Lightened-Up Carrot Cake

24caratI’m an animal-lover.

But after owning rabbits, I can happily say I do not love owning rabbits.

It was a day like any other day.  I was probably being an emotional teenager in my bedroom when my younger brother and sister decided to go to the park with our grandma.  After being gone awhile they came home — but they weren’t alone.

In each of their hands was a black male bunny.  Some freaky old woman at the park was selling these random rabbits for $10 apiece and my grandma had the fantastic idea that they belonged with two immature children in a family that was ill-equipped to be rabbit-owners.  So she bought my brother and sister each a rabbit and literally sent them to our front door with a rabbit in their arms — no cage, no shot records, no hay — just my siblings cradling strange park-pilfered rodents.

So we went out and bought a cage and put our new male rabbits together in the cage.  Time passed and one day we woke up to discover something confusing and horrifying: there was a third rabbit in our cage.

This impostor bunny was much smaller, brown, and looked like it had just been born — which was kinda sorta IMFREAKINGPOSSIBLE since we had TWO MALE RABBITS… right, crazy park-lady?!  So we cradled this newborn rabbit baby that clearly materialized out of thin air and started calling all the news-stations insisting that males can get pregnant.  STOP THE PRESSES, Y’ALL.

[Side note: have you ever had to search a smaller animal for its, er, down-there area?  It’s AWFUL.  Can you imagine something 2876374 times your size rummaging around in your nether-fluff figuring out what gender you are?  TERRIBLE.]

Anywhooooo, since we didn’t really understand what in the fluff was going on, we went about our day.  Hours later upon our return from work and school, we went to check on our new rabbit only to find it… gone.  Like it had never existed.  There has been several times in my life where I’ve stopped what I’m doing and thought, I need to go to the mental hospital and this was one of those times.  How can a mysterious, magical baby rabbit just appear and disappear?  Everyone in my family saw the baby, so we either all drank the punch OR there was something seriously wrong here.

DSC_0038AIt wasn’t long after some research that we found out that male rabbits are basically the spawns of Satan himself and like to engage in cannibalism of their young to establish dominance or something.  AKA, they are frightening beasts and it was theworstthingever to explain where the baby bunny went to younger siblings without mentioning that “the dad rabbit ate the flesh, bones, and guts of the baby bunny while the mother watched.”

So not long after that — minus the fact that (SHOCKER!) my siblings weren’t responsible enough to care for random park-pawned rabbits — we found the rabbits new loving homes with some friends of ours who loved and had PLENTY of experience with cannibalistic rodents.  There’s something for everyone.

Anyway, so while I find bunnies to be adorable, irresistibly fluffy and sweet, I will never, ever own one again.  I love them, but only from afar and when they aren’t sold to us from strange rando grandmas in the park.

Speaking of bunnies, Easter is around the corner!  And you know what bunnies like?  Carrots.  And you know what people like for Easter?  Carrot cake.  But carrot cake is usually loaded with tons of fat and calories and butter (and deliciousness) which makes it a serious indulgence… something not a lot of people want to partake in since they’re trying to get their bikini bodies in check *coughMEcough*

So I made this carrot cake lighter with some simple swaps.  You won’t BELIEVE how moist, fluffy and SCRUMPTIOUS this spicy, sweet cake tastes!  It hardly tastes low-calorie and will definitely impress your guests with its bright, springy flavor.

Make it now or the bunnies will eat you.


4.8 from 4 reviews
Lightened-Up Carrot Cake
Recipe type: Cake
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
This scrumptious cake has all the classic flavors of carrot cake without all the guilt! You won't even realize this decadent dessert has been lightened-up!
  • 1 box carrot cake mix
  • 3 egg whites
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup pineapple juice
  • 1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • ½ cup raisins (if you'd like -- I did not use them)
  • 1 (8 oz) pkg fat free or reduced fat cream cheese, room temperature
  • ¼ cup Truvia/Stevia (you can also use regular white sugar)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 (8 oz) tubs Cool Whip Free, thawed
  • ¼ cup sugar-free/fat-free caramel sauce
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Liberally grease two 9" cake pans with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the cake mix, egg whites, unsweetened applesauce, water, pineapple juice, crushed pineapple and spices together with a handheld electric mixer until smooth and incorporated. Evenly distribute the batter among the two pans and bake for approx. 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean or with moist crumbs. Allow the cakes to cool in the pan for about 20 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, Stevia and vanilla until blended. Gently fold in both tubs of the Cool Whip to incorporate.
  4. Place one cake layer on a plate or cake stand and frost with HALF of the Cool Whip mixture, spreading it around evenly to the edges of the cake. Drizzle with about HALF of the caramel sauce.
  5. Top with the remaining cake layer. Top with the remaining Cool Whip mixture. Lastly, drizzle on the remaining caramel and sprinkle on the pecans. Allow the cake to set for about 10 minutes before cutting. Store leftovers in the fridge, covered in an airtight container.

DSC_0046AFor not being much a fan of carrot cake, I really enjoyed this cake!  It was SO light and refreshing — it doesn’t feel heavy like normal layer cakes do.  The actual cake itself has a light & tender crumb, thanks in part to the use of egg whites and unsweetened applesauce.  If you’ve never baked cakes with applesauce, you MUST!  While it does not give your cakes an apple-y flavor, it does give your cakes added moisture as well as slashes the fat and calorie content by  a lot.  You’re easily saving hundreds of calories by using egg whites and unsweetened applesauce rather than regular eggs and oil or butter… but you aren’t sacrificing any of that flavor — this is because of the punch of cinnamon & nutmeg and the sweetness & great texture from the pineapple.  It’s basically one of the dreamiest cakes you’ll eat!

Have a fantastical day, my little bunnies!

xo, Hayley

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  1. True story: I got my dwarf bunny for Christmas in a McDonald’s happy meal bag (after opening a box with a pet rock)! But she was a SHE and not cannibalistic at all. 🙂

    • Sounds great. Do you drain the crushed pineapple to get the measured juice or add the undrained pineapple plus more juice?

      • thedomesticrebel says:

        Great question, Gaye! Drain the juice out into the measuring cup first, getting the necessary requirement. Toss or save the rest of the juice for another recipe (it’d be great to save for smoothies!) Then use the crushed pineapple for the recipe 🙂

  2. Wonderful recipe – waaay too much information this early in the morning – Poor mama bunny had to watch?!?!?! 🙁

    • thedomesticrebel says:

      Yes! I’d imagine! But I hear both of them will try and eat it if they’re in the same cage. Eek!

    • Oh my, I agree…too much info. I don’t think I will ever be able to make this cake as I will always think of that awful story.

  3. YAYYYYY another light, yet decadent recipe! Love it Hayley! Obsessed!!

  4. “Nether-fluff” is now a phrase I cannot get out of my head.

  5. I love carrot cake and your lightened up version is fabulous! Pinned!

  6. Probably e.x.a.c.t.l.y what had happened to rodent gran in the park. She had two ‘male’ rabbits that had somehow spawned more baby male rabbits, and the cycle continues!

    And holy crap girl, how did you make such a waist expanding looking cake of all deliciousness to look like that, yet be light? I want to dive in and swim in that frosting.

  7. Ohmygosh, that’s the most freaky, awful, petrifying bunny experience ever! I’ll stick to the pretty pastel pink cartoon version instead… Or dogs. They’re adorable! Crazy bunnies eating each other… On a happier note, I LOVE the frosting you used for your carrot cake!! I’m not usually a frosting person, but I love whipped cream, and I love cream cheese… So this sounds perfect! You wouldn’t happen to have a slice still lying around, would you? 😉

  8. Oh my goodness! When I had kittens, their mama hid them in my closet and I was sooo worried that she ate them because I heard they do that, and especially when they smell a stranger’s scent on them. My brothers friend had been earlier that day so I was freaking out! To have that happen/even discover that happens at that age must have been traumatizing! In lighter news, this carrot cake looks bangin!

  9. yeah, we’re pretty much done with bunnies here as well 🙂 but I’ll take this cake any day

  10. Ohmygoodness, I had no idea! I’ll prolly never look at a rabbit the same way again. Thank-you for my new knowledge of the day, and a deelish looking recipe to boot!

  11. omg I don’t think I can ever look at bunnies the same way again. I don’t even want to think about it. I’ll just stare happily at this carrot cake and imagine eating it in its entirety. That’ll keep me from having crazy bunny nightmares. 😉

  12. 1. I had a bunny and LOOOOVED her. She was very special, though. And died too young *sniffle* I dontwannatalkaboutiiiit

    2. omg that tale is harrowing

    3. AWESOME job with this cake! It’s so perfect for Easter AND um you can eat an extra piece bc it’s lighter! yay!

  13. I thought carrot cake was light already, I mean carrots are a vegetable so carrot cake must be healthy?! #oops But damn the caramel on top looks AHHH FREAKING MAZING!!

  14. The “Easter Bunny” got me a rabbit for easter once…he wasn’t as terrifying as yours, but he did bite me a few times…and I am now remembering the time he peed on me…well I am not much of a fan of rabbit as pets these days. But they are super cute to look at!

    Gotta love lightened up holiday recipes! I didn’t start to like carrot cake until a few years ago…I always thought it was weird to have a vegetable in cake, but now it’s all good!

  15. What a horrifying experience! I KNEW there was a reason my Mom always refused to get me a “bunny”! Despite the fact that I just thought they were the cutest things!

    This lightened up carrot cake looks divine! It still looks moist and dreamy!

  16. JoeyfromSC says:

    lmao@your story!! omg!! freaky! lol

    The recipe looks heavenly!! I ADORE me some carrot cake haha..I must try this!!

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