Lower fat carrot snack cake on virginiawillis.com

Carrot Snack Cake

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Lower Fat Carrot Cake on virginiawillis.com
photo by Andrew Thomas Lee for AARP


Astonishing how many carrot cake fans I’ve met through my Lower Fat Layer Carrot Cake and weight loss journey being featured in AARP magazine!  (Seen above.) This classic celebration layer cake is studded with fruit, nuts, and sweet shreds of carrot. Sounds healthy, right? Well, no. Many Carrot Cake recipes are made with copious amounts of oil. One of my secret techniques is that I replace part of the oil with drained pineapple, effectively acting how applesauce replaces oil in some healthier cakes. This recipe is lower in fat, yet it’s still rich, moist, and flavorful. I wanted to see if I could adapt the recipe into a super easy dump-and-stir snack cake. Success! Please read on for the recipe snack cake adaptation and video.

Chef Virginia Willis weight loss story in AARP

80 for Brady

I still cannot believe I am in a magazine that has my sheroes Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Sally Fields, and Rita Moreno on the cover!  And, Sally Field followed me on Instagram. It was all I could do not to post a screengrab with the caption, “She likes me, she really likes me.” 😉 IYKYK

Some friends have teased me about being in AARP. Heck. I am 56 years old and don’t deny a day of it! Everything I am doing right now regarding my health and wellness has to do with me aging as best I can.

AARP is dedicated to people over 50. However, there is no minimum age requirement. I joined because my 20-year-old AT&T rep turned me onto it so I could get a discount on my iPhone.

She had joined, too. How’s that for a sales conversion?

Better-for-You Baking

Part of aging well is eating well, one of my Life Guardrails. (You can read more about that here.) Eating well includes my better-for-you-baking approach. This means small batch bakes, cakes included, that are pushed to the edge of being “healthy” — and still taste like a dessert. Often, I use traditional ingredients, just lesser quantities of the more indulgent ones. Of course, there are some desserts that don’t need lightening up and some you just flat out can’t. One way or the other, my philosophy is “eat the dang cake!”

Heart Healthy Georgia Pecans

Here’s a step-by-step making my Carrot Snack Cake on Daytime TV for Valentine’s Day. Made with heart-healthy Georgia pecans from Pearson Farm, they fit the bill.

Pecans play a role in reducing the risk of heart disease because they have an abundance of unsaturated fats. These “good” fats can have a protective effect by lowering total blood cholesterol when eaten in moderation.

Pecans are also a good source of fiber, protein, and antioxidants. Antioxidants can help protect the body from the cell damage that causes Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and cancers. The USDA has ranked over 100 foods by antioxidant levels, and pecans made the top 20!

You can see the pecans on my cake are slightly smaller and rounder. Those are my absolute favorite variety, called Elliots. They are rich and buttery, with a big bang of pecan for the buck. I love them.

For yet another version of this cake — clearly, I like carrot cake — check out the Carrot Cake I developed for Weight Watchers that you bake in your slow cooker!

Thanks for reading and watching. For more videos and my February #LoveYourself series, check out my Instagram feed!

Bon Appétit Y’all!

Virginia Willis


@VirginiaWillis Instagram QR Code

Lower Fat Carrot Snack Cake on virginiawillis.com

Lower-Fat Carrot Snack Cake

Servings: 16


  • 1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple in juice
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • ¾ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • teaspoon ground allspice
  • teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • ¾ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups grated carrots 4 to 6 medium
  • Pecan halves for garnish
  • 1/2 8-ounce package low-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • ½ pound confectioners’ sugar sifted


  • Heat the oven to 350°F. Spray an 8 inch square baking pan with nonstick spray; dust with flour. Set aside.
  • Drain the pineapple in a sieve set over a bowl, pressing on the solids. Reserve the drained pineapple and pineapple juice.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the pineapple, pecans, and raisins. Add sugar, eggs, and oil. Stir to combine. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. Add carrots and stir to combine. Transfer to the prepared pan.
  • Bake until a wooden pick inserted in the center of each layer comes out clean and the sides start to pull away from the edges of the pans, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool. Brush the cake with the reserved pineapple juice.
  • Frosting: Using a hand held mixer combine the cream cheese, vanilla and salt. With the mixer at low speed, add the confectioners’ sugar. Blend until smooth and consistent.
  • Once the cake has cooled completely. Top with the frosting. Garnish the top with the pecan halves. To serve, slice with a serrated knife. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Let’s cook something up! If you are interested in hosting me for a speaking engagement, event, cooking class, or book signing, let me know! Send an email to assistant@virginiawillis.com and we’ll be back in touch as soon as possible.

I am not a doctor, RD, health professional, or WW representative. I am simply sharing what works for me. My blog is for informational or educational purposes only and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultations with healthcare professionals.

Note that this post may contain affiliate links and I may make a commission if you use my affiliate link to buy the product.

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Virginia Willis cookbooks
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Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis’ biography includes making chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraging for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvesting capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunting for truffles in France. She is talent and chef-instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen. Her segments feature authentic and innovative Southern cooking. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Virginia has spoken at SXSW, cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Jane Fonda with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Recently, her work has been inspired by her weight loss success story, Virginia has lost 65# and kept it off for over 2 1/2 years! “If a French-trained, Southern chef can do it, you can, too.” She is the author of Fresh Start; Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all won a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health Category. Lighten Up, Y’all as well as her first cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all, were finalists in the Best American Cookbook for the International Association of Cookbook Awards and were also named by the Georgia Center of the Book as “Books Georgians Should Read.” She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, GRLSQUASH, Culture, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude, approachable spirit, and traveling exploits. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in content creation, recipe development, culinary editorial and production services, cookbook writing, media training, spokesperson and brand representation, and public speaking. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board, as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. She is a food and hunger advocate for No Kid Hungry and a premier member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. She a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and Southern Foodways Alliance.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Lori McLain

    This is the perfect size and golden raisins are divine! Thanks for posting your recipe!!!!

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