Breads/ Breakfast/ Muffins & Scones/ Recipes

carrot cake muffin bars

I don’t know about you, but I’m a huge fan of carrot cake. There’s just something about it that gets me every time.

I am not, however, a fan of carrot cake with pineapple in it. Or with four cups of canola oil in it, like the one we used to make in culinary school.

The other day I knew I wanted to develop a new recipe for carrot cake, but I wasn’t quite sure what it was going to end up looking like in the end. Originally, I thought it might be a new interesting carrot cake blondie, but then when it finally came out of the oven I realized it was much more muffin-like than anything else.

Hence, these carrot cake muffin bars were born. They taste like carrot cake but are a bit lighter and a little less sweet, making them the perfect vehicle for peanut butter or even regular butter (muhaha) in the morning.

I guess I have a bad habit of baking cake for breakfast…what can I say?

You know the tops of muffins (and no, I’m not referring to the area around your jeans)? How they are all sweet and chewy and perfect every time?

That’s how these muffin bars are.

They’re perfect wrapped up and taken as a snack on the go, or you could go all buck-wild and frost these boogers with some decadent cream cheese frosting (try this one!).

Yep, frosting would be divine. But it’s Monday, I just got back from the ocean, and I’m trying to keep things simple. Plus, cake without frosting is clearly a muffin, no?

If I had kids, I would totally wrap these up and toss them in their lunchbox. Someday, I will be that cool mom who packs cool snacks for her kindergartener.

Until then I’ll just continue to feed Dexter his cat food and eat cool snacks myself.

Carrot Cake Muffin Bars

makes about 12 squares

Print this recipe!

3/4 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 stick butter, softened

1 egg

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 cup old fashioned (or quick) oats

1 cup grated carrot (2 medium carrots or 1 huge carrot)

1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and oats. Set aside.

Cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat again until smooth. With mixer on low, slowly stream in the milk. Add the dry ingredients, grated carrots and walnuts and mix until just combined.

Scoop batter into a greased nine inch square pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden.

Let cool completely (about 20 minutes) before cutting into squares.

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  • Heather (Heather's Dish)
    January 31, 2011 at 5:02 am

    i actually love carrot cake with pineapple…but that’s the way my Papa used to make it, so it reminds me of him šŸ™‚ these also must be the perfect vehicle for any extra frosting lying around the fridge…right?

    • Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday
      January 31, 2011 at 6:24 am

      Me too! Pineapple just gives it some oomph and makes it moist.

      …but this recipe looks really good too!

  • megan @ blackberries for jam
    January 31, 2011 at 5:03 am

    Looks fabulous! Hope you had a great trip!

    • jenna
      January 31, 2011 at 8:28 am

      I did, I did! Photos to come tomorrow morning!

  • Marie-JourneytoBodyZen
    January 31, 2011 at 5:04 am

    Those are so cute! I love the newspaper background!

  • Christie {Abundant Self Care}
    January 31, 2011 at 5:17 am

    My husband would love, love, love those!! I need to get on making a gluten free version ASAP!

  • Baking 'n' Books
    January 31, 2011 at 5:23 am

    Carrot cake is by far my fave. These look easier to do and I have brown sugar here!

    It seems like a lot of blogs are so anti-sugar – but, I have been loving Brown Sugar on oatmeal! šŸ˜‰

  • megan @ whatmegansmaking
    January 31, 2011 at 5:30 am

    muffin bars sound great! I’m always looking for new snacks to add to my lunches šŸ™‚

  • Melomeals: Vegan for $3.33 a Day
    January 31, 2011 at 5:31 am

    I love carrot cake so much. I’ve developed several really healthy carrot breakfast cakeish type things so I can eat it all the time.

    I also made carrot cake blondies… and they are so so good.

  • Maria
    January 31, 2011 at 5:39 am

    No need to frost these bars, they look delicious as is! Yum!

  • Rochel @ barefootandcooking
    January 31, 2011 at 5:41 am

    Cake for breakfast is the best idea ever – especially when you can just pretend it’s a muffin.

  • Liz @ Tip Top Shape
    January 31, 2011 at 5:42 am

    I absolutely adore carrot cake! Love this recipe!!!

  • jen @ taste life
    January 31, 2011 at 5:43 am

    I am actually not opposed to pineapple in my carrot cake, but those really do look delicious. When do we get to see pictures from your weekend trip?

    • jenna
      January 31, 2011 at 8:28 am

      oh gosh—tomorrow! I have over 100!! Still trying to weed through them all but will have them up first thing in the morning!

  • Maria
    January 31, 2011 at 5:44 am

    Baking for breakfast = best idea ever.

  • chocolate-covered katie
    January 31, 2011 at 5:47 am

    Sleepy Monday morning…

    Saw the words “carrot cake” and immediately woke up (it’s 7am here). That’s a much nicer way to wake up than pouring cold water on your head, huh? šŸ™‚

    These look insanely-delicious (and easily-veganizable for someone like me).
    Happy Monday, Jenna!

    • jenna
      January 31, 2011 at 8:27 am

      awesome! Let me know if you try them!

  • Estela @ Weekly Bite
    January 31, 2011 at 5:54 am

    I’ve never had carrot cake with pineapple, so I’m positive I would LOVE these šŸ™‚

  • Eliz@The Sweet Life
    January 31, 2011 at 6:02 am

    I really need to get over my fear of carrot cake–I think I’ll give these a try!

  • kalli
    January 31, 2011 at 6:02 am

    i think cake in the morning is wonderful! i wish i was around to smell your house-fresh goodies baking-in the morning šŸ™‚

  • Jil @ Big City, Lil Kitchen
    January 31, 2011 at 6:02 am

    Ohh – these sound incredible. Cake …for breakfast… always a win.

  • kalli
    January 31, 2011 at 6:02 am

    i think cake in the morning is wonderful! i wish i was around to smell your house-fresh goodies baking-in the morning šŸ™‚

  • Teri @BeePie Runs
    January 31, 2011 at 6:06 am

    “If I had kids, I would totally wrap these up and toss them in their lunchbox. Someday, I will be that cool mom who packs cool snacks for her kindergartener.”

    Lofty ideals… unfortunately my kids think it’s cool to get cheetos and fruit roll-ups… which means I’m NOT the cool mom b/c I pack things like carrot sticks and hummus. But hopefully they’ll love these carrot cake bars and I can be cool again šŸ˜‰

  • Camille
    January 31, 2011 at 6:07 am

    Carrot cake that doesn’t make me need to go up a pants size? Yes please! šŸ™‚

  • Kristen @ That Hoosier Girl
    January 31, 2011 at 6:07 am

    A cake without icing is a muffin and a fluffy cookie sans icing is a muffin top. I like the direction this is going šŸ™‚ No-guilt breakfast, here I come.

  • Bethany @Bridezilla Bakes
    January 31, 2011 at 6:07 am

    Cake + muffin + bars??? Best of ALL worlds!

  • Justeen @ Blissful Baking
    January 31, 2011 at 6:08 am

    Carrot cake for breakfast sounds like heaven! And since they’re in muffin bar form, I could convince myself that they are healthy! Sort of šŸ™‚

  • Marie @ PeoniesNCupcakes
    January 31, 2011 at 6:11 am

    YUM! I love carrot cake so much especially with the cream cheese frosting. Yours I can get away with eating for breakfast & not feel so guilty about it šŸ˜‰

  • Kristi
    January 31, 2011 at 6:18 am

    I’m so glad you made this recipe. Feb 3 is carrot cake day and I was thinking about what I was going to make, and I think I found it!

    • jenna
      January 31, 2011 at 8:27 am

      really?! I had no idea! I might have to make them again šŸ˜‰

  • Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman
    January 31, 2011 at 6:25 am

    I’m a big carrot cake fan, so I’m sure I’d love these. And I’m happy to see there aren’t any raisins in there. I think those ruin carrot cake.

    • jenna
      January 31, 2011 at 8:26 am

      I agree—not a raisin fan!

  • The Blue-Eyed Bakers
    January 31, 2011 at 6:26 am

    We adooooore carrot cake. Especially when we can eat it for breakfast!

  • Jessica @ How Sweet
    January 31, 2011 at 6:27 am

    This is the way I will be getting my veggies!

  • Melissa @ For the Love of Health
    January 31, 2011 at 6:47 am

    I love carrot cake too. I love your recipe!

  • Angharad
    January 31, 2011 at 6:59 am

    Carrot cake with pineapple?! Where did they get that idea from? Not a fan. I suppose I’m a carrot cake purest. It’s my absolute favourite – even more so than chocolate which is really saying something.

  • andrea
    January 31, 2011 at 7:08 am

    Ok, I am for sure making these. my 10yr old LOVES carrot cake, and he will take it in his lunch, happily. I have to lol at the comment above though – yes, often times the kids want gummy candies, cheese sticks or ritz crackers. sigh.

    • jenna
      January 31, 2011 at 8:25 am

      yay! Let me know how it goes (since I obviously know nothing about raising children)! šŸ™‚

  • Natalia - a side of simple
    January 31, 2011 at 7:11 am

    Carrot cake muffin bars. sigh* even the name brings in all the things I love together in one spot, cake + muffins + bars. Oh, and any vehicle for frosting, icing, peanut butter…peanut butter frosting( !?!) is good in my book šŸ™‚

    • jenna
      January 31, 2011 at 8:25 am

      peanut butter frosting!!!

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat
    January 31, 2011 at 7:14 am

    It’s a good job I DON’T have kids because there wouldn’t be any of these left for their lunchboxes!

  • Jess (Sweet Potato)
    January 31, 2011 at 7:17 am

    The muffin top is definitely the best part of the muffin. A whole pan of muffin top like carrot cake?! Yes, please!

  • cathyb.@brightbakes
    January 31, 2011 at 7:17 am

    YUM! I think I’m gonna whip these up today and wrap them individually for the airplane ride….Tomorrow we fly to Haiti to help in the relief effort…I’ll definitely need a little carrot cake in my life to survive 20 hours of travel!
    cathy b.

    • jenna
      January 31, 2011 at 8:25 am

      that would be perfect! I wrapped them up and took them with us on vacation last weekend and they were great…Adam LOVED them!

      • cathyb.@brightbakes
        January 31, 2011 at 1:34 pm

        these puppies are IN the oven…and smell amazing, and yes, I ate some batter, raw egg and all. What can I say? I like to live dangerously…
        cathy b.

        • jenna
          January 31, 2011 at 2:04 pm


  • Mansee
    January 31, 2011 at 8:01 am

    “You know the tops of muffins (and no, Iā€™m not referring to the area around your jeans)” <too funny! You kill me.

    I had been searching for the perfect carrot cake recipe until I realized I didn't even like carrot cake that much. All I really wanted was the cream cheese frosting. Whoops.

  • sasha
    January 31, 2011 at 8:15 am

    Great recipe!
    I really like carrot cake with a little orange zest and juice mixed it. IF you were doing the icing, you can add it there as well. Gives it a nice little twist!

  • Stacey
    January 31, 2011 at 8:17 am


  • Mary @ Bites and Bliss
    January 31, 2011 at 8:57 am

    I love carrot cake! But I’ll admit, I believe I’m a fan of the kind with pineapple in it. Can’t really remember, but I think we used it one time when making it? Anyway..these look great!

  • rebecca lustig
    January 31, 2011 at 9:11 am

    i generally don’t t like cake, but carrot cake IS such an exception. perhaps bc it’s more moist and texturally dense…

  • dana @ my little celebration
    January 31, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Yikes! Those look delicious. If I ended up making them I’d probably go all out and top them with the cream cheese frosting you suggested. Thanks for sharing!

  • Lindsey
    January 31, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Can’t wait to try these! I love baking muffins, and these look delicious!!!!

  • Sonia
    January 31, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Love carrot cakes. Was one of the layers in my wedding cake. And it just so happens I have an overabundance of carrots in my fridge. This recipe has come at the perfect time. Can’t wait to try it these out! šŸ™‚

  • Cat @ YoungHungryFoolish
    January 31, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Those look so good! I’ve never heard of putting pineapple in carrot cake but that doesn’t sound like a pleasant combo.

  • sonia
    January 31, 2011 at 9:57 am

    very healthy and nutritive muffins…i’m loving yours !

  • chelsey @ clean eating chelsey
    January 31, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Love carrot cake – I was just thinking that I wanted to make some carrot cake muffins soon!

  • olympe
    January 31, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Love carrot cake that’s why it is now baking in the oven!! Thank you so much for the recipe, it is the first time I am making a carrot cake. Will see how it goes.

    • jenna
      January 31, 2011 at 10:40 am

      wahoo! Let me know how you like it!

  • Amber K
    January 31, 2011 at 10:03 am

    Cake without frosting is a muffin? Awesome….. šŸ™‚

  • Sara
    January 31, 2011 at 10:08 am

    Yum! These sound really great. I love carrot cake and these would be a perfect snack! Can’t wait to make them.

  • nickee
    January 31, 2011 at 10:23 am

    some bits of candied ginger may work in these too… ? šŸ™‚

    • jenna
      January 31, 2011 at 10:40 am

      absolutely! that would be divine.

  • Lauren at KeepItSweet
    January 31, 2011 at 10:38 am

    I am so happy you didn’t put raisins in these! That is my biggest pet peeve in carrot cake.

  • Barbara
    January 31, 2011 at 10:53 am

    You’re sure these wouldn’t be better with a little bit of cream-cheese frosting? It IS breakfast after all!

  • Joanne
    January 31, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Cake for breakfast…err…I mean “muffins” for breakfast always sound good to me! Especially when topped with a bit of cream cheese (frosting). And especially if there is carrot cake involved. Yum.

  • Ashley
    January 31, 2011 at 11:07 am

    I needed to have these. Now. And I’m impatient (obviously) so what would a little 10 seconds in the microwave do to soften my butter??? I know, I know, rookie mistake. 10 seconds does a lot, so I now sit longingly staring at a bad batch of creamed butter and sugar and wait for my butter to soften. Sigh.

    • jenna
      January 31, 2011 at 11:11 am

      ahhhhh…….yes…melting butter in the microwave. been there, done that. never a good idea. Your best bet is to turn your oven on and place the butter on TOP of the oven. Wait 20 minutes and then cream the heck out of it.

      • Ashley
        January 31, 2011 at 1:04 pm

        Success success!!!!! Soooooo amazingly good. And my apartment smells heavenly šŸ™‚

  • chelsea
    January 31, 2011 at 11:39 am

    These sound so good! I LOVE carrot cake. I don’t make it much though, and I feel like it doesn’t get nearly enough love compared to other cakes. I like my carrot cake chock full of stuff like nuts, coconut, raisins, and even pineapple! ;p

  • Michelle
    January 31, 2011 at 11:39 am

    I am making these the second I get home from work. (Okay, I may actually walk my dog first.) They have carrots in them so I can call them dinner. šŸ™‚

  • Olympe
    January 31, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Eating one square right now (it is dinner time where I live). They are so good. Until now I’ve never been disappointed with any of your recipes. You’re the best!!

    • jenna
      January 31, 2011 at 11:54 am

      thank you so much! I’m so glad you like them!

  • Amanda
    January 31, 2011 at 11:58 am

    Not sure if you’ve already answered this, but do you think subbing in a flax egg, Earth Balance and soy milk would yield the same yumminess?

  • Maria @ The Fitted Apron
    January 31, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    I had carrot cake this weekend at a bar. yep. and a mini pitcher of cherry coke flavored long island iced tea. you know since were confessing and all.

  • Mary (What's Cookin' with Mary)
    January 31, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    you had me at carrot cake ! YUM. These bars sound divine. It’s been a LONG time since I’ve had anythign carrot cake flavored and need to fix that A-SAP

  • Jaime Ramsay
    January 31, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    You are lovely and amazing and I consult your recipe index more than any other blog I read! Ps: I love carrot cake…

    • Jaime Ramsay
      February 6, 2011 at 10:38 am

      Just made them – but I didn’t have a square pan, so I made them into muffins instead. I added vanilla extract and a little orange extract and they smell divine! Thanks, Jenna!

  • Liz @ IHeartVegetables
    January 31, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Yummm that looks fantastic! And yes, cake w/o frosting = a muffin. And there is a carrot in it… thus = healthy šŸ˜‰

  • Annalisa
    January 31, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    I think if you skip the egg and sub a flax egg it would be unbelievably moist and unnoticeable. otherwise, these sound yummy!

  • Tracy @ Commit To Fit
    January 31, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    I love these! I am totally inspired to make my own version this week…thanks šŸ™‚

  • Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin
    January 31, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Carrot cake is my favourite! I don’t like mine with pineapple juice in it either. Or raisins. Or any other funky ingredients. I like mine just plain and simple, like these. šŸ˜€

  • Lauren @ laurenINlawrence
    January 31, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    I’m going to add some golden raisins and make them into muffins!

  • jenna
    January 31, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    I made them! I substituted applesauce for the butter, which left them a slightly too wet. I added 1/4 whole wheat flour to the mix which seemed to help. I also excluded the nuts. I actually love golden raisins, and think they would be awesome in this. They turned out great with my variations, perfect breakfast or anytime snack!

  • courtney
    January 31, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    These sound like heaven… I must make them this weekend!

  • Sarah K. @ The Pajama Chef
    February 1, 2011 at 6:43 am

    looks fabulous!

  • Cal_runner
    February 1, 2011 at 8:38 am

    Hi Jenna,

    I made this carrot cake with Red Mill oats. I love the cake, but the oats do not seem cooked all the way through. Sorta crunchy, maybe a little toasted. Is it supposed to be like that? Or should I add less than a cup of oats next time?


    • Cal_runner
      February 1, 2011 at 10:07 am

      Yep, I should have used the flat-type oats instead of the grainy steelcut ones. Oh well, despite my mistake, the cake is very delicious!

      • jenna
        February 1, 2011 at 10:18 am

        yeah…you really need rolled oats! The steel cut kind won’t cook and will be hard and grainy..I’m sorry!

  • Sarah
    February 2, 2011 at 8:59 am

    I made these with my 4-year old daughter for our tea party yesterday. They were a big hit! They turned out a bit crumbly, but that’s ok…..still yummy. I used whole wheat white flour – maybe that had something to do with it.

  • Chris
    February 2, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Carrot Cake Day? How wonderful! I’m making a gluten-free version in honor of the occasion! I just got a shipment of certified gluten-free oats! It’s a sign!!! (I do have this awful urge to drizzle it with maple glaze!)

  • Elizabeth
    February 3, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    They’re in the oven right now… fingers crossed for deliciousness!

  • May Cookie Co.
    February 7, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    Love muffin tops (of the food variety) and love carrot cake, so these are a wonderful fusion of the two! Will have to give the recipe a try soon! Thanks for sharing, Jenna.

  • amanda
    August 19, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    just baked some carrot cake muffin bars. they look tasty, thanks!

  • sue
    August 28, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    This recipe sounds delish…love carrot cake also. Can I make mini-muffins or regular sized ones instead of baking in a 9″ pan? How long would they need to bake?

    Looking forward to making this recipe very soon. Thanks!!

  • Mel
    August 31, 2012 at 5:02 am

    JUST MADE THESE all the way in Morocco! They smell heavenly and I had everything on hand (brown sugar and oatmeal packets courtesy of my Mom via care package). Thank you! It smells like America!

    • Mel
      August 31, 2012 at 5:03 am

      PS- I ‘softened my butter’ on the walk home from hanut (local store) to my apartment- that’s how hot it is here!

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