Copycat J. Alexanders Carrot Cake Recipe (Reduced Sugar)

Frosted individually plated warm carrot cake

If you are looking to use up the last zucchini from the garden or looking for a copycat version for J. Alexander’s Carrot Cake, this recipe is a winner! It has less sugar, and I add shredded zucchini and Greek yogurt!

Copycat J Alexander’s Carrot Cake with Zucchini

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About 2 years ago my sister-in-law introduced me to the carrot cake at J. Alexander’s. I NEVER order carrot cake. Why? Because there is no chocolate in it of course and it usually just tastes like cloves to me. But, I wanted to be polite, and my SIL never steers me wrong, so I tried a bite. WOW, it’s like no other cake I have ever tried.

All I can say is that it is incredibly moist and buttery. I couldn’t quite tell how it was made or all the ingredients, but I knew there was butter. Lots and lots of butter! Most carrot cakes taste like a dry spice cake to me, and this simply does not. It’s cinnamony, nutty, rich, and very buttery! I’m just waiting for an occasion to bake another one!

It’s really not hard to make, but it does take some time, as most cakes worthwhile do. You have to make the batter and bake the cake. You have to make the buttermilk cake syrup, and you have to make the cream cheese frosting. But it’s soooo worth it, and you can make the syrup and frosting while the cake is baking!

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I recently found Enspice, spices enhanced with vitamins & Minerals and I love them! Part of the proceeds goes to help end childhood malnutrition around the world. You can read all about Enspice here (not an associate link). The Sri Lankan Cinnamon has organic kale, pumpkin, sweet potato, and other natural ingredients added and I love the deeply rich, unique flavor it adds to this cake. I think you will too!

Copycat J Alexander’s Carrot Cake with Zucchini

Copycat J. Alexander’s Carrot Cake with Zucchini (Reduced Sugar)

After searching for a copycat recipe, I tried some and came up with this slightly less sweet version. I also swap some of the carrots for zucchini! One great thing about this cake is that it is probably best served warm! That means you don’t have to cool it completely before frosting! In fact, I keep the frosting separate and pipe or spoon it over warmed slices of cake. There are three processes to this cake, the batter, the cake syrup and the frosting. Its not difficult, but it will take some time, however, you can work on the cake syrup and frosting while the cake bakes!
0 from 0 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 50 mins
Total Time 1 hr 20 mins
Course Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 9
Calories 460 kcal


  • large mixing bowl
  • medium mixing bowl
  • 8×8 baking pan
  • measuring cups & spoons
  • small sauce pan
  • hand or standing mixer
  • Small mixing bowl.
  • mixing spoons
  • skewer or large fork
  • box grater or a mandoline with grater or julienne setting.


Carrot Zucchini Cake Batter

  • ¾ cup white whole wheat flour I like *King Arthur, if you can find it and the price is reasonable. If not, just use store brand.
  • ¾ cup AP flour
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 tsp Enspice Sri Lankan cinnamon Regular cinnamon is fine, but Enspice is amazing. All purchases of Enspice help to fight malnutrition. Visit their website to read all about it.
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg Fresh grated is the best
  • tsp salt
  • 1 egg Lightly beaten
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt
  • 3 tbsp lowfat buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp orange zest Optional, or use orange juice if you have it
  • 3 oz crushed pineapple Strained well
  • ½ cup carrots Grated or julienned and chopped. I use a mandoline and julienne the carrots and zucchini then chop them up into smaller pieces. A box grater is great to use also.
  • ½ cup zucchini Optional, you can use more carrots instead. grated (grate around the core and toss the seedy part) or julienned and chopped.
  • 2 oz shredded coconut I used sweetened shredded coconut.
  • ½ cup pecans Chopped (add a full cup if you like extra nuts!)

Buttermilk Cake Syrup

  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 5 tbsp butter Salted is fine
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 4 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese Room temperature
  • 6 tbsp butter Room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract


Prepare the carrot cake batter

  • Grease/butter and flour an 8X8 baking pan. Preheat oven to 350°
  • Mix all the dry ingredients for the cake in a large bowl. (All-purpose and whole wheat flour, baking soda & powder, Enspice/cinnamon, nutmeg, brown and white sugar and a pinch of salt.
    Dry ingredients for cake
  • Mix all the wet ingredients for the cake batter in a medium bowl. (Egg, canola oil, yogurt, buttermilk, vanilla, orange zest or juice, strained pineapple, coconut, carrots and zucchini together in a medium bowl.)
    Wet ingredients for carrot cake
  • Mix wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir in chopped pecans.
    Carrot Zucchini cake ready for the oven
  • Pour the batter into the 8X8 pan
  • Bake for 35 minutes at 350°. Test with a toothpick. If its still raw in the middle, reduce the temp to 325° and cook another 15 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean. You should be able to press lightly and the cake will spring back in the center.
    Carrot zucchini cake
  • Once cooked through, remove to a trivet and cook your cake syrup.

Prepare the Cake Syrup

  • Add ingredients for the cake syrup to a small sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and cook until until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup has thickened. It won’t take long, about five minutes. Remove from heat.
    Cake syrup

Prepare the Cake for the Syrup

  • Use a thick sewer or large fork and gently poke holes all over the cake while it is still warm.
    Poke holes all over cake
  • Pour the cake syrup very slowly over the warm cake. Set aside to cool a few minutes before serving.
    Pour cake syrup over warm cake

Prepare the Frosting

  • In medium bowl, whip the cream cheese until smooth.
  • Add the butter and vanilla and beat until combined and fluffy.
  • Slowly mix in the powdered sugar.
  • Put the frosting in a piping bag or a zip top bag until ready to frost the cake.

Frost and Serve

  • I prefer to cut the cake into 9 pieces and pipe frosting on each individually plated warm piece. You can frost the entire cake, the choice is yours! I like to garnish with pecans or a sprinkling of cinnamon or nutmeg! You could garnish with a few gratings of carrot too.
    Frosted warm carrot zucchini cake
  • Refrigerate leftovers.
    Garnish with pecans


*As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. 
I adapted this from a few recipes, the one I recall most is There are a lot of great recipes on mybakingaddiction!
*When shopping for a mandoline, stay away from v-shaped blades that are made of two pieces crossed over or butted up together. Food gets stuck and they don’t slice well in my opinion. I’m thinking of this one from Amazon to replace my annoying v-shaped mandoline.
This cake is amazing served warm with frosting piped or spooned over the top. 
I like to store the leftover frosting ins a zip top bag and pipe it over pieces of cake that have been warmed in the microwave.
This is a very rich, sweet, buttery cake. I use less sugar in the cake batter than other copycat recipes since the cake syrup and frosting are so very sweet. 


Calories: 460kcalCarbohydrates: 56gProtein: 6gFat: 25gSaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 63mgSodium: 262mgPotassium: 195mgFiber: 3gSugar: 39gVitamin A: 1731IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 72mgIron: 1mg
Keyword breakfast cupcakes, carrot cake, carrot zucchini cake, carrots, cinnamon, cream cheese, decadent, enspice, garden goodies
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