a bit, not just lightly set into cup) of finely grated veggies (not grated with biggest holes).
Oil- I prefer the flavor of a neutral oil here, such as avocado oil, but you certainly can use olive oil which adds a distinct fruity flavor.
Spices- for this size cake (half loaf pan thickness), I’ve suggested 1/4 tsp cinnamon and pinches of nutmeg and ginger. If you love cinnamon you can just use 1/2 tsp of that. If you have and love Five Spice Powder (as I do) you can add in 1/4 tsp of that in as well. As written the recipe does not have a dominant spice flavor. It’s subtle.

Nutrition (an estimate)

Calories: 341kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 43mg | Sodium: 227mg | Potassium: 148mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 30g | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 66mg | Iron: 1mg | Magnesium: 17mg | Net Carbohydrates: 40g
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