If you are looking for a copycat version for J. Alexander’s Carrot Cake or looking to use up the last zucchini from the garden this recipe is a winner! It has less sugar than most recipe versions I’ve found online, and I add shredded zucchini and Greek yogurt!
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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 cinnamonny, 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, and you have to make the buttermilk cake syrup, then 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!Jump to Recipe
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 (Reduced Sugar)
- 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
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp Enspice Sri Lankan cinnamon Regular cinnamon is fine, but Enspice is amazing. Purchases of Enspice help to fight malnutrition. Visit their website to read all about it.
- ½ tsp allspice
- ¼ tsp nutmeg Fresh grated is the best
- ⅛ tsp salt
- 1 egg Lightly beaten
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- ¼ cup Greek yogurt I like Greek Gods or Fage Greek Yogurt.
- 3 tbsp lowfat buttermilk
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tbsp orange zest Zest of one orange. Optional, or use orange juice if you have it
- 3 oz crushed pineapple About five tbsp. Strained well
- ½ cup carrots Grated or julienned and chopped. I use a mandoline to julienne the carrots and zucchini then chop 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 About 3/4 cup not packed. 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 Unsalted butter Room temperature. Salted will work however you may need to add extra powdered sugar.
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- ¼ tsp vanilla extract I like pure 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, and baking powder, Enspice/cinnamon, nutmeg, brown and white sugar and a pinch of salt.
- 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.)
- Mix wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir in chopped pecans.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- Pour the cake syrup very slowly over the warm cake. Set aside to cool a few minutes before serving.
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.
- Refrigerate leftovers.
I hope you try this Copycat Carrot Cake recipe! If you do, please remember to rate the recipe!